St John reclines among his rocks and ruins,
Socrates incarnate. Pre-hemlock. Pre-Revelation.
His tunic is calendula yellow; the eagle at his shoulder
shadow-brown – its folded wings hide a thousand eyes.
Does Poussin smile as he breaks time’s bonds?
Discreet in grey, his lover breaks other bonds.
What is the Queen’s response as they amble through
the Royal Galleries – her Surveyor (hush) unveiled as a spy?
Is it mischief or disgust which prompts a mistress
of dissembling to remark at Landseer’s Dash:
The dog has such a soulful air, Sir Anthony.
Plain Mr. Blunt, whose soul is art, finds
he’s not as limber as St John – and takes his ease
on a chaise-longue: intrigued how in a landscape
of ruin and revelation there are no closed doors.
Fallen columns. Empty plinths. His trained eye roves:
not searching out a covert calf or lion
but the scarlet beast of heads and horns.
She would fly in from Buenos Aires talking
of Titian, how the cross cut the canvas
in diagonals, talking of books, their farm,
her husband’s Alzheimer’s, and death
coming on his white horse. You wouldn’t think
an angel would mention stomach troubles,
stop taking wine but I put it out of mind –
after all, angels can do what they like, even
complain about a hotel room on Jermyn Street,
and then we were talking again – about Cortázar,
her pilgrimage to his grave in Montparnasse,
his poem Black Ten, which begins
in the black of Nothingness.
When her daughter rang to say she’d died, I knew,
yes, black was the colour of Silence too.
Rain sluices. The quay gleams.
Yesterday sea and air
felt one they were so clear.
Surely, we too could breathe
like fish, scour the sea-floor
among plant fronds, currents,
the weight of liquid salt. Then
through the skerries cloud poured.
Waves slap beneath the boards,
churn, smack. A fishing-boat
last night returned to port.
Now in an open shed
we see a man’s bent back
and, flopped across scrubbed wood,
a halibut. Huge. Dead.
He saws, slab by white slab.
Only the rust-flecked rowel remains, artefact
of plains rich in dust and space. It is a star-wheel,
an iron sun. Once it spun on a pin, long gone; gone the spur,
the gaucho heel, the mare which moved under skies wide
as love or fear. By what grace did the rowel remain?
What is selected? What transformed?
Clear as memory light outlines each iron ray
against the pane; the wheel’s silhouette redefines the day beyond
the window in a new way – as memories, those artefacts
of the mind, select and transform amorphous time.
Argentina in the mind. How things fetch up, flotsam
along a coastline stretching to a Land of Fire where one finds
glaciers, ice like glass, permafrost, snow.
The surreal has value because it is true.
Disparate things connect. Life is a palimpsest,
and lost images below show through.
Flat as a well-loved book the pampas rest
open to the rowel-sun, wind, Southern Cross: Look,
how the lad grows – maté gourd, godfather, horse, lasso …
The tale unwinds. For years. The force
upon the mind attests, of course, that somehow
it is our tale too. Star-wheel, iron sun, time flakes away.
You spin on a pin of light now. Your weight
in the window makes the day around you bright:
like awaking to the artefact of a dream –
a cowbell, a thong, a harness ring.
High windows in a Buenos Aires flat look out across
the silver river to Uruguay. Friends gather for a meal,
chat, camaraderie; words flick and toss, fling,
peck like sparrows, flock together.
They talk until late – new books, trips abroad,
Latinity, maturity … Ideas accumulate.
The sparrow words take wing, fly about, alight.
Far below the river gleams in the pale city night.
All rivers are silver, all rivers gleam but the Rio de la Plata
is silver twice, named for a dream.
The rowel rolls beneath a lateral sky. Each point
pricks a tiny hole, perforates a page; leaves flick, flap,
fly away. The book, the boy, youth take flight.
Think what the wind knows, the pampero, say,
as it journeys through endless night and light.
On the mind’s wind dreams blow into memories,
memories collide with fact, fact dissolves into artefact: how hard
the letting-go. What is truth but seeing how things connect?
I weigh the rowel in my hand.
Truth is real. Argentina is a real land.
Argentina in my mind is true. Life is a palimpsest,
and lost images below show through.