The tune of us
had I hands to write it
six-four time over a Balinese tinkle,
but I dream on, handless
inventing skip-beats (tha-rip) to pass the time.
I curve, acoustic,
for twenty six bars
of held breath —
the underground score
of an opera for insects:
my green grocer
my black prince, tap-dancer.
I tunnel out and count myself in.
you made your way on mass
sideways like sandcrabs
a ragged collegium,
full of fight and righteousness
shouting fond arguments
tugging at each other, tumbling
towards the isthmus
across that line you wouldn’t cross alone.
Great numbers meant great courage:
you ventured together
and accumulated faith.
The sun — celestial diplomat —
shone down ultraviolet
and gilded upturned faces
(friends, your sweet lips split,
the fresh skin pinked and puckered).
The wind grew calm:
evidence, you said —
such small miracles
will soon be handed down as fact.
Differences extinguished in the noonday bright,
you stopped your yelling
and prepared for a single, quiet truth.
Back among the blackened mangroves
beside the grey teeth
of the broken jetty
the shadows grow long,
At this remove
I hardly recognise you, friends.
Voices carry, high as baby birds’ —
gannet, egret, gull.
I listen but the wind snatches words.
Newborn and dismayed,
you turn in circles.
I grow mandibles; I digest things
here without a people,
I am bearded, brackish and alone.
New trunks thrust up
like stubby thumbs, from the mudflat.
Here I build a hollow for a heretic
where I can think,
kick the dripping boards;
dispute and come unstuck,
and let the biting insects
have my blood.