(Experiment Number 6)
The bones of many mortals are not hollow
but these, this perished swallow’s, surely are
(or were; the tense attention’s metaphysics
shan’t deter us). Inter it in this jar,
with one side showing, so that we can follow
the beetles’ weekly progress with their trocar-and-cannula aspiration.
Will the swallow watch? Not likely.
Travelling to the places essence seeks,
when freed, will take its interest and its time.
Its body, once its joy, decomposing,
won’t cause the soaring spirit any grief.
The swallow starts its tour in further space
where all the stars, place-holder points of light,
avail the bird as nulls in the vast number,
that he, a leading one, installs in flight.
Week 2. We watch the beetles cart away
most of what empowered swallow wings.
The bone remains; some skin, and all the feathers.
Week 10. No beetles. The larvae freeze.
One night we hear bird song.
Winter solstice. I find the broken jar.
I can write no more, nor less. I should confess
but no one reads this so we are all write
in the sense of staying somnolent. The lank tress
of our lady saved from the dragon that wild night
lies on the trellis where the laity
can worship it. That’s what they like to do.
Beyond their sense and my ability
the Fates weave strands from her fair hair and strew
them on the waters that continue rising.
Canute had better luck rebuffing waves
than you and I have, sat here fantasising
against the ills set free in óur times. Nothing saves
our faces or our children. The penny drops.
The lady is forgotten. Our story stops.
The moon mops up shadows the sun had baked onto the beach.
We watch and we wonder which of us will leave.
A breeze seizes our choices and scatters them out of our reach.
We walk on damp sand to the rock where large moulting birds grieve.
A dragon-eyed cormorant regards us. It raises one wing.
We look where it points. The horizon’s half-hidden in haze
where the world edge drops off. We strain and we see a small thing.
It’s a boat. It’s a yacht. We’ve not seen other people for days.
I pretend I’m speaking Spanish. I use the words.
I combine the words in ways that are my own.
If you get my drift we imagine we’re communicating.
This is similar, but more obvious, to how we speak
the language we grew up with. We use words
in ways we’ve shared so long we think they’re laws,
but when talk gets important we invent
our own interpretation of the sounds
we make and we suppress. What we call languages
are but the shadows of the things we feel.