A poem by Brian Hinton
in memoriam Eileen Ann McManus (1951-2004)
I still remember our last Christmas morning
As if sandblasted onto my eyes:
You in a hospital bed, in green antlers,
Pouring grace and stillness over cold mince pies.
You were my Christmas all the year round.
For half a lifetime sharing spirit and flesh, .
Each night I would unwrap you, rich and warm
And mysterious, each time afresh.
Happiness endures, now your pain is over –
You drunk and giggly, with a child’s delight
At the smallest thing, which was always noted.
The festival of your memory burns with its light.
My life now is like when all the decorations have come down,
Leaving pins and tatters, now the circus has left town.
Reading Julian’s fine and moving novel, brought back many things to me, a more carefree world, the hopes of youth, but something far deeper, the loss of someone with whom I thought I would spend the rest of my days. Eileen was my partner for 19 years, a shy and very private (and extremely beautiful) person, funny, wise and brave. I sat with her as her life ebbed away, after an unsuccessful operation, in a side ward of St Mary’s hospital. Having foresworn alcohol, as one of her Irish relatives put it “the drink got her”, we toasted Eileen’s life in paper cups and champagne.
Later I wrote this poem – we had never before been able to spend Christmas together as both of us had wilful parents who demanded total and individual attention on December 25th, and lived a hundred miles apart. It is in fact the last poem I ever wrote, and remains unpublished – until now. Something about the bravery of Julian facing up to his personal demons through words and fiction released me to put this out in the open.