THERE IS A COURTYARD
There is a courtyard in between sleep and awake
and within its walls the light is different and the darkness unfamiliar.
And whilst slowly crossing its uneven cobbles, surprised at where you are,
voices may call to you from a balcony. Though you’re familiar to them,
they are unknown to you and when you look up, there’s no one there.
There’s a breeze that separates the leaves, shape-changing the trees
and flattening the ivy and the Russian vine against the wall. And in its breath
there’s rain. It bleeds the impasto colours thin and settles the rising dust.
And with it all – the known and the half-known – comes the musk,
the moth-dust, the flicker in the net curtains,
these things that that tell you: ‘Here’s how it was,
or how it may have been…’
Here’s the peewit whistle across the garden fences –
Francis or Steven after summer teatime ready to play.
And then we three sharing the dank smell of the flowerbed loam
and the sharp prairie forever scent of grass
(because we move our tiny armies crouching,
lying sideways on the earth, down where the ants teem
and the snuffling dog knows his world. Planes may burr
across some limitless sky somewhere and the train
stammers along its steel horizon, but we’re grounded
and utterly but fearlessly lost)…
Or an uprush of old desire – the precise deep cut
that drew blood sweetly (this her hair in your face,
a breeze of breath before kissing and after a confusion
of lips and teeth there is everything that is to do with
flesh yours and flesh not your own – collide, absorb, consume).
Or it’s just bells remembered in their surprise major glory.
Or the bronze light of a baby’s morning, caught above an open window
and you can’t move but like the tipped-up beetle you can only
wave slowly at it with all your legs and arms.
Or it’s the sound of the lost chord, or a badger’s bark.
Or the scolding chunter of a steam loco’s wheels in a huge, unseen but
apprehended terminus (Waterloo, Victoria).
Or just the fragrance of apples along a shed floor, wet tweed
after rain, a letter found within the pages of an unread book.
Or even nothing much at all – just a sense of waiting for something
by the junction of two walls – slight heat or cold;
one flagstone out of alignment with another;
a shadow that doesn’t move.
And then it’s gone – no courtyard, just brief black sleep or awake,
one dimension or the other and you’ve passed through.
Passed through and the bed binds you and the light oppresses
and there is left just the old quotidian cycle of the breath taken
and the breath released. And the dust of bells remembered,
that bronze light, that uprush of desire.
THERE IS A COURTYARD, read by Dick Jones