I close my eyes –
I can see you better like this,
your head and high-domed brow,
your sea-green eye,
your eyelid, patient eyelash.
You are lost to me forever
but I am looking
at your canst no more temple,
your ear crammed full of silence,
singer’s blank mouth,
lips, the upper, the lower,
their rue and rowan.
I feast my closed eyes
on your jaw, throat and neck,
your shoulder turned forever from the wheel,
your right arm so quietly past its prime.
how clearly I see
your clean-pared fingernails,
your strong wrist,
and resting heart – the vial of your heart
so long our wellkept secret…
I can’t bear to look there,
even through closed eyes,
nor contemplate the rapids of your bloodstream
so I gaze at all your dear limbs…
Mine is the hard scrutiny
of the aubergiste looking down
at the small-change tip in her hand,
(though I keep no inn),
or of the captain searching no-man’s land
for snipers, were I a warrior.
I look at your flanks
where my smoothing hand so often lingered,
loving your human body,
and at your sex
to which we gave no nickname,
at your skin’s familiar landmarks,
frecks and specks and brindles –
I yearn over the vineyard of you…
not forgetting to look
at thigh, poor knee and calf,
your feet Time is not fit to wash.
Your bones, the fallen mast of your spine,
yes, those also I see –
I’m forbidden to touch you,
for we’re no longer one flesh;
I may not give you a kiss of life,
nor my westerly bring joy of rain
to your parchlands,
but I am allowed this second sight of grief.
Day and night I look –
your head, your heel, your heart –
for love blindfolded is love still–
This looking is what is called mourning,
and this is how I have learned to mourn.
I cast you into the waters.
Be lake, or random moon.
Be first light,
lifting up its beggar’s cup.
I scatter your ashes.
Be the gale teaching autumn
to mend its ways,
or leopard so proud of his spotted coat.
Be the mentor of cherry trees.
I cast your dust far and wide,
a sower broadcasting seed:
Be wild rose or hellebore or all-heal.
Descend as a vein of silver,
never to be seen,
deep in the lynx-eyed earth.
Rise as barn owl white as dusk;
dove or raven marvelling at his flight.
Know different delights.
If we ever meet again,
and I don’t see how we can,
it won’t be on the Avenida del Poeta Rilke
or by the banks of the green Guadalquiver
or in Granada
where the sunset goes on till midnight,
it won’t be in any of those houses by the sea
we called our own,
or in the Plaza Abul Beka
where the house martins feed their fledglings
in mud-nests under the sills,
or in the square
where the foal above the fountain
watches his moon shadow
on the wall of an inn old when Cervantes knew it,
and it won’t be up in the mountains
where at the hottest hour of the day
one hundred thin long-faced wild sheep
pour out of a cave, as from the underworld.
If I ever see you again
it won’t be in the water mirrors
of the Alhambra
or in a building
that doesn’t know if its a cathedral
or a mosque
or by the fountains of the Garden of the Poets
in the Alcazar Real
or in the dark oratory
where they keep the writing bones
of St Juan de la Cruz, gift-wrapped
in white ribbons.
And if I ever travel north,
you won’t be sitting beside me
on the bus to Silverknowles,
Clovenhorn or Rosewell.
If I ever sleep with you again
it won’t be in our own eager bed
or in that haunted hotel four-poster at Glastonbury,
on the drunken sleeper to Paddington
or on board the QE2 well below the waterline,
we won’t sleep together
in any friend’s spare bed
or on a neighbour’s floor
after some burst pipe emergency
or in that hilarious sleepless bed
of our first year together,
no, if we ever meet again
(and how can we?)
it will be in a summer time has lost track of,
in a back-street hostal
hidden in a labyrinth of tiny white lanes,
two steps past the old Synagogue
and the dens of the silversmiths,
within the white walls
and behind the black window grilles
of The Repose of Baghdad,
still bearing, see it?
its faded sign of star and crescent moon.
Then one afternoon
in a little private office
the consultant tells Zoe and me
there’s no more to be done for you,
they’re going to remove
the feeding drip, up the drug dosage,
‘and he’ll just slip away’.
Already high on a flying carpet
of kindly morphine dreams,
you’ve nothing more to say to us,
though last week you could still moan,
‘get me out of here’.
In the corridor the junior doctor
‘if he has a coronary arrest,
do you want him resuscitated?’
Unanswerable question –
a few feet away, on your deathbed,
you’re letting go the autumns of the future,
how years ago I charmed your wart away,
pressing a lump of raw steak to your cheek,
‘O wen, wen, o little wennikins,
Here shall you build not, here have no abode…’
before burying the chunk of meat
in the north of our garden…
Maybe you dreamed of our modest travels.
Like Rembrandt, you never visited Rome.
Like the Master of the Small Landscape
you loved the microcosmic –
& nbsp;sand-grains, water-droplets,
chips of granite, the exact quota of crystals
packed into a geode no bigger than an egg.
On the day they take the drip out
there’s so much we don’t know,
how it will be your first-born,
not me or your last-born
who’ll be holding your hand
as you slip away;
we don’t know how hard
the world door will slam shut after you go;
above all we don’t know,
Zoe and I,
how beautiful and welcoming
the sunlit sands of Maenporth will be
(o come unto these yellow sands)
nor how the equinoctial blue sky
will watch over us,
like a witty person struck silent,
as I scatter your ashes into the bright waves,
and the sea, nature’s perfectionist,
bears you away in triumph.