A QUESTION OF SIGHT AND SOUND
The tapping of a blind woman’s stick on the ice.
When she sings the sound rises from the belly of hunger.
When she sees the future she covers her eyes and howls.
A xylophone of icycles on a rusted bridge, a bass drum of cloud.
A glimmer of moonlight on the coldest night for twenty years.
I have your last letter in my pocket.
I hear you saying I wish I could see you once more.
Someone saw you in your house by the sea.
A sense of lamps. I should have known you’d understand
The laziness of forgiveness, the hard work of bitterness,
The emptiness in every room. Did anyone see you move in?
One by one your books will abandon you.
Numbers will crawl away and fall off the bottom of the page.
Do you still call yourself by your married name?
Have you ever been to Kristiansund? You should call me.
Some approximate understanding of love would help
Since we seem to be falling into it.
Trains cancelled. Roads closed. Phone calls not made.
I cross a brook on foot into a poisoned field.
The effluent of a hundred holiday homes.
Tomorrow’s ghosts gather in bare trees.
And in the north at the start of spring
Herring spawn will change the colour of the sea.
Blue as melting ice, your eyes travel south.
THE BIRD IN THE RESTAURANT
An enormous bird fills the far end of the restaurant.
It chews on a vast plate of wet seaweed,
sucks mounds of green strands from the fork,
picks out morsels, pecks through shells, its horrific beak intent
on the sacrament of greed. No time for thought or talk.
The waiter waits, grips a menu, ready to offer coffee
or dessert. Understands he deserves no tip.
YOUNG HOLMES ON THE BEACH
That small boy on the beach, wearing a deerstalker,
clenching his teeth on a clay pipe
that’s washed in with the tide.
He’s intent on solving the mystery of the sea.
In his head diagrams of currents swirl
over beds of silicon and magnesium.
He ignores his parents calling him in
for cucumber sandwiches and tea from a flask.
He’s not interested in building a castle.
His elder brother hands him a violin
and he walks to the edge of the ocean
to begin an excruciating yowl of a tune.
His parents regret the music lessons,
think about a course in something physical:
Rock-climbing. Perhaps football.
INTO THE SHADOW OF THE VALLEY
Daylight comes again to boulders that crashed
into the valley all those lives ago.
Now they worship themselves, overgrown with
brambles, bracken and gorse. People work out
the mathematics of witchcraft, roll dice
to kill demons, dance until naked ghosts
sprinkle ash on the bare skulls of those who
have buttons for eyes. Please arrange symbols
as they fall, trace faint inscriptions in caves.
Imagine a blind man walking barefoot
in the warm ashes of a burned-out church.
Listen for nightingales, watch out for deer.
The earth may not protect you. Lay back, wait.
Understand nightmares have nowhere to hide.