And now and then with night coming on they would settle to talking, the two of them. And now and then, the other figure he had not become, would, as if passing outside the window, look in on them, unable to touch but longing to see those mortal faces to which he was entirely absent in that prosaic, yellow light; remembering the taste of food, a tone of voice and she returning to the house a garden in her hands.
In the early hours rain is falling. Rain is falling into the garden around the house, on the small fields down to the sea, over the Penwith moorland and the hills and the road to Zennor. There is no light anywhere, not a smear and the only sound is rain falling and your breathing and I can picture you without seeing you, your face turned up, sleeping, each breath drawing the Atlantic air of morning.
Above an inlet by the abandoned hard rock mines
where children grubbed for arsenic and other minerals
their hands wrapped in rags, where copper stains the cliffs
leaching into the rolling waves, a mass of seagulls glide.
They glide like a single living thing wingtip to wingtip
without a flicker, as beautiful as calculus in flight,
vectors in prismatic air, an intaglio of flightpaths on nothing
to suspend a tracery of serrated blue, heads poised, searching.
His father worked part-time in a pub,
The Oddfellows Arms off the Square;
these scenes arrive and make no story
assuming their meaning decades later.
A pub for working men after work
packed at night and thick with smoke;
he collected glasses and was paid in drinks
and drank the dregs of the glasses collected.
He bought beer bottle caps home for the boy,
who set them out as static armies on carpet land
- Guinness v. Mackeson v. Flowers in futile ranks,
rank the smell, like the dosshouse in which he died.
The boy would walk by the pub at night,
inside, the roar of voices liquid convivial;
the memory like broken glass in the street
shatters on impact thrown from somewhere unseen.
I think these songs rise at night, not bound for story
they write themselves, and after time – when time is called
– the feelings are gone or not, make nothing of them
I don’t know there is perhaps I think
a hierarchy of loss unrecorded
ascending in an arc of glittering glass
hurtling a moment over the streetlights
of the rain-wet Square
spangling the familiar darkness of the night above.
I liked the Guinness bottle caps best
black and gold like coins of unknown currency,
the serrated circumference of the underside
imprinted a red crown in your palm.
There’s no account to settle in that currency,
these songs set out from nowhere, recall even less;
the crown cut in the palm of your hand
like a pass to a different country.
My wife sleeps as if floating in the white bed
and moonlight fills the garden like still water.
The city, an unrealised plan, is quiet,
sets out around us a proposal nearly visible.
I mean the houses and gardens, the mesh of streets
and the contracts of the day, drift far off
into an unthinkable depth of translation
bordered by the silent trees of the park.
My daughters and their children are asleep
away from here in cities to the east.
The risen architecture of morning
comes flickering across a continent.
Copyright ©Kelvin Corcoran, 2020