An Elegy

The fallen ones do return, Marina,
With many roads to death, one exit;
Restored in rosemary and verbena,
They’d laugh at Pandemics and Brexit.

You see, nothing will change or fade,
Wheelwright’s brand humanity,
Where only wheels were ever made
For conveying misery.

Your golden hair was poet’s fire,
Verses like arson, exploding malpractice;
I could not disrobe the clothing of liars
The way you exposed them, a female Atlas

Condemned to bear a crate
Of man’s rotting apples, the weight
And the shape of a globe. Your gate
Wanted oiling, your river in spate.

So I thought again of my childhood,
Suppression is more than state-welded;
It spores like moss and ferns in the wood
Until darkness and sunlight are melded.

I rode a bike like a horse into battle,
The driveway my Sevastopol,
My pen’s an unsheathed sabre’s rattle,
Through fields of rye for alcohol

Fermented, how adulthood lamented
For the limits and shackles it made itself;
Carefully the state had creatives cemented;
Two decades later, your book’s on the shelf.

I am blessed, I could escape as matter stands,
I hope to never know the pressures
Which exist in the mind and the hands
Of wheat in the wake of the threshers.

Use powerful words to sentence strife,
Fly me, poets, to Yelabuga; 1941;
Let’s bring a poet back to life,
Let’s fill old age with her song.

 

Half-Life

Even now, I remember well the half-hatched ordeals
Of that autumnal evening; beginning not with
Someone’s finding of the student,
(Not a friend, but a caretaker or cleaner),

And then the conjectures revolving into rumours,
Around the cold corridors of dormitories;
And again, the next day, nameless officers confirm and
Light up a truth which quickly dissolves

Like a tooth in a tumour, or a blinking eye
In the dark damp womb of our creations. Self-stopped
Like half a clock at the 19th hour,
Nothing more to absorb, confused, alone.

It did not begin when some other freshers planted candles
With a different future’s blossom, some flowers, some cards
Expressing half-life-sorrows, blocks of bewilderment
For a young man they neither addressed nor uncovered.

Twenty-two years have now slipped through that noose,
Twenty-two years of what-ifs and the bruises and confusion
Which do not diminish in those poor parental hearts,
A dominion where dear grandchildren are not born,

Where the extremities of life contract and reduce,
Where no one cries from their jaws for sadder times and joys,
Where a disease tore into graduation photographs and
Glasses of champagne once filled, left altogether untouched;

A thesis which unlocked the shift and pulleys of the universe
Unpublished; and an unmarried wife who wed her lesser wish,
(Died ten years later at his hands, discovered there in plastic bags
By tracker dogs, over the hills at Nightingale Woods).

Decades later, a specific chair was not moved into
A specific space at a celebration of alumni as they gobble port
And profiteroles in prestigious campus chambers,
Because no one there remembered, despite those dreams

Which govern and gnaw, without a name there is no lore,
They shifted on their feet, exchanging nouns and verbs,
They noticed people who whetted their mouths
Eating grapes and canapes in shades of green and purple.

No, it started many lives before, when someone somewhere
Did not say a vital word, a necessary term, a contract with Life
Left unassigned, unrehearsed, over and over until unlearnt.
Outside, Australia is burning.

And so we hurtle on, now unrepentant exiles of that time,
Post-internet, where anything seems accessible,
We stand still in illusions of luminous currents,
In the vacuum of chronically forgetful republics.