is when your car ends facing backwards
on the wrong side of the road
when the wind beats your umbrella
till its insides all hang out
when the water takes your little boat
and spins it like a plate.
It's like a song reversed, a church
to face the falling sun, the day
next week or sometime soon
you'll take a truth and twist it,
turn a child to face the wall
or force a man stark naked
to get down and lick the floor.
It's the dream which has you driving
down exactly the wrong street
as you race to reach your boat
before it sails.
It's the wind along the western quay,
the voices in its throat
the seaman on the closing doors,
the words you hear him shout
I'll wait. I'll wait all night
if need be. I can wait.... more »
Anyone who wanted to could leave, could gather
shivering on the south side of the river,
labelled and provided for with socks and sweaters
and a little cash. We walked across the water
in our thousands and left behind for ever
all that was great: the monuments and sewers,
cathedrals, theatres, mothers, lovers, brothers
as the flames licked at the city's raging heart.
Faced with the prospect of living forever,
we headed for the country lanes together,
imagining the parties de campagne among the clover
and the stories each would tell the others
on the way. We had left behind for ever
all that we had loved. It was a start.... more »
Then fiercer than longing came the fear.
I didn't stir or dare to call
to her: wide-eyed and silent as a hawk
in a great hall I waited there.
I knew that what I saw was spirit
and I feared for what might follow -
that within my sight she'd disappear
before I could come close to her.
So smooth, so small, so delicate,
this graceful innocent girl now rose
before me in her royal robes,
a precious creature set with pearls.
Now like a vision granted, showered
in pearls more fit for a princess or queen
this child as fresh as a lily-flower
stepped downward toward the stream.
The fine white linen she wore seemed woven
with light, its side-panels loose and flowing
and laced with borders of seed pearls lovelier
than any I'd ever seen before.
The sleeves of her robe fell long and low,
stitched in with double rows of pearls.
Her skirts of the same fine linen were trimmed
and seeded all over with precious gems.
The girl wore one thing more: a crown
composed entirely of ice-bright pearls
and no other stone, tipped and figured
with flowers, each petal a perfect gem.
She wore no other decoration
in her hair which in its falling framed
a face as white as ivory
and noble in its gravity.
Like hand-worked gold her fine hair shone
and flowed unbound around her shoulders,
the chalk-white pallor of her skin as pure
as all the fine-set pearls she wore.
Where her skin met the white of the linen
at her wrists, her throat and on every hem,
there were pearls, palest of all the stones.
Her whole dress shone like an icy stream
and there at the heart of it all on her breast
lay a single immaculate pearl far greater
than all the rest. To tell its true measure
or worth would test a man's mind to the limit.
I swear no singer however inspired
could find words to describe the sight
of that pearl, so perfect, so faultless, so pale,
placed in the most precious setting of all.
I watched as this darling creature set
with jewels walked at the water's edge
toward me: no man was happier from here
to Greece in the moment she came so near.
For the girl was dearer to my heart
than aunt or niece and the love I felt
for her far deeper. Inclining her head
with all the grace of a lady she bowed,
took off her jewel-encrusted crown
and with joy in her voice she greeted me.
That I had lived to speak to her
was heaven itself. My pearl, my girl.... more »