DEATH OF A HOUSE
It is an indeterminate hour
and the dark is the surface of water
about to be broken. In some corner
of the world a dove moves uncertainly
towards crumbs, its perch
a rope of wire in pounded concrete.
Poor pulverised world where millions
greet the day with joy as they would have done
when teeth rotted and limbs burned.
And others hurry to silence
as they would have rushed to wells.
The eye gathers light
sufficient to see a hand moving,
pale, fish-like. A sleeve of sleep
trails, fades into a nether world
knitting itself closed. A last thought escapes
almost full, a muffled beat, an elegy
for a house falling in on the peace
of its having stood too long,
whose history was books and ambition,
a music too tuneful to outlive discord.
To whose trees no rooks return;
where, in an outhouse, the best
and oldest furniture is becoming one
with plaster-damp air and walls
whose children’s scribbles are indecipherable.
The Cave of Mithras is not more desolate.
But here, sealed from all but the crack
of spring through curtains, the clock
constructs day around itself.
Leave the news in its box, rain
in its clouds; stretch slowly,
carefully, like long-mislaid elastic,
aware that your limbs are almost
beyond your bidding In the morning,
not nervous like a young colt, but sluggish
as if dragging the earth back a millisecond
on its axis. For now, balance
and a brilliance from outside that is forever
unfamiliar at first glimpse, in the blink
it takes to assimilate the miraculous.
To work then, far from where cars purr
and growl at intersections, to that garden
where the sun must fight to be admitted.
And later, numb from sifting clay,
the walls already releasing day’s brief heat,
you close around a fragment of blue tile,
from nowhere, belonging nowhere – not even
to itself. And it descends again,
always more need than desire,
the urge to tell a story whose truth
is a chip in the fingers: will it never end?
What are you moving across, if not
the topmost layer of a skin of myths,
set, then troubled like grass in a sudden wind?
Under the tap, blue is blue
on white, fine as a river traced on an atlas,
a desert stream disappearing. It fits
no design, is simply itself, clay fired and cooled,
no different from those million shells you came across
after a high-tide storm; that city, glittering
and brittle, houses that outlast.
You are moving through them now for a moment,
by that undiscovered sea. A moment is enough.
Give the tile back to its earth and bone,
hide it where it will cut no other finger.