To be exact, he arrived not in Liverpool but London.
He was spaced out. He’d been travelling for a long time.
I was trying to finalise my heart —
a quixotic venture, as I freely admit! —
among the tall-stemmed lilies in reception.
Of course, we neither of us knew what was about to happen.
She told me later, she felt a tiny, tangible agitation in her chest,
a tremor, like those between two magnets
whose poles attract.

This was in 1914, only days before the war broke out.
It seemed to him as if he’d left
a part of his soul in the sleeping car on the journey
between Florence and Paris.
Almost physically, like an object, a book or a hatbox.
The African parrot, taken to Lost & Found, no one ever claimed.
And at a certain point, she realised that, like him,
she had become a traveller —
a person for whom home has grown impossible.
It was the night of the violent storm
when the hotel’s lights flickered on and off,
and his face in the mirror seemed so strange,
as if carried to his eyes from the end of civilisation.

I texted her, but she didn’t reply.
The bombed building fell in, and was later demolished.
They kissed, for the first time, on the picnic:
he thought he’d never forget that kiss,
her lips and breath scented with fresh raspberries,
rich in antioxidants and vitamin C.
She puzzled for hours over his statement,
which seemed like an intensely radiant non sequitur,
and affected her far more powerfully than if

it had actually made sense.
It was a disease of swallows, attacking the brain in such a way
that the birds appear to forget how to land, with the result
they simply stay on the wing, and in the end
fly themselves to death.
Sometimes, he thought humanity had caught the same disease.
Subdued, she stared out the window of her suite
as dusk fell and the great city assembled itself
as a flood is assembled from millions of drops of rain.
The truth to say, I was happy to leave it at that:
it suited me, in much the same way
I find fragments and unfinished novels are oddly satisfying
and possess a beauty completed works can never attain.

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