It’s a typical scene. I’m sitting in a café,
listening to an insincere English pop song. There’s nothing
the singer wouldn’t do. I’m also
thinking about you, and writing about you, as you
can see. Or you could if you ever
read my work. Sure: I know. Same old, same old.
I agree. Let’s just leave it, and
not go there.

The long imaginary
conversation I’ve had with you
over the years, it would be
much longer than Proust or Richardson,
more enigmatic than Lovelace or Albertine.
All these ghost epistles, the scandals, the duels,
deathbed confessions, revelations after one’s passing,
the grief, the violence, the endless rows and splits…
It’s a human thing, I guess —
laughing afterwards, the fine
membrane between tears,
drawn by the rip,
caught in the spiderweb irony.
We’re ships that crash in the night.
We’re ships, carrying our cargoes
of debris.
And the wreck only
puts things back in their place, really,
ready for the morning.

The song ends, the singer
stops pleading. Another song begins,
an insincere, American love song.
I wanted to tell you about
a film by Tsai Min Ling, the pointless
depth of the images, shot in Taiwan, the dusk
very humid, at least
by English standards,
and what the heat
seems to do with the light,
and with people as they
struggle to get through their lives,
are they all
drowned already, rolling
slowly back and forth
on the bed of a shallow
lagoon?…

Instead, I leave the café, head off
into a Cambridge dusk,
and the birds are singing.
Are they sincere?
Do they believe what they say?
Yes, I think, it’s a human thing,
an issue for us, alone.
And, yes, it’s another
typical scene: the imponderable
look on your face when you realise
I wasn’t writing for you,
a kind of torn
perfection,
leaving us with more things
to say, more things
to do.

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