In memory of John Wilders


Where do I begin, in England

below these dreaming spires

brother to the amber stones

warm as bitter in the setting

June, early summer sun when days

run long and Spanish tourists,

like fillies and colts crowd

the streets at afternoon then

gone, the overgrown college town

quiet at those times, those

hours beyond Christ Church

Meadow on weekdays when no

tourists crowd the blonde gravel

paths or amble below old

oaks beside the Thames or

near the Cherwell.  O Oxford

you were a home to me,

the quiet one with the wrong

accent.  Friends played croquet

on our inner Quad Lincoln

College green; I watched only

briefly.  But played tennis

on the posh sward of

The Oxford University Tennis

Club once and once on rutted

University Park grass court,

dank or bare in spots with

dead spots which yielded

the perfect drop shot easy point.

Or across the hedge the Cricket

pitch, a keg tapped and casual

chaps gathered round.  No gowned

students hurrying to Exams now.

All past, those young women sitting

together on college lawn, group

of three, or lying quiet reading

in the inner garden among stone

walls.  All past, rarely bridging

the silence near The Bridge of Sighs

Oxford now far, left with regret.

But all this still preferable

to the present tumult of a lesser world,

America, my old home surrounded

now by a sea of strangers, infidels.

O those months, weeks, days walking

out with her, soft brown hair beside, to our

College courts of thick grass for a rally,

the lush cricket pitch beside, or walking

back with her, stopping for tea in

small quaint shop, table cloths, civility.

Or, together we punted out to picnic

with our gallant Tutor in punt to sunlit

field beyond trees we ducked below

in soft shade to grass with wine,

and after punting back in sun

and bough – draped Cherwell

or Isis, we rode back atop

open double – decker bus smiling

in cool breeze and late afternoon light

to those ancient limestones bathed in

amber light warm to cool dark night,

after the hush of setting sun down.

All passed. O to be in England amid

those dreaming spires of Oxford,

she, you once were a home to me.


Daniel Picker MA ‘92 has been a professor of English for more than 20 years. His work has appeared in numerous publications and his book of poems, Steep Stony Road, came out 2012. He was awarded the Dudley Review Poetry Prize at Harvard in 2010.