Then you sleep again and wake, begin the day.
Walking past the Hangingshaw, you notice
again how provisional the grass and bushes are
since they cleared the 'Prefabs' so we could build
nothing there, how the space is still mapped out
in little plots where enamel sinks and mangels stood.
'Hay bab-a-ree-bab, Ma mammy's got a prefab'.
The rhyme doesn't linger but a man is lying
some way off in a patch of sunlight.He's too far
away to tell what's happened, but his suit
is visible and he's stretched out, arms by his side,
attention-like, right in the centre of a box shaped green.
He seems peaceful and at home. Once, before
the prefabs, an anti-aircraft gun pounded the sky
from here; earlier still the Hangingshaw was just
a wood clinging to a hillside giving shade
to travellers. And historians dispute its
spelling for maybe it was Hagginshaw instead.
'Hay bab-a-ree-bab'. Later, in the night,
there is a dream with a friendly scuffle
in which your opponent suddenly turns
and embraces you: there is no pressure
of desire or want but an absolutely even
acceptance of you as you of him.
'I love you', you say, the cushie-doos
return: 'Hay bab-a-ree-bab', 'Hay bab-a-ree-bab'
and you don't need to know what it might mean.
Note: a ‘cushie-doo’ is a Scots pigeon
Sailing to Torcello
A Doge of work! The scrolls, the endless
parchments of middle age! Applications and appeals
blot out the throb of bells, suppress
the smell of dust and hot cow hide, the peals
of youthful laughter and dismiss
the fact that rose gold sky is still held up by angels.
He doodles briefly, sighs; only a fresco, a cartoon
by Titian could show all flesh sinking in this salt lagoon.
A glorified skivvy with a pointy hat, he tackles
the intractable while all the others trade and trade
even though each year the ramshackle
world they hedge and bet is weighed
in balances by bankers whose chuckles,
crackles, heckles are commissioned and ignored.
And so he takes the Vaparetto
to the holy island of Torcello.
Meter Theu! Mother of God! No Doge can save
you, long, sleek and blue in your high iconostasis.
Gabriel hastens but is not quick enough; Eve
kneels, is not forgiven. Even, especially, this oasis
is the first to go: apostles in the nave
of meadows, trampled poppies in the still mosaic.
The boy locked in his almond shell will have to swim.
Cloth for earth is in the Doge's hymn.
'Star of the seas!', he prays, 'Epitome of virtue';
the skies are starless and a severed peacock's tail
floats by, fans out its single iridescent eye to view
mens' wisdom, giving up on God. Soft braille
of feathers, drowned lions, is it true
that heaven only lay beneath us among the kale
and sandbanks? The canals all run with fire.
Gold endures but we are out of art and nature.