a line of faces borders the strangler’s work heavy european women mist blows over dusty tropical plants lit from beneath the leaves by a spotlight mist in my mind a riffled deck of cards or eccentrics was i a waterton animal my head is not my own poetry is neither swan nor owl but worker, miner digging each generation deeper through the shit of its eaters to the root – then up to the giant tomato someone else’s song is always behind us as we wake from a dream trying to remember step onto a thumbtack two worlds – we write the skin the surface tension that holds you in what we write is ever the past curtain pulled back a portrait behind it is a room suddenly lit looking out through the eyes at a t.v. programme of a monk sealed into a coffin we close their eyes and ours and still here the tune moves on
This old house lodges no ghosts!
Those swaggering specters who found their way
Across the Atlantic
Were left behind
With their old European grudges
In the farmhouses of New England
Like so much jettisoned baggage
To lug over the Piedmont.
The flatlands are inhospitable
To phantoms. Here
Shadows are sharp and arbitrary
Not mazy, obscure,
Cowering in corners
Behind scary old boots in a cupboard
Or muffled in empty coats, deserted
By long-dead cousins
(Who appear now and then
But only in photographs
Already rusting at the edges)—
Setting out in the creaking wagon
Tight-lipped, alert to move on,
The old settlers had no room
Their dangers were real.
Now in the spare square house
Tidy away the past
Until the polished surfaces
Reflect not apparitions, pinched,
Parched, craving, unsatisfied,
But only their own faces.
In Sweden, they whispered all winter,
counting the frozen minutes.
In France, they branched out. Tips of experience.
In England, they dreamed of Ireland.
In Ireland they seemed to be lonely.
Germany was Belgium then was Spain.
Italy was something else again.
Portugal, Portugal, Portugal:
they said that a lot because they never went back.
Later in Hungary, he lay on his back
and watched the clouds—so few of them
but each one big and fluffy. In the first dream
the angel was having a dream; in the next dream
the angel still clung to his story.