after the painting by Moshe Maurer
Although it is not a burning bush
it has chosen us. We watch it glow
past blind stars in the gunpowder sky
to smash a crater the size of a mass grave.
Our houses are vanishing into the snow.
We hold the Torah aloft in the moonlight,
huddle together, knowing but not knowing.
A hothouse day, strip-lights, computer screens,
the photocopier’s x-ray flicker;
she boards the evening bus, still caught up
in the day’s whir, its high fluorescence, seeks
lit shop windows, the dry cleaner’s 1950’s
yellow tin signs. Next door, upmarket
paisley prints bloom on vintage blouses,
a coral reef of lingerie. Only the florist’s
is dark, a young man inside stretches
his long-stemmed arms; from the bus
her body shadows his slow current,
to vaporise among the roses.
To think, after everything,
that you would meet him,
yet here you are, a corner seat,
a green-tinted window, early.
You stare at your reflection
in the pine table, antiseptic-shiny,
look towards the cafe doorway
where his broad shadow will always win.
Other customers sip coffee
over papers, over laptops
blinking from page to page.
November. You place your phone
by the thin vase that contains
a single plastic poppy.
Our father Neptune banged his stave three times:
the notes his throat made, long as ropes,
pulled the city under – if we’d refused,
we’d have been sent to try our luck on land.
By day, we squirm our emerald tails past
scattered bones and tumbled cooking pots.
The eyes of skulls are plankton caves.
With every hour, the pillars weep more dust.
We won’t stay here by night. We know of sharks
that trail a stench we’re scared to name.
The city swarms with echoes. Far beyond,
neon jellyfish pulse upward, searching.