It’s gone. I can’t trace it, like a river, back to its source.
It has no history, not like the Whigs
or the internet, or the theory of
the heat death of the universe.
Not even a story, like Moll Flanders or Jemima Puddle-Duck, page 1.
The bandits slipped into the desert, their tracks melted
into the haze of golden simoom.
Yet, somehow, that vagrant seed took root.
Carried by the wind, in a goose’s gut.
Among the dowdy locals of shy green and brown,
pinks so pale, they’re on the edge of white —
a scarlet exotic stranger arrives, stalking natives,
mingling with the Cornish, the furrows and the Crown.
Everything — everything — is far off, and keeps a secret.
And anyone who has gazed into a cat’s eyes knows this.

He meant to set out before dawn, but woke late.
The sudden peculiarity of time confronted him:
he didn’t know what hour lay all around,
deep and crisp and even. It was the fever.
He felt he’d overslept, not just a morning but whole seasons.
She had always adored his blue eyes,
with their cool, Arctic intransigence,
and the wheat stubble of his explorers’ jaw.
They joked about base camps and summits.
And yet, they lost their entire expedition
somewhere between quicksand and quicksilver.
The mountain proved as insubstantial as the moon
reflected in a mountain pool.
Perhaps Saint Stephen would save him?

She came to the edge of her sentence,
and looked over. There was no way back.
The start of every silence is a ledge,
the prophet thought, and beyond
that velvet precipice a void
so perfectly blank, it needs a word
just to call it a beginning.
In her parents’ house, he lay awake
and every clink and clunk of the pendulum
felt like the blow of a woodsman’s axe.
And Ziggy played guitar, for some reason,
in the middle of his delirium, kept
echoing around his mind.
She stared at the sky above the ruins —
as fragile and delicate as a vase from the Ming or Sung.
What was the emptiness inside?
There was a word for it, a word
right on the tip of her tongue.

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