I wanted to wake in a strange room,
lie on my back in a bed I didn’t know,
to be unsure of the angles of the house,
of how morning light might move across the ceiling,
and so watch it for a while just to gain my

bearings. September. The hot, thin air, all used up,
all breathed before. Stillness, and sunlight
on the polished wooden floor; an hour, a quiet cabin,
shipping time; the voyage, it feels, just beginning,
fresh as ink on the word ‘Dear’…

Opening out. (As if in a letter…) On some days
your foot falls as if for the first time,
falls sure, once and forever,
and your heel resting on the ground
is like Noah’s heel first

touching on Ararat. Then the clock enters
in a red cape and cold diamond shoes
and revs the sore motor of your heart
with its skeletal hands;
and the plump rabbits and dapper moles
in red velvet waistcoats and golden trews

all flutter from the pages of the pretty book, and fall
to an earth of lumpen marl and rain
into a world of tractors, azimuths and lows:
then my kiss drags its sharp, cool anchor
down the nape of your neck until we are again

floating. Cloudless. Seventeen, a sky above you
so clear it’s like an order, like pure water
you want to pour it down your throat,
to mark it, here, with a notch
just under the sun,
to cut it with a sign as bright and as eternal

as loss. Clouded. With the baton of a rattle, two months old,
he lies on his back, a ranting little emperor, a shah,
limbs pumping and kicking on the Persian rug
in a universe all sun and all centre, all held
in warm, maternal arms of light, his milky

way: but down in the conquering army of his cells,
he is no Xerxes but a common footsoldier,
an unstable genius of the ranks
marching to other orders
under the mirror and the Christmas star

and the tiny, blue vulture of a fly
which crowns him with a buzzing diadem
for hours, at last to full-
stop suddenly in silence. There is no pause,
there is no place apart, no still zone

my hands don’t move through, reaching out, or where the air
doesn’t softly beat against my face, a sea
of needing you. And magician and puppeteer,
no matter how I dress the clock
as wizened monkey in jaunty jacket and scarlet fez,
as harlequin, diva, as tumbler or as acrobat

still he just keeps beating his quartz drum, and coming on
moronic and beautiful as a tide. Late
summer of autumn, now the clouds pack their holds
with seeds and fragrant rain.
I seem to wear out my shoes so easily,
and each breath is a crossroads, while all the light

goes on before me, like a crowd, whispering your name.
Late summer of this autumn,
the blackened tail of the rocket,
things seem raw, naked, peeled,
all snail with no shell,
a bird with only one, fluttering wing
rolling, blood-peppered, on the ground –
though under such endless, inescapable

skies. Autumn of autumn, Septembering, I haunt
my own house, my own thoughts,
and this distance opening between us
(a place where echoes, but no voices, are)
makes me frightened that I have strayed, at last, beyond
the limit and the promise of the first, most human word,

love. Late autumn of winter, these are days
of vagabondage, the melting anchors of desire.
Now my voice has become my own
grave, easy-going, painless, weightless, a cry
I never made, words I did not say to you,
and my heavy, fathoming speech is turned
to woodsmoke and cirrus, and catches on nothing, but only

drifts. Roadside, quayside, all in transit,
packed like ceramics in straw, electronics in foam,
sleep fills my body like dark, colonial anenomes,
and I’m posted off, airmail-fine and blue,
despatched like a telegram into the cool night

urgent with news for elsewhere. Staying
is no longer an option: the message I carry,
the meaning I bear
seems always to be moving away
from the rich, warm core of life –
thrown up, like a great marquee, for celebration –
departing this luminous festival
that is so only, and may be so only, because I am
(because we are…)

unneeded there. So I walk from the table,
my footsteps echoing on the polished, bourgeois floor
of this empty house I know too well,
wishing, perhaps, it was not

so, and that my greed were keen enough to consume
even my own oblivion.
But a flaw of air in glass,
a bubble in honey,
a temporal pocket in amber, somewhere
between a cramped berth and a coffin,

on a tattered sofa,
Septembered, my eyes open me
by the bay window, and the shadows of a palm.
My love, I have come so far,
so much loss has been given me,
I sometimes feel now that I’m back, down, close

to where I began. Which is
so far from home, though only
our lips’ kiss’s distance
away from you. And suddenly the clock
begins beating its drum again,
and time becomes real
as the endless,
quicksilver vampire

of a lined
face in the mirror. Darling, now autumn
and darkness sniff at the heels of our room.
When I look in your eyes, I can see I have wasted

so much of our lives. My love, believe me,
my only thought is to be with you now,
to commence the journey that will bring me to you:
to set out at once, move fast and,
if conditions are right,
make good time.

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