Japanese Maple


By Clive James, broadcaster and writer
Illustrated by Jef Franssen


In 2011 Clive James wrote:
In January 2010 in Cambridge, I got hauled in for kidney failure.
I was immediately diagnosed with everything else as well, including several lung diseases and a version of leukemia that is supposed to develop slowly but in my case couldn't wait to get started, mainly in my lungs.

In September 2014 he wrote:

Japanese Maple


Your death, near now, is of an easy sort,
so slow a fading out brings no real pain.
Breath growing short
is just uncomfortable. You feel the drain
of energy, but thought and sight remain.

Enhanced, in fact. When did you ever see
so much sweet beauty as when fine rain falls
on that small tree
and saturates your brick back garden wall,
so many Amber Rooms and mirror halls?

Ever more lavish as the dusk descends
this glistening illuminates the air:
It never ends.
Whenever the rain comes it will be there,
beyond my time, but now I take my share.

My daughter's choice, the maple tree is new.
Come autumn and its leaves will turn to flame.
What I must do
is live to see that. That will end the game
for me, though life continues all the same:

Filling the double doors to bathe my eyes,
a final flood of colors will live on
as my mind dies,
burned by my vision of a world that shone
so brightly at the last, and then was gone.


I shall not go to Heaven when I die
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