Installment 2 (again, my thanks to Mr. Cooperman!!):
"John Clarke, Keats's Schoolmaster at Enfield, After the Poet's Mother's Death"
Barely fourteen, and his nights spent
enticing her with a sip of broth,
a sopped crust, a game of cards.
When her spasms eased, he read to her
in a voice so soft you'd not know
it was the same boy who loved a fight,
even if his rival towered a head taller.
I called him "Bull Roarer,"
for his love of bellowing at games.
After she died, he'd cringe under my desk
when other boys gamboled outdoors.
I never tried to coax him out,
a wolf cub you love
for its fierce, aloof eyes.
I let him sleep on my sofa,
take his meals in my room.
I thought if anything tragic befell me,
he'd howl grief and die:
father, mother, schoolmaster all gone --
and two brothers, a sister to tend,
to break him with a weight of care --
when he should br free
to run in the sun of youth.
"The Medical Student John Keats Observes Astley Cooper Operate on a Young Boy, Guy's Hospital"
The boy smiled through his fear --
brave as only the innocent can be --
while we students crowded,
the amphitheatre hot as the blood
soon to babtize the scalpel.
I'd set bones before, patients sweating,
fainting when the shards snapped back
after that scorching instant.
Now I stood opposite Dr. Cooper,
who had operated scores of times.
But when that lad smiled
as if at Father Christmas,
tears trickled down the surgeon's cheeks.
I saw, for a moment,
my own small brother Tom
squirming on the table,
and wanted to escape
with him riding my back --
the jockey of our childhood races.
Cooper turned away, wiped his face,
and when he turned back
the eyes of a stooping hawk.
At the first incision,
the power of the possessed
levitated that betrayed torso,
but not a scream from lips clamped
in tooth-shattering trust.
"Blame God," Cooper muttered,
"for making flesh fail,
the need for such an insult as this
to thin, pale tissue,
frail enough without the blade."
"I will clamber through the Clouds and exist . . . . I have many reasons for going wonder-ways: . . ."