Flower of Sulphur

X. I love poetry but I love my friends more.

C. In frendship the absent be present, the nedie never lacke, the sicke thyncke
them selves whole, and that which is hardest to be spoken, the dead never
dye (Cicero, De Amicitia, trans. John Harington, 1550).

S. Friends were my twenties. Stuck for a Ph.D topic, I stayed inside a known city.

R. Much that seems effusive to the new scholar is routine. Special and divine
friends abound (John McCullough, Disputable Friends: Rhetoric and
Amicitia in English Renaissance Writing, 1579–1625, 2005).

T. You were the first friend to take a poetry course of mine. I thought, This will
be a test for me.

W. Take an object from the bag and write about its weight and texture.

P. The humanist education system encouraged the keeping of commonplace
books with strewn phrases, proverbs on friendship.

A. There are twenty-six objects, each linked to a letter of the alphabet. Who has A?

F. Lately, I’ve been stroking the limits of what I know, what I’ve forgotten; where this
bleeds into what I’ve never understood.

B. Francis Bacon compares friendship to the most painful remedies: Sarza to open the
Liver; Steele to open the Spleene; Flower of Sulphur for the Lungs (Bacon, ‘Of
Friendship’, Essayes, 1625).

M. The Bag of Mysterious Objects is sorry. The course I taught you did not save your life.

Y. Al thynges, Laelius notes, be by freendship kept togither, and by debate skattered:
and this all menne bothe perceive, and prove in very deed (Cicero, trans.

N. They found you in the bath, wrists opened. No note.

L. There is no life without freendeshippe (Ibid.).

J. You’d started learning Japanese. You were heading for Wakayama Prefecture in six
months’ time. No one knows what you planned to do there.

E. Laelius calls the prolonged mourning of a friend an error. For a man to be grevously
troubled for his owne losses, it is selfly love, and not frendly love (Ibid.).

Q. I didn’t go to your funeral. Why, I don’t know. Whether this was wrong or right, I
don’t know.

H. Unable to write one Ph.D chapter, I had a breakdown, moved back in with my

U. For five days after you died, it snowed and snowed. I built a white cat in my front
garden, sticks for arms.

G. He that beholdeth his friend, doeth as it wer behold a certain patterne of him
selfe (Ibid.).

D. The snowcat’s arms dropped away in the night.

Z. In Wakayama, there is a shrine that has a yearly service for broken sewing needles
that worked hard and now rest in a soft bed of tofu.

K. The signs of friendship do not mean as fully or securely as is expected of an ideal to
be preferred beefore all kynde of worldely thynges (Ibid.).

V. After my viva, I lost all interest in Renaissance friends. I use my Ph.D as a doorstop.

I. Still, I stroke the gaps.

O. The order of the alphabet is arbitrary, you said. Why not start at X?

From Poetry London Reproduced with kind permission of Poetry London.

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