The Map of Antarctica

Fictions for Unseen Spaces

Category: Poetry

A Long Way From America

I feel a long way from America

and America is what I was learning.

Through books and film and music and people

I straddled the Atlantic

imagining the galleries

and the libraries.

But the waves were strong,

and much like Salvador Alvarenga,

the man who got lost on a boat for 14 months,

I sometimes felt I had no nation.

The stars

I could be sure of.

But countries are like that.

Strong and invisible,

Rooted deep into our psyche.

I could never mistake

that it was the streets of England

that my visions of America were contained within,

that down the road and near the water

was the screen that has long projected Hollywood,

that in the houses, next to the worn furniture

are the books that transmitted New York

past the eyes, to the brain

where I again will build

a place that someday I won’t have to remember.

I will just be able to look and see.

Until then I will shave

and turn up for work

at the university that lights up lecture theatres at night

for talks on the slave trade.

Legacies are in place

but let them not get overblown,

our people will soon see eye to eye

and speak of common things.

Older

there’s too much

time.

It’s everywhere.

On my hands,

on my side,

on my mind.

I’m drowning in the stuff.

Sometimes a miasma of rain,

others thick like oil,

It never ceases to pass

and leave me that little bit

older than before.

The Workman

I laid bricks

ontop of one another,

but failed to build a thing

other than a wall

to bang my head against,

I sat in call centres

and listened to the phones ring,

like birdsong

or a concerto,

I poured coffee

into paper cups

and handed them out to the commuters

for free,

I sat in offices

and pushed paper,

punched at keyboards,

not caring what

gobbledegook came out,

I stood in bookshops

and watched

as customers stole paperbacks,

dropping half the sci-fi section into a laundry bag,

I directed traffic

the wrong way

down one way streets,

I walked dogs

until they were exhausted,

panting and begging

for their blankets,

I projected films at angles

so that they missed

the screen,

I flipped burgers

til they were black

pieces of charcoal,

served them up

on paper plates,

And after a hard days toil,

I like nothing more than to relax with a pint,

served up by my local barman

who does a great job.

The Shape

Spent the night recalling old voices,

listening to old songs in the key of lost years.

Two lights on in the bedroom

and an abandoned set of feelings,

rediscovered.

 

What am I to do with these?

Now that we both have new lives,

new lovers,

new problems.

 

They form a shape in my hands, invisible enough to pray for.

A shape of so many sides that it could never be described as a story.

It is heavier; more robust and consequential.

An object.

 

I do not know what to do with it now,

now that it is here again.

I have never been one to deny the significance of events.

 

I lie back on the bed,

and I think of a tin of paint

that releases a strong aroma

after having its thick layer of skin pierced.

 

There must be an art to this, I think to myself.

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