Where are they going? Where waterspouts lower their silver taproots into the vanishing point of a Tasman searoad, read the ocean's internal workings by what happens on the surface, in ulcerous light, in the wake of a longliner: Wandering albatross reeled in like trolled marionettes with hooks in their beaks; Southern Bluefin tuna hauled from a wave to be brain-spiked and opened by men in yellow raingear, who work like coroners in the hold of a warship hospital, lowering fleshbarrels into liquid nitrogen. Walk the aisles of markets, where swordfish are dumped like deflating, blue rubber mattresses in a glitter of ice and flies. And when the keel of an ocean-going racing yacht opens a whale's back the way some over-ripe fruit will split to the stone when the tip of a paring knife is drawn over the skin, the whale rolls, and the crew curse another sea-touring log until the boat's wake clouds with blood like a red spinnaker blooming underwater. They do not say, with grief like a sea-noise behind their words: Charismatic megafauna are great entertainers! Where are they going? Into stories and documents written on coastal parchment and leaked as slime to currentlines dark with profit; into driftnets and gillnets; into reef structure levelled by years of trawling operations. Entering a pulse of light in the brain-stem of a cardinal marker, a dugong blows an orange sand trumpet and rolls away, trailing seagrass like spooled magnetic tape, and further back, a small white cylinder wired for satellite tracking. Where are they going? Watch closely. The world's largest seabird is entering a high pressure system inside The Roaring Forties. It will glide for days until booby-trapped squid divide the sea and turn the glide into a drag. Behind a baitschool large as an oval, Bluefin tuna are working like surface- feeding stockdogs as the baitfish change to razor wire inside their speeding mouths. A dugong tries to outswim its own shadow, and is overtaken. They are going beyond the range of echo-sounders and spotter planes to surface somewhere inside our heads, vaguely luminous, like memory loss; like those gold circles that appear for a moment when, absentmindedly, we press the corners of our eyes and remember.
'In the half-finished park - look - boys attack a sapling with big sticks and stones.' 1 This half-finished park in the suburbs is paved with good intentions: benches, waste bins have been set underneath wall-less pavilions; rocks like bits of meteorite are ranged down paths near rows of splinted trees, their branches linked by a swagging black hose. 2 No, the park's not prepossessing. You can see its low brick walls already sporting sprayed graffiti, clods of rough-turned earth thinly sown with seeding grasses; there's the maze of shrub, some swings, a scorching slide and basketball pitch - each thing stood stranded as if by design in weed-infested scrub. 3 A few of the trees have plainly died and parched leaves tell their story - how in the summer's worst heat (all civic projects being halted) even water was denied. 4 That momentary smell at the bridge over channels reduced to grey slime is a drain's untreated sewage dividing the park: one sometime leftist had stood and split the vote, let in a minority candidate - not supported by these afflicted trees. 5 'It's like a film set for "the future",' as the baby-sitter said. 'What kind?' I asked her, pretty sure it wouldn't be utopian... 'Something like Farenheit 451,' reading my thoughts, she replied. 6 At night, the Vespas beams flick across shadowy spaces as lit globes in crisp leaves point a way to open waste ground where, for weeks, the artics park and our children still not gone are walked in pushchairs, wide awake, down towards the Works in Progress with plenty still left to be done. 7 But then the dusty swags of hose started to glisten with droplets; puddles formed round sapling roots (we'd hear how telephone calls from citizens to the town hall's switchboard like dripping taps caused his change of mind or heart) and on North Park I paused.
Even the litter-bins know where they are: all stencilled with the one word qui, as if to tell citizens 'here you are' (here across a children's playground, here at the corner of an empty street) or, better, inviting them and us to treat these places like we would our home. Through an August's dead weight, cranes above each excavated building site, brick infill, or shell of concrete are balanced in the stillness and heat; days themselves too burdensome to lift, we scurry like ants among salt grains - no sooner arrived than about to leave. Yet, sometimes, perhaps late afternoon, passing a bombsite in the heart of town that's waited fifty years to have its barely started project halted, or hurrying along by the stadium after fresh hours in a quiet room when stubborn local irritations (every spot nursing its peculiar ones) have unsuspectedly been melted, again I notice them, never that far - Here, even the litter bins know where they are.
'Non ti turbi il frastuono...' Vittorio Sereni Beneath a pergola's gravel-dust shade vine leaves quiver when expresses go by. We're gathered for a goodbye party, one of the many, our places laid. Everybody's borne in mind, but you aren't even among the books upstairs lining walls of a pensioned headmaster's study while timetabled trains continue not to disturb as they arrive or leave with the clatter of closed shutters on ochre frontage. Seventy-six years the house has echoed to a shunting locomotive, coaches coupled through peace and war - years absorbed by its blank fašade like the absent presence of sounds heard under lines in a picture-hung interior, of non-ghosts, children that didn't come, haunting them as you do, still, though that fast train from sixty years ago had long since gone into their silent children's room.
Through acres of plain or veined marble in overwrought styles, we came face to face with the strong-willed, distant look of the survivor as she stared at a camera in her ninetieth year. The light still gleamed by its oval frame. Her daughter removed limp flowers from an urn, arranged ones sold outside just to bring her. She dusted the stone with unusual care. A great granddaughter restless in her pushchair, the mother unable to stifle a tear... How long was it decent to linger? What on earth were we all doing here? * The other was far less easy to find. Though at the funeral, he couldn't remember. In the end, we went back to the cemetery office where they gave us the gist: a tomb number. She asked for no photo, no pious quotation, no tiny electric 'eternal flame' - only the slab, two dates, her name. No one had left any flowers behind. No rustle of leaves, no bird calls, no sound came from the stone-, smoke-, the ash-coloured sky. No wan smile, no hand would likely appear from the wall of the dead and astonish or snatch us. - There was nothing to keep you here.
1 Just imagine, for a moment, this curtain flapping at a window; it interrupts oblique sun rays from a summer dusk, the sky washed clean by sudden rain, and floating about the room's high corner comes shadow like wrinkles under an eye - as if a sense of depth were made not by the damage time sketches, but simply alternating light and shade. 2 Just so, and for a moment, a moment not to be repeated, the light of that 8:30 sunset slants across the people seated at a dinner table - faces, their kept secret histories not of what was cultivated (eyes closed, dozing over pages) no, but all you're fated to be left with when you lose the cheeks enlivened by this glow, a wine, and swallowed phrases in mouths shaped on the local accent... 3 It falls across two photographs, each in a varnished frame: the grandad dead some thirty years (who dies again the instant anyone recalls him alive) and his late widow, the same, whose cupboards still release such scent as brings her back a while.
There's part of you still there you know, for your shed skin compacts under their baby's nails, and collects as dust haunting dark corners; your grey hair beards the plug holes, and mirrors that swallowed your image reflect things smeared with your prints. Oh, they may throw out carpets rich with your bits, decorate and paint ceilings your tobacco breath kissed, but always you leave a trace, always. Somewhere.....somewhere. If only hair, if only dust, or finally just, atoms......atoms. Years later they still receive your mail.
for Wilson Harris Begins like the sea began with a reflection of sky ocean-deep and clouds shape-shifting fleet-footed He walks from water to land and runs right away He skips lying on his back sitting and crawling on all fours His first words are God mother and silence please He likes cut grass smells sand-soil falling through fingers The noise of rivers over stones dams waterfalls The streets of Georgetown hold light first then bitumin And pitch its grid tries to carve the light but only succeeds in showing how solid figures wave and warp and tremble Boneless under the sun How light bends like a stick plunged in a pond How the streets run out and roots and vines spring up His hair grows like light or waves lining up for the shore His thoughts resemble roots vines Not the grid of the streets When he opens his mouth butterfly season sprouts in Chelmsford's fields The clouds let down their ladders Joining sea and sky heaven and scorched earth and we ascend until heads tap-tap an elastic sky Whose stretch snaps and we get drenched by the moon and stars Relax Wilson is talking What do you expect Watches stop their march Time mounts up in the tracked sun in shade crossing floors up walls along ceilings then turns hard as chandeliers Insects switch on their concert their lamps A thousand eyelids blink on a peacock's back