for Lisa

If autumn has a place to run to, then buds can cage themselves
(fire cage or haze cage) and the story
may sun itself in its new chapter, beginning
‘Bono called The Psalms “the first blues”‘
or ‘The loneliness of circles’…

And if autumn has a place to run to,
then buds can cage themselves
(wet cage or light cage) and the full stops
slip into ellipses, a whole year balanced on the tip of one’s tongue
like an order for salt, or like a child’s definitive ‘Now —
now I’m asleep’…

There’s a Canadian town called Forget, an imagined town
called Remember. October, three days unlit,
a woodburning stove,
spines turned to cream or to glass or to Plato,
and eyes turning to eyes — whose, in the end, were they?

There’s a Canadian town called Forget, an imagined town
called November. A shower like shredded pearl drifting
in from the sea, white sand like atomised pearl being blown inland:
somewhere, you think, the secret of moments is being gathered,
but there is still time — time to light the stove,
time to rake out the ashes, time to put down the phone,
time to close the Gadamer — there is still time
to find this.

Outside, in the violet darkness, inside a firelit room,
February, cashmere and marram, we still have time
to lose this. The fir trees which block the way,
as in a fairy story, are strung with frost,
and the forest at evening seems to deepen and retreat
further into itself, and to slow
like a human heart before sleeping.

The sweet, hermeneutical path opens before us.
When I woke, there was jasmine in a glass bowl — December.
I thought: we can trace a fine, bright orbit
right around this world’s night, complete a whole circuit
with just a little evening and a little morning.

The sweet, hermeneutical circle opened before us.
Elsewhere, the secret of November — the drifting layers
of atomised and shredded pearl —
the mist, the wind, the blurred shoreline —
was accumulating like a silent dune,
but we still have space enough, we thought,
somehow to walk around it: remember,
we were very close.

The bitter, hermeneutical path closed before us.
At the forest’s core — the fir trees at the edge
hazy and glittering in the frozen air —
was what we searched for, and it was
very close. And then the bitter, the sweet,
the bittersweet hermeneutical path is once again
open in us. Poems in the hands of lovers,
lovers in the hands of poems —
a kiss crackles to the ground in a discarded novella,
melts down to details of knuckles and caffeine,
plans for taxis, nightclubs and Techno:
someone is speaking through a half-lit doorway, they’re saying
‘I believe in you’, or ‘Let’s keep in touch’.

“Do firemen die?”, asks Tatka.
Clouds in a clear sky, thoughts in mind —
there’s an epic of moments,
an old woman in a pink bathing cap,
paused with her feet in the foam, gazing out to sea —
and suddenly distance, like meeting, is everywhere.
The wind’s unwrapping summer in aphids and pollen,
and shadows with their own itinerary
are coming and going like strange commuters
where we fan ourselves, and stretch out,
splayed, vivid and grave
like blackbirds gaping in the dust.
Who can remember the rain?

Sometimes ‘in’ is the most beautiful word —
but it’s always a stranger.
In your eyes, in your heart, in rhyme, in the indigo darkness:
in love, it’s always the most beautiful word —
and then we meet the stranger — as if for the first time.

We are not students in Prague, students in Marburg:
we don’t fight duels in Vienna or Heidelberg,
or propose with a suicide note tucked in our pocket
and wait for an answer on a bench by the church
while scholars of frost annotate every leaf in the city
and research the Iliad of the whole cold world
marking with sparkling op cit.s and ibid.s
waters beyond Achilles, Priam or Patrocles;
we don’t hang on a smoky ‘Niet’ or a ‘Da’:
we breathe lexicons among kilos and kettle steam,
trucks stalled in traffic playing their dirty flutes,
while seeds of Ring-a-ring-a-rosy or Little Bo Peep
common as poppies — sow themselves in the verges
of a luminous treatise on Hermes Trimegistus.

The book lies open — it’s First Love by Turgenev.
The students have gone — the students of Cambridge,
the students of Petersburg, and of the Sorbonne.
It’s the city of work in the long vacation.
The book lies open — it’s First Love by Turgenev —
and sunlight planes the parted leaves
Meaning, a tortoiseshell with widespread wings, dozes in.
But the students have gone — the students of Freiburg,
the students of Berkeley, of Oxford and Princeton,
and we walk the long way home,
smelling August in the coming storm,
making a corner of this world ‘here’ or ‘electric’,
or building a frontier, footstep town
called Fate, Texas, or Bliss, Colorado.

And firemen die. They lay down, and they burn,
and they die. And books die —
they live, they burn, and they die.
It’s spring — two times.
You can hear the fresh teacher:
the creamy wet buds on a pear tree —
no, Tatka, pear tree — P-E-A-R — not pair,
P-A-I-R — struggling to make the lesson work,
cutting a path to the heart of the matter…
Atoms?… Einstein?… Autumn?… Electrons?… Plums?…

The July night is incredibly wide.
No one’s holding up the stars — they’re free to go,
drifting beyond all our signs, beyond our houses
of Libra, Leo or Sagittarius —
and pair themselves to nothing.
This book’s in cinders. There’s thunder — cumulo
nimbus cumulo nimbus cumulo nimbus — the big
top of the storm’s collapsing over our heads,
and lightning, the tightrope walker’s dream, splits
open the dark sky. The lovers don’t care
for the glass slippers or the chandeliers —
just beyond their kiss
a whole world is falling.

The tent was pitched by the side of the sea
and was strung with small lights.
The thin canvas walls billowed in the breeze:
they made the inside and the outside,
and he was outside, on the beach, but heading in.
His body flowed with Yakuza tattoos,
and with the single, frail thread of his gaze
he constantly repaired himself with shadows.

You are the first step I take,
and, in the necklace of footsteps,
where the first is run upon the last,
you are still where I come to.
You wear my walking like a string of pearls,
my journeys on your breast and on your throat
where the air rises and falls
and you still sometimes form my name in two syllables.

Outside the tent, the wind and stars
roam wild across the irredeemable sky —
as if we could say, ‘I know what I don’t know’
or, ‘The circle has no centre or perimeter’.
I’ve left behind countries, lovers, poems,
times and spaces, and they drift
like wind-blown sand across my gaze.
I’ve put down the Keats, and closed the Gadamer:
I can’t say what’s beautiful or true —
I’m not a student in Magdalene or Christ’s,
in Buenos Aires, Lima or Calcutta,
I don’t study genetics, linguistics or Heidegger
in Siena or Adelaide or Toronto — I only know
if I had to choose between nothing or loss,
I would choose loss — I would choose you.

Spaces, times, poems, lovers and countries
leave us behind, and we drift across their gaze
like wind-blown dunes. Inside the tent,
the stars are in cages: one is Arcturus; one, Polaris; one, Orion.
And the night sky smells of sawdust or motor oil
as if the constellations were in a circus or a zoo.

A path leads up to the kindergarten.
The fresh teacher combs back her tumbling hair.
Springwinter days, translucence of meltwater, powderburn clouds:
springsummer days, the world set at nought,
and Tatka hangs between the stars and the plums,
and the cagy buds of pearblossom
wait to catch the sun unawares.
Pine trees are spicy, resinous, new
and sew the air with oxygen, chlorophyll, CO2.
All the fish are nicking off school…

Infinite, a word of eight letters, why would I write you?
The July night is full of firemen, Saturn and integers.
Just a fraction beyond the whole known world
our kiss is falling, like a moist, light-heavy shooting star,
over someone else’s shoulder,
streaking the sky with sex and chances
dropping over the horizon into virgin tundra.

As countries, lovers, poems, spaces and times,
we’re left behind, to drift across another gaze,
or across another blindness, like wind-blown spray.
The trees outside my room grow Vermont, Nagoya, tangerine:
there’s a flutter and buffet of pigeon wings,
a braille of sparks on burning paper — Homer.
Almost like a child, loss sticks in verbs like stamps —
be seeing you, staying put, holding on, or missing you —
but there’s no album for us:
and if autumn has a place to run to,
we’ll run to it now.

Finite, a word of six letters, where do you end?
If we were students in Kiev, students in Paris,
a cardiac heat would beat in the heart of the city
with lemon and asphalt bloods, scorched and pastel:
Fahrenheit 451° would be a frontier town and,
on a café table, asthmatic words
would struggle to breathe, and Tatka cry
for the little azure fishbone of the sky
caught in her throat — for one tiny azure phrase
that cannot make her live and will not let her die.

Plumbs — no, Tatka, not plums P-L-U-M-,
but plumbs, P-L-U-M-B plumbs…
Tatka, we were always legendary, just kodak and Delphi —
we were liontamers, real braggadocios,
all teenage sugar, strawberries and babes.
We promise autumn a winter, a January —
words in the mouths of lovers,
lovers in the mouths of words —
we make August a vow
to realise the spring — and if the poem
has a place to run to,
may it run there, now.

Tatka, a word of five letters, where must we end?
It’s just here — just this — just human — just you.
And if the poem has a place to run,
it’s just the fragment of a brilliant Japanese film I once saw
when a character says:
we must maintain the circus
or else Jinta won’t have a place to come back to.