from a sequence of ten poems and postscripts.
The Nuit Blanche: what of it
under a full, blood-shot moon –
old ration-cards carpeting the floor;
Isaiah Berlin’s visit a visitation,
hours sudden tree-lined minutes,
the present possessed in full, too soon
a past. Joy opening its painted doors
to your inmost beings. As if you had known
one another all your lives.
Unveiled: so much to impart.
Contemplation now with the inner eye
that outspeaks words. How alive
and fieldfare-free, crossed hearts
immortalised in his company.
Such a coincidence: harmony
winged by window-cleaning angels
into new spheres, defences swept
like sandbags into corners to make way
for this startling, cut-glass clarity
as planets, suns and starlight fell
like grace and your former selves slept,
redundant, at your feet, edged by day.
Perhaps, predicting you would be
denounced as a spy, you saved your mantle
of words in printed and silenced lines
in the Fontanka, the bridgehead of Nevsky
to spread, you told him, over your people,
the only voices to heed: ‘yours and mine’.
An affair with his voice vowed so long to silence.
There on the telephone line miraculously broadcast.
A prey, now, not to sorrow, but to the caress of
rippling back over the Styx worth a hundred Nobel
Your face is tuned in like a plump fruit to the sun,
your breath hangs like hot hoarfrost on the pulse of
between the words close as overhead thunder. Your
of smog is suddenly silver, its graves closed over,
and the sky is itself again, twisted scrap metal no
Even the earth has changed colour. Half-finished
have pushed up through concrete streets, ready to be
and the stones heaped against your door glitter
into tiny wind-picked apples, in every core a melody.
Your carpets fly around you when you arise, taller than
the heavens. Having hung up, you glow in each
prism with a warm, festive solitude, the world a-quiver.
Even if your happiness is born of pain, you are no more
needy. While you sing to life your praise of death,
the sun falls through the window across you like his
How glad you are to have only a voice to miss, not all
… ‘In a world become mute for all time,
There are only two voices: yours and mine.’
From ‘Cinque’ published 1946, translated 1990.
His hands said you had known him always
so you followed them tentatively
at first then boldly as they moulded
your entirety into his body, keen to meet
and want you while your time was there.
As if he wasn’t happening to you
but to someone long ago and far away
who kept him like a blessing in her locket
and tripped through carnivals −
while around chimney flues, tale-bearers
whispered ecstasies they’d caught
off her flaring, embroidered skirt.
His hands spoke of a rupture somewhere.
You heeded them softly. Though you had bled
and felt until feeling gone, the dancer of old
spun through you, nudging you −
with a wink at him, intimating that
making poems was really making love,
and his hands holding yours and hers
like gloves, all the fingers pointing
one way, had to be followed and heeded
for tales to burn with your dynasty.