DULWICH PICTURE GALLERY THROUGH A VEIL OF TEARS
Not a valley exactly, more the morose plains of south London,
the snow masked our way and the tears that coursed your face constant,
unstemmed, unremarked through your ache of missing her missing her
made everything muted, padded, watery-white, made this life as nothing,
which left us art. The lights were necessarily dim, the glass present if non-reflective,
so we were unable to see just how it was done, were there pencil marks?
Your swimming vision may have added something to the conviction,
and I, too brimful of you and your lack of her, felt grateful just to believe in it.
When we stepped from the carefully measured warmth back into January air
to find our tracks covered completely, nothing behind us, the road ahead a blank,
the engine cold, we shivered together. Then pulling onto the road in those moments
before headlights are needed, I lit a cigarette for you, something else you'd given up.... more »
I'M A STRANGER HERE MYSELF
We are looking for the station.
Seagulls draw a map above us
in fading light we cannot read by.
You invite three different sets
of directions, four shrugs,
a shaking of the head
then spot a sign
that only leads us back again
to the crowded ring road's Gordian knot.
I could walk here beside you for ever,
waiting for our destination
to unfold as solid geometry,
signposted, lit from within,
emerging cleanly as we round the corner,
startling in this January twilight.... more »
THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN
To break and lift a frozen pane
and see my city made strange,
now, in these warming streets,
the way fires at Frost Fair once
made all that was constant tremble,
a shiver of flame, fire on ice, 1643,
the country shook as it watched.
Just as the glint of refraction
distorts the story handed down
of how a skein of snow locked
a ship into ice at Nova Zembla,
the bitter weeks of past and future
held in the long cold of the moment.
How did they dream in that white
echo? Everything drained, thinned
to a blankness, pattern that lost
all pattern, a bleakness that took
Wilson Bentley a lifetime to define.
Snowflake, no two ice flowers alike.
Oh, my poor language,
that offers so many words for snow
but never the weather to use them,
only this damp longing for silence
that is sleet, that is slush, that might be
a city made strange, life under water.... more »