Carrying a maze in a bag | Putting the bag down, opening it | Taking out the maze and walking in | The music grows more lush, moving smoothly | like dense vegetation seen from the side of a boat | gliding through deep forest | Pink-winged parrots paint the air | at speed with cursive squawks | pass and score raucously overhead | while purple-faced baboons | scoff and grunt in troupes | from the other shore | Our role, grown blurred, does it trouble us? | Are we conquerors, or sightseers, or explorers? | Business, Madame, Sir, or pleasure? | Are we the border guards, musing over visas, or the travellers, with our coats and luggage, quinine and guns? | Or drug smugglers, police or users? | Spanish moss festoons the cedars | like primaeval party streamers or partly | solidified smoke | Elephants trumpet in the distance | We sip the boat, and settle for the night | in steamy rooms, a rough hotel | so far up-country, there is no rail | the nearest airstrip is five days away, the fan | rotates erratically on the ceiling | the plaster is a warped and faded | pistachio green, from the balcony | there is a view of low-rise buildings with rooves | of corrugated iron | gleaming dully in the moonlight | Sleep, the annex of death, awaits us | and sleep is crammed in everywhere | within our days | slitted in a blink | hiding below the up-turned cup | stashed just beyond the limit | of our perplexed vision | and yet | for a moment more | we linger | where sense can still be made | and slowly | almost boredly | we measure our lips | with kisses | washing us to a dreamy shore | making us ask | Do we know this place?

It was a renovation/extension project | for a wealthy client in Hampshire | We had tendered | Negotiations were advanced | Our lead architect had excelled herself | the modern element was beautifully done | elegant, streamlined, inevitable | the interior | graceful, understated | I left a laptop with the plans one night | on a train | promo, mock-ups, everything | I still think of those designs sometimes | although in the end we didn’t get the contract | and the extension was never built | Was it progress? | Perhaps, but in such fits and starts | sometimes we seemed to be going nowhere | and often, we were | frustrated | Time passed | Years, in fact | Eventually, the longueurs became our situation | we found ourselves relaxing, admiring the view | enjoying coffee at the Italian place | making love with new, exciting strangers | Like miners, whose labours | in exhausting ore | produce magnificent, carved-out galleries | we lost ourselves in exercises | that appeared, on the surface, practical | but were, in the end, indistinguishable | from stupendous reveries | the wheels not turning | the engine idle as the gangsters sit | waiting for their target to show | Dissatisfaction, not a god or | moral high | drove us on, but I wondered | would our achievements ever be | as significant, as lovely | as those inspired by greater aims? | — and would we ever reach the state | where we really wanted less | for ourselves | and more for others: might we be called | to desire even these doldrums | as whirling dervishes worship | simply by going round in circles?

 


from the series construct (2012–present, ongoing)
(this poem, August 2013)

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