He turns to the woman behind him in the queue and says: Life is like a bicycle ⸺ when you stop pedalling, it stops. She disagrees, instinctively, and so do I from further down the line (but do I really, deep down?) I think that sometimes there is beauty that can take my breath away, but mainly there’s just breath, a slow and steady intake of whatever’s taking place in time. What he really meant to say was that our lives have become machine-like and full of desperation, that work is a rat-race destructive of any genuine sense of achievement (but it could be so much more), and that any thought of change is crushed by the constant threat of failure, but by the time I managed to think of all this it was too late to tell him ⸺ out loud.
Photograph: 香港東平洲 Tung Ping Chau, Hong Kong (2016)
The sneer cut deep and left me brooding ⸺ Why are you so shallow? he asked. Why do you have to stay so close to the surface of things? At dusk, I took a dog
and my anger
down to the dam. We sat on the stony shore,
musing and watching swallows drink
with the tip of the tip of themselves.
Blunt beaks pinpricked brown water,
summoning from the impact diamond-point
an upsurge of nested silver rings that grew wide ⸺
and then wider ⸺
through each and every inch of their circumference.
Over and over the birds did it,
perhaps as much for the ripples as for the thirst
and eventually I realized here the consolation, of course ⸺
learning ⸺ by my stubborn self through them ⸺
that skimming as a matter of act could have such singular-annular beauty.
The burnished shell they sell
by the sea — Beginning
that makes no bones
of itself — what on Earth
can it mean to the likes of me? Breather;
heartbeater; pulser; digester
of questions that blister
and cold-stone truths; shower;
teller; clumsy incenser of all things
half-way sweet or sincere; PRESENTer;
PASTer; fabulous FUTUREr;
fly on the wall in this singular
plural world: I weigh your rest
on the flat of my hand. You weigh me back
with the glint of its gloss;
with the hush of its cone;
with the spiral-finesse of its empty — beautifuller — form.
Now what will I make with the rest of my life of my own anxious skeleton?
To be like her: to enjoy
the fair rest of the fairest,
that repose, where doubt
overturned by beauty
completely loses its voice, as if —
like a stone — it never had a voice;
no hemidemisemiquaver of negative noise;
no tremor even from remote self-shadow;
just perfectly pleasurable pause.