Written while waiting for a friend at a local bookshop. First drafts, after a very long time of not being able to write anything properly resembling a poem.
At the Bookseller’s
So this is poetry:
three shelves of haphazard books,
Dante rubbing elbows with Dunn.
Perhaps in another world,
we would be walking down marble halls,
the sacred hush of a hundred thousand years of silence
just before the world’s breath was drawn.
Footsteps would resonate, like insignificant prayers
or anticipating storm clouds,
each gust of wind illuminating
patterns of light and dark on pale plaster walls.
But not this. Not this
cluttered leanings of one volume
against the next, weary old men
waiting for the last watery sun to rise,
wrapped in cocoons of plastic and paper.
Are the booksellers afraid of us –
the remainder, the shadows retracing
the steps of poets past, treading impolitely
across the threshold of the ritual, the divine?
I want to say – poetry smells the same,
really, despite mildew and death.
It’s always about the green tendrils of the earth,
the tentative unfurling of a leaf after the rain.
After the Fall of Babel
Imagine how we would be without words:
the day will begin with the clink of spoon
against porcelain, the kiss of wood against wood,
the defining click of a lock that always shut.
How to tell love from loss, that’s the question –
and that familiar warm breath on your cheek
could be from a lover, or a child, or an imaginary
gust of wind across the Atlantic.
Hours would be spent analyzing footsteps
on the sidewalk, clattering like pebbles in your
cupped palms, or the subtle shift as the pages
turn from this to the next. In this world, night
always arrives early, and the only sound
from a television would be a constant hiss,
like snowfall. Candles are never burned
to the wick from conversations that never existed
and the wine glasses are dressed up in dust.
Across the land, vineyards in the south of France
grow heavy with grapes that are never picked,
never pressed. The entire coffee industry will fail.
And you, you will never know the name of the man
who sleeps beside you, his pale chest rising and falling
in the moon’s shadows. And these words, snatches
of something more than the slow march of hours,
will flicker and fade into these nameless moments
between slumber and awakenings.