X: MID-AIR MEDITATION
Awake in transit: overnight flight back to England. Atlantic
below, ocean change. Air marshal, arbiter of flight, are you
close by? What injuries have I done, or allowed to be done,
in kind? Spoken for, an explosion in quotation marks. Look
around: a man in a dark suit drinks coffee, two students shift
their legs, a mother lullabies her baby – trapped, bored, on edge:
this could be a makeshift shelter built against dust. The doors
are sealed. A year ago I marched and waved a painted placard:
Have Democracy / Will Shoot. Laughter turns to a snarl. Baby
gurgles into sleep. The students play noughts and crosses. On
screen, a gangster: his gun-barrel, a spiralled dark. A person,
an X. Eyes closed. My mind rests on an image of the globe, its
film of life abstracted, a haze of dots, a sanctuary for six point
three billion human lives: we, the natal, disposable, various-
tongued alien. Outside, vapour and sky, shades of blue, unstable
forms. A steady breath, a heart of steel: the abstract explodes.
I was four when my father read Daniel Deronda at bedtime. We went
To Blackfriar’s Bridge but no-one was there. Now I’m losing language.
An image? A blank dictionary? Oh I can’t do this. No, really. But then isn’t
Consciousness already literature? Keep a straight face, you artifice. Circle
Within a circle carved on rock. Where do I see my own utopia? Good
Question. My lifetime may not be long enough to get out of bed. In the
Meantime bread alone will do but thanks anyway. Dismember time and
Remember it later. I write with my eyes and everyone thinks I’m just
Looking. The patient, lungs drowning in sputum, lay in a sanatorium and
Began to write. The sentence goes on: who‚s afraid of the big full stop? So
Use the books to prop open the door and let’s go down the Hand and Banner
And talk it over. Humanity has a high mortality rate: 100%. It’s this way,
Edmund. Half-sick of shadows? They can draw out poems with leeches
On the NHS these days. The door has rusted half-open. No secrets here.
I was five when my mother sang a song the fishermen would sing across
The bay. I want to be here until here is over there. Shiitake mushrooms
And a bowl of noodles in shoyu. I seem to remember singing and riding
Out on a rusty bicycle around the island, a lyric settled on my shoulder:
My stick-on parrot. Pieces of Yeats? (Oh dear!) Wearing two eye-patches
And the loot diminished with every polish. A story only the telephone
cables knew and it stayed that way. A quality of desperation to the work.
Memory lifts up from the waves. I apologise, whatever it was. Vanity?
The dream that if I keep talking then I‚ll actually say something. That
song got me here but it can‚t take me home. Where? Oh out of the world.
Brightness filled the B-29 and brightness tastes of lead.
A cloud goes up from the city encompassed in a darker cloud.
The epicentre beyond sight. Eyes burn out.
A far cry.
Carcasses in a butcher‚s shop turn to dust. The cry has bones.
Dark water drips onto paper in a school-room.
A far cry near.
My grandma points across the inlet when I ask. I swim out
to the safe-water buoy, salt drying in my hair.
A bowl of noodles. A mosquito coil unwinds in smoke.
Pots of incense on my grandfather’s tomb.
A train rattles past t-chnk t-chnk t-chnk and in the noise
a voice recites.
A machine collates and shuffles the ID cards of patients.
They rustle softly like a river.
A cry is buried in earth.
Fall forwards. Forwards to the grass.
Now might be the time to reach for the rhetoric,
blot out the flow and pulse
of grief with a gesture of words –
how the dead float off to sit on clouds or sit around
beneath the snow, or else
wear masks to work late shifts at the petrol-station –
when what I remember is a wedding-ring
dropped from a bony finger and lost or stolen,
my grandfather‚s mouth wide-open, body
in retreat but still cryptic, opaque: rhythm
recombines, energy spirals through form –
brief data in the biosphere, one human.
© Edmund Hardy