So it was that the big boys
in a tree moved among the branches.
In black and white like statues
of famous waiters they walked
in their own style with a high
tinselled strut. They paraded
as if they owned the streets
their delicious well-fitting wings.
And out of a blue sky more came
and the tree was blackened and populous
with a great number.
One for sorrow. Two for joy.
And while they flocked and hustled
and the multitude of days and nights
flapped their pages faster in the wind
saying: this not that, this not that
one new arrival filed his beak smooth
and dropped you out of the story.
Alive even when it seems you are dead
standing behind me when I write
you slip your hand inside mine
as if the skin of my hand were a glove
your fingers inside the tunnels of my fingers
holding the pen. Now it is moving
with a movement so natural it could be
the progress of wind through tall grass,
taking it by force, or it could be a sweet
line of music you've marked tender or fierce.
Even when it seems you are dead
your hand keeps entering mine, so that when
the idea you are dead
makes a long blank space on the page —
it won't be like hearing
of your death for the first time.
This new weather opens
on a silent hinge with you
as its famous protagonists.
In a blizzard of a hundred
demeanours you people the air
with the many white
gestures your body
made in room after room
darkening on the stairs
throwing a door open
to the light, striding in
bending gently over a bed.
The storm turns inland.
The large white flakes fall.
Each one stars your face
dissolving on the road.
They pause for a mild unmoving
moment of celebrity
hovering like the one or two
in the paper I’m leafing through
on my way to work.
Seen from the back prominent and alone
brooding at the kitchen sink
it seemed your body stood
on the crest of a hill with the long
patience of public architecture, Palladian
wings stretching down to the water,
a great building with the silence
of a face about to speak.
Even from this distance we could see
it had ideas of its own mapped
inside it, arched colonnades and shrines
lonely as the pockets in a lung.
Taciturn as a church, your body
did not speak. You spoke from it.
As words rose from your lips, starlings
erupted in a rustling swarm and flew.
Sometimes we could see a pale
brown window late at night,
the eye you looked out of, leading back
along a hallway to the festivities inside
hidden as the fingers of two hands
humming like a congregation
clasped together in a fist.
Here is the church. Here is the steeple.
But we had to imagine you
saying your prayers, a bent figure
kneeling in the tall nave
of yourself, an empty religious space
going up to the roof. Tonight
your body, a solid block gliding
in movement into the room,
is as watchful and withdrawn as a prison.
The population, the hundreds
detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure,
holed up in the outline of a man
are rattling the bars of their cells.
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