Voices bouncing off the river, fattening then
elongating where night fish surface to gulp
glimmers of neon then sink again. Echoes of
echoes, a volley of falling stars, water chipped
by the adze of city nights. There is no word
are no words separate from what things are.
Voices waking me five floors high in the
hotel, remembering how they woke me
earlier in the night, that I have to be who
I am supposed to be again today. A gull
ululates, I fumble on my watch so it can
give me its graduated permissions. I pull
back blinds and streetlamps submerge in
the river’s memory: longboats, the groan of
oars, their pogroms and fires burials, ash
spreading its grey feathers, evanescent.
Things in the street moving, sounds that
could be traffic or grinding of the earth’s
plates, something shaking, the incalculable
mathematics of remembrance crossing space
towards me: eleventh hour, eleventh day
eleventh month, a silence tuned, its single
note thick with harmonics. Where are you now?
That ring of poppies wilting against a granite
monument, my father’s neck chafed by khaki
serge, playing piano for the officers, doing
fire watch on a London roof, homesick
as searchlights plait their wickerwork.
My mother shaking down a thermometer
soldiers watching her, still awake in their
premonitions, mercury flicked into its silver
bulb. Where are you? Can you ever parley
with the dead? Can you ever forgive them or
each other or yourself? Your own sacred self
I mean, not the one who steps into you but
the one who might step out of you at last.
A. C. Grayling