When I was young, I worshipped you.
We both lived in the temple,
but I lived there day and night, whereas you
came and went. As my childhood drifted by,
you spent less and less time there.
Eventually, you left altogether, and the temple felt empty.

I grew older. No one came to the temple anymore,
or only tourists and hypocrites.
I remembered my love for you,
among the goldfish and the lotuses,
among the flashguns and the babble.
I assumed you were still there, in the temple,
because you were part of the foundations of my memory,
and you said that I was special,
someone who was loyal.
So I didn’t grieve too much,
I kept on working,
waiting for the day you’d return.

Somehow, then, I was no longer a child.
I watched airliners glide silently over the clearing
as I paused in my chores.
Now I was more or less alone in the temple,
and the building began to fall into neglect.
The trees closed in, and the paths through the forest
were overgrown and the temple was forgotten
and thus began the descent towards unreality.
So, one night, loyal to you,
I picked up the temple, put it in my pocket,
and ran away, hoping to find you.

I searched for a long time,
and my life was a thing of drift and departure,
of cold and making do.
But as long as the temple was with me
it was alright, I felt warm,
because you were in the temple,
and I carried you towards yourself
because I was faithful.
And I knew that, when I found you,
my story would be complete, and real,
and that, according to the logic of stories,
I could go back to the beginning
to prove that it was not all just some form of useless dream.

Years passed. Love passed. My life
passed. Now you call me, looking for worship.
I reach for the temple, thinking I have it with me,
so it can be like before, and you can go back
where you belong, and we can be
as we were, before things became faithless.

But the temple isn’t there.
At first, I look in the obvious places.
I’m sure the temple must be nearby,
and that I have merely mislaid it
as a tree mislays its fruit
or a wave mislays its spray.
But then, as I search, I realise, it is years
since I was last aware of the temple’s weight and shape,
of its scent and its warmth:
I must have lost it a long time ago.
Instead, I find something in me is settled
like an empty field
just before nightfall.

I panic. I scrabble around, desperately
retracing my steps, patting my pockets, calling, throwing open doors.
What shall I do without the temple?
How may I remain loyal?
Where can I live?
What can it mean
to journey without a home?

And then, I realise, it’s too late:
the forest closes in on us,
and dreams rise like a sea
and, like a sea, there comes forgetting.

I can never go back to the start.

I will never begin with our love.

I will never write this poem.

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