Dawn lifts a timid, disapproving eye
behind us as we head west.
In the seat beside you, he is already
fidgeting, stick-limbed, arachnid.
The night will have been ghost-ridden.
The radio creaks pointlessly, too quiet
to be heard above the discord of
engine, tyre-tread and wiper-blade.
His returning is cloud-free, relatively –
for once – yet still I can see the sky
between you – its weather systems –
interpret the signs. At this hour,
the road remains empty all the way in,
commuters still cold under their showers,
breakfasts undisclosed. Like it’s the thing
we’d planned all along, you steer the car
past the exit marked “Drop-off”, swing us,
without a murmur, towards “Short Stay”.
Shapeless patches of light
shimmy up the hillside,
countermanding each separate shadow
for a second, washing the unlit,
warming the cold spirit,
like a note pattern in
the leafless trees below.
You’re coming back again,
or so I heard. A strike of the eye,
irregularity of the heart.
I picture you. The limpness
of the afternoon impels me,
makes me wonder which wind
is bearing you this time.
Fleeing the torment of streets in a narrow vein
of traffic, I steal a nub of respite at a filling station
sandwiched between four-storey apartment blocks
and the raised-up lines of the hell-bound railway.
What passes for air gets trapped here, wedged in,
so the fumes from all the inevitable dewdrops
of petrol that flick from their nozzles after they
fill up their tanks, are evaporating skywards
into the atmosphere, in a merry release of
invisible hydrocarbon balloons to the heavens.
I’d also parked up here that time I took the call,
when they told me Harry had died, as old men often do.
It wasn’t that I’d known him either well or long,
yet still there was a movement somewhere, one of
those that remind you which way up the world is.
And through my own sudden struggle to breathe,
I thought about the way his long garden sloped down
abruptly from the back doorstep, so you almost
walked straight out into the very air itself.
And how, even in those final few years of
mostly wheeling himself about, after his wife died
and his carrot fingers could no longer hit the keys
of the organ sweetly enough to make a tune,
he could still see all the way out past the pines and
phone cables to the clean, open arms of the ocean.
You make your mind up
like the rain.
Covert bands of threat, promise
line themselves along the catwalk
of the horizon.
Only some will make it, cross
the full longitude
of the ocean, grey smothering blue.
I await both
the storm and the steady drill
neither cat nor dog, proffering
a curious hand.