(Sunday) 18 August, 2013

Tuesday August 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

today has been one of endless transactions
without ever becoming fully complex, only growing
less lucid in it’s precisions –

not the same thing, at all.

& even now, at a little after seven, the day’s
persistent low heat is reserved in the same senses,
received like one explanation too far, the soul having made
explicit what before felt only

a gentle (& non-binding) agreement between confederates.

& later, how strange, she sd,

that the heart (I’m paraphrasing) could be
so muffled by traffic, so much as our fictions
mute as the dawn
& I replied, and today of all days, on this, the historically
most religious of all days, I meant

those deceptions, & she stopped, & the traffic continued

& I imagined her saying the same words I imagined her saying,
only without me
& found I could not, though not because it can have been difficult,
if I’d tried, if she had

 

Oxford Sonnets

Tuesday August 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

I   On Circus Street

Stopping, rhetorically:
A prey to diets and invention
Rippling along the line of traffic
The muggy August confidences, &
The nagging September ambulance
Jostled, naked in the static

The scene unfolds like asphalt
The imagined mystery, arctic in its surprise
Underscoring the gravity of the situation
Listless between parked cars the
rundown of unlikely images
Outlasts the reality

Dense at the centre the bus moving off rolling downhill

against all expectations.

II   The Interview

A crystal shard of the
Evening remains, suspended,
As if not quite the sum of its parts;

The differences here are secularised
& I can still hear your last ringing endorsement:
– any fool can go to Mexico!
I hadn’t gone so far only arriving in Oxford is like walking in
On someone else’s dream

the last question out of all proportion with its answer
like Lilliput gone to seed
& seen from a long way down

so that you wouldn’t think the sun could be setting
anywhere else at this particular moment.

 

III   Near The Randolph
For Dan

Pacing hopefully along St. Giles
there is a dignified silence, save for the
dozen or so seagulls perched perilously out of reach

the shapes are at once historical a less fluid canvas

routinely confident behind the scenes

an old friendship, itself perched somewhere
between realisation and an extended prologue:

you finish your phone call
and I suggest dinner –
now tending towards the latter, though
no less precariously for all that.

8 July, 2013

Sunday August 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

on sunny days
to find I do things
in my own way, &
why am I surprised
the skein of
future longing
cast like a shadow
away from you
in the tall breeze
the grass hides your
eyes like a dress
hides your breasts,
on the path, the
beginning is getting
it down which is
why familiarity is
relevant, & inhibiting
we are loose like
mariners who are
sure they have been
smiled at by the
sea when we know
better, or that was
the idea, somemnly
unsolemn

later, feeling the
miles like needles
under the skin by
hills that crawl
with murder

the moment’s crowded
heart is a shudder we
hope nobody else
sees at a crossroads
waiting

Ostalgie

Wednesday August 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

Berlin

Many of these meetings with friends, or perhaps ‘encounters’ would be a better word, are really manifestations of friendships I’d actually imagined not having. Less a series of rehearsals of all those things you wish you had said, or that you would have if the circumstances had only been right, than a repository for all those things you thought you’d never have to.

We are in Berlin, and it is summer or early autumn 2011. Though it is hard to remember. In the mind’s eye all I recall clearly of the evening, aside from the fact of it having been Berlin, and that I was drunk, and that probably so was he, is that high above the table where we were sitting, above the perspex canopy that covered the scores of restaurant tables (all deserted now, it being after midnight) thick heavy rain fell in lines, drumming against the roof and clearly visible in the stray headlights of the taxicabs and private cars that cruised the streets just a few yards away, at either end of the precinct.

I was newly married, just a couple of months before, and he was not much longer than that out of a long-term relationship with a woman who left him to live in New York City. We ordered more golidis, an East German brandy they sold here that we’d acquired a taste for during our stay. Our hotel was in the former East and many of the stores and restaurants nearby carried East German goods, either out of nostalgia or opportunism we were never sure. When the waiter had dropped off our drinks and returned to his table and his paperback by the restaurant entrance, he said:

“When did you know you wanted to get married? Is there a moment when you just know?”

“Hardly. Probably there just comes a point when you’ve exhausted all the alternatives.”

We continued like this until nearly one, walking back to our hotel in the rain in silence. But before we left I think I might have said something like this:

“The other thing of course, is that you don’t have to want to want to get married. You can be dispassionate about it. Most things I ever do, all the time, are because I don’t not want to do them enough, or don’t dislike the idea enough to allow my not wanting to do them, to stop me.”

“You’re talking about pragmatism,” he said, or something very like it.

“I’m talking about survival.”

This was not untypical, as we played against one another in the types to which we had grown accustomed during the course of our relationship, shaped by work, but not unfriendly. He was the idealist in affairs of the heart.

We said goodbye in the hotel foyer, and I watched him trudge up to the lift and ride it up to his room on the eighth floor. At the desk the concierge gave me my messages, in German, and I managed to discern that my wife had called, but left no message, other than he was to let me know that she had called.

Before going up to my room I used the bathroom that led off from the foyer, and as I washed my hands the combination of the scrubbed white tiles and the red scheme that had been used for the cubicles and the tiling around the hand basins caused, unbidden, thoughts of the nineteen thirties to rush into my mind. Visions of cool Weimar evenings, though I’m fairly certain the hotel was a Cold War build. Walking back to the lift there were one or two guests still sitting in the bar, nursing their final drink of the evening.

*

In the morning the rain had burned off in the early sun, which had disappeared again by the time I found myself pacing the wide sidewalk outside the hotel, leaving only a white haze covering the city. At the taxi rank tourists waited with locals for cabs. At the airport we drank Riesling with Ruth-Ann and Ailsa, who worked for another publisher, and who were actually booked onto another flight that left from the same terminal. Afterwards, as we sat in the departure lounge, watching the squat airport maintenance trucks traverse the runway beneath our plane, I called home and got no reply.

In London it was raining. I said goodbye to ______ in the arrival hall, watching him walk slowly away to the trains that would deliver him back to London, staring intently at his phone in one hand, dragging his luggage forlornly behind him with the other. When I got home Karen was already sleeping. Leaving my suitcase upright by the door I switched out the lights in the kitchen that she had left on for me, and unscrewed a bottle of scotch. I hadn’t the heart for bed, and so passed an hour or two in front the small countertop television set that we’d had installed at Christmas, a gift from her parents that was too big for our small bedroom.

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