Even on the other side there’s no break from the noise
of this river, boats make their way to the Delta.
Women step from pavements, weave from one side
of the road to another,
we watch motorcycles scorch hot tarmac, wait
for a gap that never comes.
Men try to make a dong selling fake Levis to tourists.
Days fold in on themselves, begin in the middle.
Lying in bed rehearsing our morning’s activities, order’s
we try to remember what came first, the elephant
tied to the post
or the rat gnawing the monkey’s tail?
The water-hole’s dried and the greenest
of trees blurs grey with a hungry goat.
In those botanical gardens colours
are displayed for their frankness.
And now back in England
the stars of your city increase in brightness,
the vision – Saigon river to sail down,
tapioca roots to taste again and this feeling
that today started yesterday
and will end tomorrow.
Is it because it never will be like this again –
Saigon’s river flowing at our feet,
two people waiting for the ferry
and snails stuffed with garlic, so huge, I could cry
at the opulence of days. If your grandmother could see us
now, her grandson showing her daughter
the land where he lives.
It’s how the worm turns, she’d say.
We visit the war museum, photographs of the burnt,
the crying, the armless man selling iced water.
The sun relentless like the river’s current.
But now, six o’clock,
we drink cocktails. Young girls laugh,
sandals gleam and we step on to the boat
to cross the waters.
Yes, there are many more beautiful things
in this country that builds on rivers and land
but everywhere around the sun scores an emptiness.
You ran, no run, I’m going to revert to the present tense
even though the running has ceased except in a kind
of slow motion through re-call. I visit you each day
in those dull grey track-suit trousers, white T-shirt
you’d always only wear as you hankered after purity
which you said could be found in fields, cow-dung,
the mole-hills that uproot your mother’s lawn.
You loved, sorry, love, dawn – the light through the stained
glass windows that catches the dream
before it escalates. Your favourite tree is
(I’m beginning to master these tenses)
the willow, because of the legend you claim,
and then there are the wild ducks you called your own, who
unlike us, are not surprised at each morning,
not surprised at your absence
but who swim round the garden pond.
Call. Echo your words.
Bullshit. Life just has to be run. Move on.
He’s there, a shadow just inside the hallway. Caught by the light through the door frame. Transitory like reflections in the wind whenever you come round. Even when you’ve stayed all night you believe he’s not there. Two empty coffee cups on the kitchen table mean nothing when you come down for breakfast and the front door closes. All you see is me staring at our neighbour’s brick wall. You wonder how long this silent pathologist inhabited my imagination. How long can he remain? Last night at 3am you thought you heard footsteps prowling around, pacing the landing, by 4 all was quiet. No shoes or razors remaining. On New Year’s Eve he gives me the last glass of champagne, leads me to bed. Turns out the light. Bolts the front door against strangers.
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