“Swift Constellations (Starlings) Season Sky;
Grand Piano, Falling, Eats Commuter Whole.
A silk-film puddle captures and unfolds
The droplets yet to fall from my mind’s eye.
Reality, it seems, comes moments late:
The thirsty burst, the first of some old vision
Born rudely into murmurous derision
Just by some sheer coincidental fate?
Well, by that same capricious hand of chance,
I find myself mid-coupé in the dance
Of few resigned to love a fellow few…
Almighty few! And how God must have laughed
To see (celestial Bloody Mary halved)
Such well-wrapped chaos. Quite some bird’s-eye view.”
The ink was dry. The light-bulb’s drivel tickled out a shadow
From the pen, which sat askew. Quotation marks appealed.
Our poetagonist let out an old seafarer’s sigh (not
Oh-so-far a cry from what his sovereign
Father might himself have let escape if canyoned less
Between great waves than arms, of sinking chairs or longing sons).
His deep-blued dreams of seething-surface greys, all dark, deterred
The chatty Swedish lamp’s insistent, honey-thick advances,
Ceding after some persuasion to suburban sodium
That seeped through cracked and lopsided Venetian slats.
And yet such sickly, sixties-flavoured alibis for sunless light
Deranged him. Those leaking bars – infused with distant motor hum,
The feel of warm, disgruntled gravel caught between late summer
Toes, the breathy cling of parkland cider – branded his recoiling floor.
Intrusion on his perfectly-curated closet of a room was what he simply
Could not bear. No matter how improbably, in just the same perplexing way,
The creaking spin of all the world continued. That such disarray
Was patterned in its million pores, despite its unrelenting swivel,
Pushed him outside words.
So when his mother, fresh from whispered bedside calm, called out his name
(A disyllabic falling minor third reserved for doorbells, yearning
Slow movements, or chirped affection) and declared that “Captain
Birdseye’ll be joining us for tea,” then chance had played just one too many of its cards.
A second sigh.
As if contained between opposing mirrors (stock-in-trade
Of shoe shops, agencies, and other nonesuch storytellers),
He saw his image distanced into shivering oblivion. Straight through the hall,
He slipped through starboard PVC into the gentle lapping of the night.
The dark cast of the purple grass accompanied his march across the local fen
Towards the stream. A mother’s love (a taut life-cord) sang fully in each ear.
He met the mirror’s rippling edge – an unadulterated canvas for the needle-sharp
And sexless stars – and minding Freud, leaned over, ravishing his fear.
Intake of breath – two eyes – the sky, unfurling deep beneath the earth…
He wanted to embrace the water,
Be unravelled in Ravel!
To finish what Narcissus started,
Dance in rich rubato
Through the quickest-silver currents,
Eddyfied and all-consumed.
On the consummated riverbed, his openness would flower out, dissolve
Into the world, and there alone his silence see
The sweet, sweet undulation of things.
But something held. That which had been – already – heard in plays,
And plays in plays, and plays on plays in plays, would stay as such.
The stream, he saw, stared back at him with equal startled stillness.
For alms, his tears: the droplets fell beyond the mirror’s touch.
A final sigh.
Returning by the scenic route, two angel-footed clarinets passed him along
Soft-oil-lit back lanes, past cottage doorways painted fresh in furrowed pearl:
Vermeer veneer. Lucid and diaphanous, they carried him head-high
In peace towards his past and last home key. Through veils, he perceived
Good fortune’s humour and sardonic virtue with the newness of a birth:
A gust of wind; an aspen leaf’s freed passage to relief among its ashen kin;
A bashful squirrel’s overweighed emergence from the undergrowth
And out into the main road’s throbbing din; a lightless, nightcapped cyclist’s
Swerve about the scurrying rat-like thing, but heading then for concrete kerb;
A fist-shaking four-letter verb thrown by a haughty driver-by, who,
Diverting her attention thus, went ploughing straight into our crossing,
And creaking still, the world spun on.