The Leeds University Years – two pieces by Charles Christian

1972: So Long Marianne, So Long Rosalin

Peering back from an old memory
the face of a girl I once knew
A girl whose existence
had almost slipped from my mind

Once we'd been close
had studied together, partied together
seen Leonard Cohen together
But always as friends – never lovers

You claimed you had a boyfriend
(a hotshot in some city
with a big car and even bigger career)
that none of us ever saw or met

Your trip to my home
all those years later
(I was away, you took tea with my mother)
made no sense – until now

If only you hadn't
always tried to impress
if only – just once
you'd dropped your facade

If only – if only I'd been bolder
and challenged your silly games
But you played hard to get
so I got another

On such whims and foibles
are destinies changed
future histories recast
and a dynasty ended before it began

I can still recall the way Cohen performed that night
the upbeat arrangement he used
when he sang So long, Marianne
…and how you looked, when you smiled

– – – – – – – – –


Do they still sit and daydream on the Parkinson Steps?

Past the late night Warsaw Stores at the end of the road
across the street from the Sikh temple by the traffic lights
did the sign in that cafe really say Only one fork per plate ?
Later, sitting round the kitchen fireplace

at the house we shared on the Chapeltown Road
we'd make French toast, drink cheap black coffee
and watch unwanted lecture notes burn in the open grate
as we'd talk long into the night

about back-to-backs, Hunslett legs and the Quarry Hill flats.
You were reading medicine, I was studying politics
but that was the day before yesterday – half a lifetime ago
when we were still so young and cool and wild and free.

We've long since fallen from each other's radar screens
you never found that cure for cancer, I never changed the world.
It's been over thirty years since I last made French toast
– and I don't take my coffee black anymore.

• Charles Christian is the editor of IS&T and usually far too modest to submit his own work. The latter Parkson piece was written in 2004 and won 1st prize in a Ver Poets competition in 2005. We just mention the dates as the piece is currently the subject of a plagarism dispute, having been ripped off by another writer whose – let's be charitable – homage begins…

Past the late night Polish emigrant-run newsagents at the end of the road

across the street from the ancient cathedral…

did the sign in that cafe really say it was cheaper to get take-away?

We'll keep you posted on the outcome.


  1. Anonymous

    Hey don't be modest Charles, good stuff, really enjoyed these..

  2. Anonymous

    RE your haibun “Do they still sit and dream on the Parkinson Steps?”
    I can see why Blythe Spirit published it. Very nice. I like the lead in, particularly the unusualness of the sign in the cafe, and the switch from present, to past, and then to the recounting of of the high ambitions of the young with subsequent reality. The haiku is also quite fitting. A good jump out of the prose context and yet quite relevant.

  3. Anonymous

    Haven't had french toast in 30 years? We should have a writers morning where we eat nothing but french toast – which reminds me of the old Steven Wright gag – “I saw a sign saying 'breakfast any time' so I went in and asked for french toast in the 14th century.”

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