When she thinks (if she does) of the first James
it is of a six-year-old who died
when she was fourteen, of meningitis.
His spirit, like a trespassing sprite,
flew into his parents’ marriage bed
and lurked there as they comforted each other.
A month later, conspiring with the genie
of ovulation and the hormone fairies,
it implanted itself in a fertilised egg,
to be born in July 1890
and loaded with the same eight syllables:
James Arthur Dickson Eggington.
He didn’t resemble his first avatar
or any of his incarnate siblings
at Eva’s wedding, this gladsome imp
with his long chin. When TB clutched him
‘I am still improving’, he wrote
from his sanatorium in Devon
on a photograph of six young men
reclining on the grass around a nurse
like petals flopped from a magnolia.
James is the one with the longest legs,
the centre parting, the fetching moustache,
and no intention of dying celibate.
He willed some health back into his lungs,
found work, tacked five years on to his age,
and married an older woman while he could.
How’s that for carpe diem? Ten months
to bask in matrimony, wisely or not,
before death stalked him to Babbacombe.