In the morning more gunmen,
black-clad and with weapons
raised to prise some credit
in this lottery of warlords; smiling,
cheering and firing
guns. Yet this was something else,
for only a day ago the massive tanks
- pesticidal spaceships - rolled out,
leaving the scraps to the oven hatred
and the safety of home-grown thugs.
Yesterday the rubble and helping
Asif's father take bricks in
a half-dragged cart; dusty white
with glistening, tanned-skin streaks
of sweat. You heard at last
the beach was free, but the hours ran
in the fight to boast this liberty.
Today the sea is free again,
they say it will now always be;
that constant thing, the only thing
free of the smashed and half-built
and raw, free of the ruins
that litter the shore
unblemished as a tile
and wet as a wound,
this parable of endurance beheld;
as though damascened, such wealth
lived only in dreams in siege-saddened rooms
where unslaked generations brood.
To the beach for the one thing
they handed you pure,
an ablution to mark the still birth
of a land; down the long, pitted road
to the long-forbidden sand.
Asif was there with you, his hands
smooth from lime and his smile
encouraged you into the brine.
Playfulness surged in the spray
of his joy and discarding your shirt
you followed this boy
to the salty delicious, this border
now gone, you flailed you arms
and the dust came away
and ducking your head, you pushed
under waves, mere ripples they were
yet soon you were far
from the shallows and feeling
a tug underneath,
you thrust up to clutch
at an ocean of breath.
The weight of your body
the screams of Asif,
the disordered panic
as your lungs filled with sea.
Half-submerged, dripping, afraid
and unsure, Asif stood waiting
till he saw you return
buoyant as ever, you came up at last.
Wasn't it you?
Wasn't it you who approached me
down the aisle of a supermarket?
Back in town, I guess,
from some unimaginable failure.
Wasn't it like you
not to let me touch you -
a stroke of your back as a prelude
to placing my arm about you?
Wasn't it you who said that we might
just as well be together again,
since you were here now and since
I had spent six years pining?
Wasn't it you who knew slowness
must govern this strange recommencement,
this unlikely coupling of something
long dead with a dream?
Wasn't it like me
to cling to these night hopes,
to lie still expecting
that really we might have loved on?
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