Coma

 

By now, he was curled up
inside himself,
a cat that crept somehow
atop an engine

for the vanishing heat.

The water in the vase
went unchanged.
Beneath the tide marks
survived a small pool

of milky, dreamy jade.

Keeping his eyes closed,
he decided that
he had simply resumed
his stool at that bar

in San Sebastián, was it?

Spreading injured fingers
over gentle zinc,
ordering something sweet
while the sky outside

blossomed, flared, dimmed.

Øresund

 

At dawn, they snap the curtains back,
disclose your uneluded fate;
the view, the patient sound.
They turn your chair, as if you might
neglect to contemplate a world
of failed light, purity.

If there occurred, since yesterday,
in the domain of the grey-winged,
a surge of lurid life,
it has been quelled, order restored,
a peace of ash and quicksilver
that will outlive winter.

Yes, yes, you know your nephew comes,
he takes the train from Elsinore.
Why, what would hinder him,
a guiltless youth of quite fourteen,
his lungs a pair of samovars,
from fidgeting through tea

as you try to acquit yourself
of the last tinctures of the day,
Mama asks how you do.
As he brings out the photographs—
the gardens, nectarines and lace—
the mute shore will hold you.

What if you approached, as you dreamed,
the jetty, swagged with bird-soiled ice,
the ancient pleasure boat,
the deaf gulls shrieking your escape,
the letters from home clutched by wind,
disturbed, at last, the sea?

Machine Time

 
Well, we’d say, it’s just machine time,
talking of some task we’d set them,
the computers, some long labour
of traversal, of recursion.
It would have taken us an age.
Think of a number. Double it.
How old is everything there is?
We’ll be back in twenty minutes.

We’d say: listen to all the stars,
to every second of the sky.
Stare down every needle of light
until you find someone like us.
Call us if you need anything.
Then the gulag of the genome
or a forced march of prime numbers.
Don’t worry, we’ll be just next door.

They weren’t even real,
the brutes we enslaved, but virtual;
split personalities, ghosts
inhabiting the minds of other,
higher automata, gods whose
swarming minds, whose epochs
of memory could swallow
unnoticed all written human words.

Lesser beings (or greater)
than we might perhaps have been chastened.
Not us. We put them to work:
read, write, search, replace, insert, delete.
They toiled in rivers of bytes
polluted with errors (ours mostly).
Thus occupied, we left them
unattended; machine time, you see.

You may well ask what we did
with all this time, with these lacunae
of rightful, princely leisure.
To what sphere of grace did we return
after plunging our forearms
into their still skies, sparking aeons
of rote, mute generation,
or forevers of stuttered crashes?

I’m trying to think; there was
always so much to be said and done.
In corridors, we skirted
polite doubles with slapstick dodges.
We were in our own ages
of making, though we clambered over
strata of our unmade things,
desperately repeating ourselves.

Lines

 
Having a small garden,
we strung two lines
close, from one

corner to
its near opposite.
When it rained,

when our shirts,
our small things,
were gathered in,

they shivered and
half swung with
new lightness,

here and there
pegged with strokes,
descenders–

our ps loopless,
our qs without
their handles.

Between these,
wordless spaces.
Hard to imagine

anything fitting
but the very things
just taken away.

Bird Shadow

Gull feather on sand
Taking an age
to dredge keys from
silted pockets,
something stilled you

at the car door–
alarm and flight,
the damp smack
of wing, muscle.

It raked the stave
of bony birch,
a glissando
of quick shadow.

Clearing the trees,
it slipped through your
slow gaze, gaily
surpassing you.

Higher than you
thought, it idled
on an apex
of hidden air.

It returned to
ink-spill its ghost
on the blank ground
and snatch it back.

Colony Blues

 

This place is unloved, limply clutched
by its distant, senescent sun.

Here we crouched to kindle weather,
invent rain in the breathless dust.

What they wanted were the dull scabs

of ejecta on the scree slopes
of vacant hills, violent once

some isotope of tedium.

Katya, my youngest, sees the nurse
at school, is noiseless on the stairs

the porch swing, a cowled bundle of
thin wrists, faint lesions, allergies.

I have warned the Director that
the algae will not tolerate

these nineteen months, this so-called year
of ultraviolet and shade.

I may radio out again,
not make a fuss

but something here
is having quite unplanned effects.

Messages may be getting lost.

The First Part of Dreaming

 
The first part of dreaming
is lying in a way

that tells the body nothing
of where it is in space

stills it for that lapse into
bluish underthoughts.

You do not remember or
know how it is done.

Yet you dig and scuff the
dunes, the beaches

with a scapula or a dull heel,
for some unclasping

chestful of cold sovereigns
until the map is

all sweaty isotherms, and
no surrounding sea.
 
The first part of dreaming
is a heavy sundering.

A wave abandons sand
much as the last did.

These trillion calligraphs of
grit and salt water

will not recur; nor will
you, or she, and

every wrinkle you made
is caressed smooth.

Even a locket left behind
in rain after tennis

is coveted from hawthorns,
its glinting heart

unpicked in feathered quiet,
forgotten by dawn.