A strange woman has sent me a poem. Who is she? And what can be her motive? Does she dwell close by or far away? I know what she tells me is her name, But is she a truth-teller or fabulist? Does it matter? Here in cyberspace - Me Tarzan xylem v she Jane phloem.
As for me I'm a natural swimmer, Dancer too, profile like Valentino And a lutanist to outshine Orpheus. Or shall I - a jesting pilot - lead her In the direction of the true north There to be discovered in my dotage, Doddering, though not yet on a zimmer?
And have we been cast as steel and tinder? If so then who's the flint, and what audience Will admire the sparks that we engender, The flames that spring from our repercussions, The illuminations, the epiphanies? And when our joint novelty is passé, Who will love me as a glowing cinder?
Whose name from whose beak?
Across oceans stuffed with turmoil, blue as ranges receding, green as seas of white pine that once began at these shores and endured farther than anyone dared walk.
That is a darkling place.
The words that might rise like fortunes within the magic trick bowling balls of a childhood stay put.
Instead these ones, in answer to that tinder. Or are they called tinder and the others steel? Flint makes them make a force that can make a ruin.
Someone will be watching. From a place neither ocean nor forest, from a window in a city lit with switches, from an iceflat screen.
The words in the nowhere of code. Little on-offs, little digits, little flashes held in plastic.
The brain: a maze of gaps. Between particles: the possible.
A bird opens its throat.
Where once there were twites and meadow pipits, Peeping in passing, today in damp silence Cumulus cloud presses down like a pillow On the upturned face of the heathery hill. Sometimes the air is lucid and one sees The town spread on either side of the river Like the barbs on the rachis of a feather, Ripe for preening by some almighty bill.
Its belfries and steeples, tailored to advertise The presence of a living God, lift up Their long bony fingers into a void Abandoned by despairing seraphim. But now the mist enfolds me like a duvet - As comforter, incubator of fantasy, Also protector from the Evil Eye. My vision's gathered in a veil of scrim.
If this is a preview of the afterlife, It passes quickly and the spiky city Reasserts itself; below is the river Over which herring gulls shamelessly yell While circling slowly in figures of eight. Mute swans drift with all the time in the world And the citizens stare at the hills, crying Look, look, the cloud has lifted, all will be well!
Last of August
Late, a wasp alights on a dropped crabapple. A low highway roar and sparrow twits. The air, brisk though still. The drone, low though there. Nothing will happen in the yard all afternoon. Then a shift in the sky and the colours lighten and intensify. As though a knob were turned. Infinite ceiling, says the screen. What clouds there were now hang south, over the lake. The water darker under them. A cabbage moth, a fly. The air a loose net of things. And again lighter. A frond wags. Not hello. The red plastic shutters on the white plastic house heat up. The flowering almond innocuous all these months past blooming. A done deal this isn't. In the math of it, there is no answer. No need for a window onto it. The air a pocket of lint. As useless as the world. A squirrel moves across. From here to there. The air a bag of air. A wasp moves on. A cricket does what crickets do and the air quickens.
Force ten Antarctic gales are shrieking And tearing the crests off giant waves While leopard seals are down there treading water, Alert for anything alive and vulnerable, And pods of killer whales, too, or orcas, Cast about in the enveloping coldness.
Meanwhile in Berkeley Square the nightingale Sings on as he has done since nineteen-forty. They tell me the angels at the Ritz Are backing musicals this year; our smiling Cocktail maestro, serving among the mirrors And strip lights of the modish buttery, pours Desensitising slugs for the well-to-do And nicely spoken; they all laugh softly. In a room off Wigmore Street some fiddlers Practise the scherzo of a string quartet, Berg, possibly, and a fragment of Webern.
But the Southern Ocean is still there, you know, Far off, boundless and screaming to itself In the darkness, with Paolo and Francesca And turbulence beyond our understanding - And still alive with leopard seals and creatures, Eternally eating and being eaten.
Café du Monde
Years ago we left late winter for incipient azalea blooms and that river, smaller than imagination and muddier, muddy as the coffee ground with chicory and frothed with milk and poured for us to drink alongside that selfsame river. Upon which so much depended, though the levee was so high we had to climb the stairs to find it there, that slow grey going somewhere.
Cranked open back home, the canister of coffee emanated There: the crinch of our sandals on the powdered-sugar floor, the damp curl of hair. It didn't taste the same though when that can ran out we ordered more and more until the river spilled.
Then we ordered more again. The New Orleans of the mind now lives behind a scrim but still the croak of a fogey's "When the Saints Come Marching In" makes its way across.
Meanwhile, really . . . . Whatever goes on goes on down there for whoever's left and whoever's come to see what's left.
Up here, it's about to be winter again. In a vacant lot, beside concrete steps that rise five times then end without an edifice, a little chicory still blooms, blue as nothing.