No 163 - 2001
It was early November. The grass glowed
under a frame of light. A red bridge crossed
a dual carriageway. The train was lost
between two cities. It was as if it followed
its own chronology forward into time
which sat still watching as it watched birds
and mice, the progress of rust, and the words
spoken in each carriage, all with sublime
attention to detail. Not far off but elsewhere
two people were kissing. One’s hand moved
on the other’s breast. A fistful of blonde hair.
The tail of a shirt. Who else have you loved?
they asked each other. Tell me, was there anyone?
But no one heard them speak. The train moved on.
And two girls in the next seat. One said: So he
went to the top of the car park and threatened
to throw himself off, but then his friend,
the one who had stolen his lover felt sorry
and joined him and said he’d jump too, so they
came down and went to a club where there were
lapdancers and got drunk. But we’d lost her
in the noise. The wind had carried her away.
Their voices continued lapping as at the bank
of a river, wearing it away with their tongues,
dragging along shopping trolleys, brief ranks
of refuse and the words of popular songs,
and we watched them talking excitedly, their eyes
as dazzling as the wings of household flies.
The man who had raped the girl at the pool recalled
his wife, how he’d bring her her morning tea
then feel her tits, and they’d fall to it enthusiastically.
That at least was his story. His listeners were appalled.
He clearly missed her although he was a brute
who had probably forced her to have sex
on his own terms. By now she was his ex-
and he’d been alone for years. That was the root
of the problem, an educated man remarked.
He talked of fucking. She referred to it
in other terms. It was her breast and not her tit
he held. Such a man should not have embarked
on a mature relationship. These sorry pricks,
he ventured, are soon hoist by their semantics.
They wouldn’t let go of each other’s hands,
since if they did they might drift apart into
the stream of the universe. And it was true,
they did let go, and there were no real strands
holding them together. But later one
entered the underworld to rescue the other
and they almost made it, lover to lover.
Two schoolkids were walking home alone
beside the railway line with dark berries
beckoning them and marks where others had lain
among the tussocks with the blood-red stain
on their fingertips, their childhood miseries
gathering dust and weight.
The flight path of desire. The dazzled moth.
George Szirtes’s most recent book of poems is The Budapest File (Bloodaxe, 2000). His next, a collection of poems on the theme of England, will be out this year.
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