Charles Cowling

TV Presenter, Clive James at home in London


Japanese Maple

by Clive James (who is dying)


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 walls,

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.


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7 years ago

It made me smile yesterday to read that much as he was enjoying the praise for these late poems about death, he was beginning to feel uncomfortable about the fact that he wasn’t dead yet! (
Long life to you Clive.

james showers
7 years ago

Lovely Clive James.
He captures what I feel most sad about leaving as I contemplate my life’s ending.
But, inspiringly, he’s clearly on good terms with this.
I miss him already.

Claire Turnham
7 years ago

Simple, natural and real. So much beauty and meaning held within each line of this poem. Thank you Clive James, for capturing the essence of life and sharing your heart and wisdom with us all.

7 years ago

This is a beautiful poem, not at all self-pitying, just self aware. I too can see why nature becomes larger as life becomes smaller as it surely does for the dying, The heightened awareness of colour and light and sound must be so comforting.

You are so right David. I regularly try to spend a day doing absolutely nothing so that I can stand and stare, It’s good for the soul.

Go well, Clive James.

David Holmes
7 years ago

Beautiful. How often have I heard someone say that nature is what they think of most in their final days, weeks and months. I’ve often heard someone near death in winter say that they would really love to see just one more spring. As I age myself, I really have come to understand exactly why they think the way they do. Simple beauty is all around us, leaves, trees, flowers and plants, and mostly we’re just too busy and probably too stupid to notice any of it.