5 a.m. APRIL. WRITING YOURSELF OUT OF WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW

THE CEMETERY OF WORDS

I move among this cemetery of words,
run my fingers along the headstones of conversations.
I asked my grandfather to interpret my dreams as, kneeling,
I trimmed the grass by the grave of his faith.
The details will blur, moss and lichen will muffle voices.
Slowly the earth of our thoughts will turn, subside.
Dates of beginnings and ends of friendships.
After all these years I don’t remember the sound of you.
As blizzards of sleet and hail roar in from the east
I hear my name. Yours, too.
Ah, we had ourselves a time.
It will not come again.

JUNKSHOP PHOTOGRAPH

A blurred, monochrome image.
A locksmith, said the caption, but
crossed out in pencil, and
A lighthouse keeper, written
beneath. I wonder how the two
could have been confused.
Or did one job follow the other?
You can’t see the face, the hat
pulled down, the collar up.
It looks like a heavy raincoat.
It looks like it’s raining heavily.
A blurred image is enough.

I WRITE MYSELF OUT OF WHAT I DON’T KNOW

Art is an act, not a description.
Art undoes, unmends, unthinks.
The number of our smallholding is 43/240/0088.
My farmer identifier number is 122113594.
My vendor number is 614937.
Animal foods build, plant foods cleanse.
I can, if I choose, ignore
the mad preachers of Missouri
Hercules, gone to fat
Marina in the desolation of her exile
those who write on rocks in invisible pen
writers who never doubt themselves
people who never doubt themselves.

A man was buried in a bog a thousand years ago.
A feather fell from a passing eagle and settled by him.
Men who discover him wear luminous jackets.
They shout and laugh, make noise with machines.
In their distance, they are larger and larger still.
They crowd in, want more and more space,
even down in the earth.
They cannot have it.
The man in the bog will stop them.

…And Lazarus said: Thank you for waking me and removing the bandages but please tell no one I’m here. The scent of the flowers drifts up from the meadows. I can hear the leaves of the olives rustling in the breeze at night. The lights of the city are somehow comforting. If the wind is from the south, there is music and laughter enough. It would be a kindness, an indulgence that I know I don’t deserve, if it were possible for a little food and water to be left by the stone each week. I need nothing else...

…And you sit in a quiet bar, having a slow, lunchtime beer, reading a book you just picked up in the second hand place you’ve always liked. The Works Of Lucian Vol III translated from the Greek by Thomas Francklin, published in London in 1781. It cost a pound. All the world, and the book, seems fake, but there’s nothing for it but to sit it out and wait for new thoughts to come. Then a group comes in, maybe breaking for lunch from a convention or a morning of meetings, and they stand in a cluster at the bar. One of the women looks familiar somehow. You’re confused because you can’t quite pick out the right memory, so you drink a little more of the beer, try to read a little more of the book. Suddenly as you look up, her eyes catch yours, and you think from the change of expression, she’s struck by a memory too but can’t quite place it. You look at each other for just a fraction too long. She turns back to her companions. You close the book, drain the beer and go…

A blackbird rustles among leaves at the bottom of a hedge, in the frosted field a hare pauses and high up in the clear sky a lark sings. There is digging to be done, a new pen to be made.

I am in my distance, you are in yours.



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