Drowning In Air
Remember when you were full of ideas that burst from the ark,
Magnified drops of rain like fish eyes in the park
Watched the world go round in wonder,
A blue sky about to thunder,
The scent of dank earth, France,
South, the baked clay dampened.
Remember when your thoughts fell
Drop by drop from the trees,
How you reached to catch them,
Your feelings were the plants
That shook in the breeze, leaping from the sea
In wild sprays of enthusiasm that wet your lips.
Remember the late nights talking,
The morning smell of bodies, the trips.
And now, what you have is seer, of flesh and fowl,
The braying of an enormous jowl
That wobbles over you, a chiding uncle,
The whole world angry. Spies are upon us!
Vestiges of the revolution hide in the pockets of the damned
While shadows of the dungeon and the gibbet are exhumed
To trudge through the town, bearing placards of the State:
"Look now. Don't look now. We, the watchers,
Watch you while you're sleeping and know when you're awake."
From a cross-beam, a blackbird, hopping, sees him hanging
And flies away, leaving room for crows and ravens,
The black glossiness of ink on copper, a sky of sorrow.
In the lunchtime rooms where we once had sex
The lovers of quiet turn pages of vellum
Tenderly touch the human skin and forgive themselves
Saying, You cannot be too hard. O, the racket of dins,
Radios like tins echo each the same lines,
Cheerleaders beat time like psychotic pom-poms,
Till rumours seep the pavement ways
Like syrup spread beneath the gaze
Of a benign shopkeeper with an interest in ants,
Who opens up and says: "It is good for business, We cannot listen
But shut our eyes and hear those screams as song,
Tell ourselves, those ghosts with placards
Are always saying that and are always wrong."
By Easter you regretted
Moving to the city, the forms you had to fill
Simply to shape a life, with grief, you recall
How on Donny Box Hill last autumn there were rolls of patterns,
Big trees' branches trembled only by the river
Or in the dark lanes of high edges, something of a mystery
Walked abroad, a sombre knowing stranger, nevertheless your friend
Helped you grow with secrets a knowledge of runes,
Near the engraving of fields, rock contours,
Wind-shook shrubs that bent against the blows.
Remember the trumpet notes when Miles was high
On perfect silence in the studio, bubbles of sound
Glisten, rise, and pop against the windows.
Remember Jermy's mummy's wow-wow, the evenings on Silt
When we crossed the frozen ocean - Paul and I,
John and I, Mary for compassion. The parties,
The drinks, the trips in fast cars that overturned,
Liaisons, betrayals, hard words and slaps
In the epoch of beaten children, remember,
The well-behavedness that told a lie.
Now here I am, looking at the sky,
Puffing on the cold ground
Wondering who it was that hooked me
And sped me to this alien promontory,
Agog in another world. I'm drowning in air,
I'm dying by lies, the friend of flies,
I'll wither you, cursed by surprise
I watch and wonder, a small man grown large
In a convex mirror retrieves a hook
From my mouth, I remember his look, and always will
As the high clouds shred and the gulls shrill.
My chest tightens, my lungs explode, my throat is weak,
A cacophony surrounds me, I hear you talk, I cannot speak
But please, please throw me back into the sea of desire,
I cannot live here, servile, hands tied, immobile,
My heart - feel - is still pulsing, and my hands are on fire.