But stand on the edge of the land
any edge of any land
on a cracked uneven breakwater
signs warned against
as unsettled sea retreats into itself
emptying everything around you
into a deep resonance
as black-backs beat the wind
that ransacks offshore air
and the glimpsed island to the south
always holding station
in sheer accumulation of rock
continues into filtered light –
by what could kill you
what could make you, raise
your sights, look
past the tethered buoys
waiting for death, past bobbing gulls
that are what they are
beyond the momentary transports
of a backlit horizon
to what you came here for.
Saw you first at Mass in Notre Dame
through blue plainsong and waves of incense
the Rose Window unravelling atheism
the drunk priest tripping on the steps.
Spied you before lunch in the Marais
shadowing that woman behind a plane tree
one eye open, the other obscure brown
caught between compassion and contempt.
In the museum you hop-scotched frets
and fractured fingerboard, then disappeared
like thin oils into the thirsty grain
and I wondered where you’d surface next
but never expected to find you spread
across a canvas of blood, huge bathers
hugging you to distended limbs
and extending you enormous elbows.
Everyone, of course, gave you refuge
moved over, made room for you to hide
left me looking at the women wanting
to be looked at, under the bronze pram.
Very soon I’ll come over to your side
my legs setting solid on the plinth
my shoulders growing marble wings
my mouth happily forgetting words.
I’m stumbling across the night sky
trying to follow the map I stole
from that tourist bar by the harbour
before they lowered me into the tomb
with mortuary texts and magic spells,
a standard selection from the Books –
Coming Forth By Day, Secret Chambers,
Gates, Caverns, and, best of all, Heavens –
no illustrations just a space for my name
which of course was mis-spelt, being foreign.
I’m attempting to track the arc of the sun
looking for the afterlife which I’m told
they specialize in round here, nothing
flash or fancy, no bells or whistles,
just a very long time somewhere pleasant
to forget I ever died, perhaps sort out
the photographs, write thank you letters,
catch up on my reading, meet some old pals,
learn the language, do a little work
for charity, find ways to be useful
once the flood of memories subsides,
life’s loud consequences give me a break,
this faultless light round me dims
and my body stops crashing through stars.
[Acropolis, Mycenae, Greece]
You were here, she says,
in another life:
worshipped perpendicular ghosts,
to an amphitheatre of poppies.
Perhaps. I stand watch
in April sunlight,
examine the mountains
for signs of life, small prey,
friend or foe stepping stones:
settle to this body,
my face beaten in gold,
my father on an upright slab.
I take a breath and stretch,
enter the beehive tomb:
the floor sinks and springs
on the vast hidden skin
that tenses under Mycenae.
My spirit sags, then rises,
then somersaults into another life.