No 18 - September 2002
So many things are open. The ceiling’s too high
to examine, and it’s dusty, with holes in,
in the Station, where
collapse and resignation hover,
and dejected white collars race home.
There’s something else, in the bustle of
voices colliding; a sense of
all different life happening at once,
a desolation more general, daily more picturesque, (1)
like a recurring daydream;
or watching ochre and mahogany,
thinking it might move.
You have to catch your train:
the platform signs, a rude awakening
from your reflecting, and you’re soon rushing.
Brought back into focus by an altered lens
showing metrolink, burger bar,
sirens scaring the paper man, and drunk coughing
in the entrance to an open
and swelling outside.
Later, in Huddersfield, so much is closed.
As I leave the university in the rainy night,
the dripping high risers, across
the normally busy now quietening main road,
glow yellow an assembly of gas lights.
I linger there, like I did
in the top of the library earlier.
Watching buses move up Yorkshire streets,
into green hills and trees and old villages.
On the canal, a few more people
were walking a dog or going home:
just as it was dark.
I chase the luminous clock through the square,
past the bored taxi drivers,
and students going out.
Now inside another entrance, this one is bright where
ticket stands are closed - I get my breath on the platform,
look to Northern lines and the lights there,
further down, listening for signs of the train,
it cones and opens doors to an interior.
It’s silent eleven, when I jump off the last bus in Haslingden.
The factory burns with nightshift.
I walk through the once frightening churchyard,
to a long, wide avenue, where
rain releases mud, outside the workers amber.
We thought we saw the grey lady there once
but she was a bit of paper.
No fear of anything like that happening now.
Untenanted bush splits the touchline
from farmers fields, and deft footwork
is required to miss slugs on the pavement.
Onto the main road, nearly home.
High leaves resemble a candle’s last flickers.
Frost, mist, remnants of rail smoke still around - none
trickle life underneath; and even
the cat haunted lane seems forlorn now.
The turn of my smaller, crowded avenue.
Three car families. Cramped rooms for living in.
I’ll soon be in mine, from a squeezed outside,
to an inside the same.
After supper and wine,
a soft room, then another.
Where is the sign, at this end,
and ends been and gone, and to come?
There is dark, your own thoughts, the next day.
This is where exterior and interior
are brought together. Not reconciled - more
an awkward eclipse of each other.
This overcast release haunts your dreaming and waking.
An extinction of all days
victories and failures,
unavoidable but impenetrable.
These blackouts weigh heavy on you
in their grave unanswering.
You carry round a taste of your own stalemate.
Broken, like some paintings I’ve seen
in aimless afternoons, mirroring this mess.
But where is hope, love and wisdom in all this?
These that decide us have evaded us:
wondering where we missed them, staring into the basin. (2)
So many things are open with love.
It illuminates you,
like a torch that you found,
and switched on, in the dark.
It closes things too.
You can’t be alone the same.
Your hope is you brought out of yourself, in city squares
on spring nights, slowly believing it’s
happening. Your wisdom is the outside
fading when she is going:
covered in blankets of sadness and waiting.
You sense your room, your eye on the night still light, and still
You go back outside here, unable to face
the full bloom of your altered interior:
you wander in more public, orthodox gardens not Edens,
for a solitude that asks and promises nothing. (3)
You must return to yourself soon,
and make this aloneness customary again.
And when you do, these landscapes you were homesick for, (4)
will begin to stir, once more.
So much is open and closed.
I’m leaving again, til weekend. What we share
is ongoing not framed, just like the picture
of her smiling that stays in my drawer.
I don’t want to be missing her.
Now you are settled in your love,
this oceanic whisper unsilences (5)
though you presumed love was everything.
which has ingrained in you again, an eternal return. (6)
All else except love a distraction
in vain you want both in incorruptible union.
So many things are open, so you have a sense of
all different life happening at once, brought back into
focus through a lens altered
from a closed interior, to a fuller
yet more painful bloom.
Now something new lives on from this collision.
Separating. Mingling. Changing its focus.
There is no sign at each end.
(2) W. H. Auden As I Walked Out One Evening (lines 39-40, stanza 10)
(3) W. H. Auden In Praise Of Limestone
(4) W. H.Auden In Praise Of Limestone
(5) W. H. Auden In Praise Of Limestone
(6) Mircea Eliade The Myth Of The Eternal Return
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