A Drunken Boat
A drunken boat
My ears full of prose
I ventured up the river
of myself for verse.
Rimbaud's redskins shot
volleys of arrows at me
I was pleased to say.
There's poetry yet,
I thought, as one arrow pierced
me through both ears
and both open eyes.
When I was a child
their enormous sails blustered
in fierce city wind.
They were my mother
in ghostly dress when the wind
tugged at her dark hair.
She flew with the sheets,
skirts flapping and half our clothes
flying off with her
in sheets of laughter.
The night train stops here,
just at that platform. You will
hear it approaching.
Here the journey starts
into that plump-heart darkness
you will not notice.
You will be dreaming
of the carriage and the lights
in the far distance
that sounds like your heart.
Long out of cities
he enters like the shadow
of several lives,
one of them his own,
but which? The street map is strange.
He cannot read it.
Once this was knowledge,
now it’s a shot in the dark.
He reads the drainage
and haunts the platforms.
They were obsolete
right from the start. But later,
reflecting on it,
seemed to be desirable
so they longed for it.
It was night. The wind
ran through their bones. They rattled
a little, quaintly,
as if uncertain.
Riding the Danube
We could ride over the Danube
or sit on the step watching melon-rind drift down the tide
in a summer that is intolerable
while the city is half-asleep or sheltering
near the railway track a long way from the city
which is a long way to whatever music is sung in its tunnels
by the dead who must live there
but rarely appear on the platform
we enter through the doors of the Metro
where the nearest waterfall is an escalator descending
the other rising in the throat
into the light of midday
where a hot-air balloon is a heart
to a cavity to exhaustion to coffee
to the rococo pastry of the lungs.
The place hasn’t changed. Things are in their place.
Things remain exactly what they were: just things.
Home comforts are what we expect of home.
Sunlight hovers on walls, remaining sunlight
even when spread on pavements. Our keel is more or less even.
Our clothes are comfortable simply because they’re our clothes.
Back to front, front to back we go, until we’re back
at the front. We try to preserve a united front.
Here is where we are: our place is always here.
The softness of the place, the pressing into grass.
The warmth when it arrives in forms of grace.
The soft bricks, the earth that crumbles. Rain
that gentles and does not precipitate ruin.
Temperate climes. Our fingers on the pulse
of dinner and bed, the night fumbling for pills.
The poor will get poorer, the rich richer. The wind
of fortune bloweth where it listeth. Justice is blind
and carries a switchblade. We preserve our kind.
Our forces remain alert and disciplined.
We will creep a little closer to the ground.
After today we will face the everyday grind
with less resolution. Things will be defined.
Life will be returned exactly as found.
They Were Closing Deals
They were closing deals.
They were sleeping and waking.
They were done drinking.
It was difficult.
They were badly out of breath.
They were overweight.
They opened the door.
They ran out into the street
because the street called.
There's nothing to see,
they said, and could see nothing
that would help them see.
They were hanging in
under a star shower. Bright
sparks in the darkness.
It was a bad year
to be stuck outside. It was
all storm and stutter.
It was a long year
to be ending. It was hard
to keep track of it.
It was elegy
without a subject. It was
Occasionally they hear dotage shuffling
up and down the hall, hesitating at the door
and asking in its feeble high-pitched voice
if it is time yet. Is it time? No, it is not,
they answer, straightening their backs.
Move away from the door, we need to use it.
And so it shuffles off, mumbling to itself,
disliking its own caricature gait
and ever less firm grip on irony
while they get on with life and slamming doors.
I see my father with his dotage grin
and watch as his eyes slowly turn to mine.
Get out, dad, I tell him, go now, while you can,
then realise he got out years ago.
I put my slippers on and comb my hair,
pleased to see how dark it is, like his.
There are doors leading to other doors,
they say, forgetting now to close them.