It was the twenty-first century somewhere
between hay-fever season and leaf meal time.
My father's broken collarbone was knitting.
Defying the pull of our new opiate
(work: since when is it the source of dignity?)
students were using their backs to measure
how long warmth can be stored in a sandstone wall.
Where it was better not to be born, people
were handing over their savings for a way
out of the life trap and onto the death raft.
Where people said, "Wouldn't live anywhere else,"
someone tickled by a dim inkling sat down
and wrote: "It was the seventeenth century ..."
In the capital of our new religion
(desire: it has to be irresistible)
studio millionaire kids were making out
on revolving waterbeds with downtown views
or finding the ice cube root of a gin sling shot
while someone elsewhere maybe wondered how Neil
from Seven Up was going and forgot him
within the melting span of a spring hail stone.
Dwelling on the shadow each thing casts in time
- the carefully arranged contents of this room
scattered hapless or compacted in a dump;
or You, slowly disappearing family snaps
in my much more quickly disappearing hand -
seeing the world in Mexi-vision - death's heads
everywhere and flesh as mere upholstery,
spoils for the ultimate empire of the worm,
tagged in black Latin: sic mori and so on -
can make you feel superlucid and come out
with the sort of stuff it's never any help
to say like You could have seen it coming, or
You'll probably lose that fat before you die.
It can also starve your sense of what it's like
to be living in a world where mango stones
sink through the compost as vulcanologists
set out from a cloud base camp to take the pulse
of Popocatapetl, where even if
there isn't plurality all the way down,
there are sexes, bright days that draw the poplars
up and bottomless, moon-dominated nights.
Every mind has its weather, predictable
only up to a point: electricity
strikes out of the blue and the wind shifts like this,
imperceptibly, so later you can't say
when or guess why it might have begun to blow
from that unlikely region always beyond
the horizon, bringing a scent of cut hay
safely stored. But before I or my doubles
could even think it might be worth writing this,
others were throwing sticks to knock down acorns
for pigs, gathering in the sheaves before it rained,
or crushing lapis lazuli to make paint
of a novel shade known as overseas blue,
without a thought for their image on the web,
or which sub-generation they belonged to,
rarely supposing that their lives might be worth
more than three lines in a parish register,
just hoping they'd still be around in five years,
though curious perhaps in their not-so-rich hours
about fashion or boredom, or even moods
that others had better take into account.
THE LIGHT SINKS
It's day number sixteen thousand and something
and what have I seen? A dense flock of finches
performing a sharp simultaneous turn,
a litmus strip of sky, low sunlight slipping
gold coins into the mouth of a laughing man,
fake wood fires really flaming in a shop front,
pink sweaters in a hot gym, the robber's cave
of night sliding slowly open, the marvels
of light bouncing around all over the place
or almost: my visual field is punctured
by the pupils of other people, like wells
in a landscape or loopholes in a stronghold,
staring deep into which will tell me nothing,
though much can be inferred from blinks and twitches
of corrugator and depressor muscles,
more or less insightfully, for simple tests
suggest that this too is unfairly shared out:
skill at reading states of mind from strips of face,
which could be useful, marginally, maybe,
if ever you're counting the days in a place
where guards look in through a slot, then slide it shut.
© Chris Andrews