Open 11am to 8pm
Royal Festival Hall (Level 5), Southbank Centre, LondonOpen Tuesday - Sunday from 11am to 8pm
After WS Graham
Something beckons, suckered to the hull
that we must search the blinking shores for.
We are blindfolded, clad in light
but bracken turns boots black,
hunger drives us back to hearths.
We are so starved we cannot
Nights compress, drenched sand, salt frets.
We cling on, carve out the nothing,
feed in words, hear voices leagues away
deadened, caught in traps.
Can we dive to the depths, resist the lies
that float bladder-white,
truths spangling our naked sides?
The tide comes, fathers slewed hours,
leaves what it chooses. In the interior
an owl is snagged on trees, the moor calls
and we still wear the blindfolds.
We forget what we are looking for.
We fetch the notes from gales,
pin them round our hearth fires.
Tonight the Salome moon
throws off her seven cloud veils -
small, full and high in the east,
she lights her half of the sky
with soft blue and softer grey,
while in the west
Darkness touches his toes,
bows down to me or the moon.
Down on the shore,
an egret, motionless, abiding,
suddenly opens his wide wings,
white as the fleece
from which Gideon wrung a bowl of dew,
white as the robe slipping
from the shoulders of Bathsheba.
The man stands by his pick-up
truck and whirrs the automatic
windlass into life. Bob, Bob’s
wife and Bob’s wife’s niece watch.
When he arrived, he eyed Bob’s car,
scratched his baseball-cap, said the ad
had had him understand it wasn’t quite
so… But he’d take it. For parts.
Bob has been busy: he’s jettisoned
the other contents of the corrugated iron
garage. Only two prehistoric oil-cans –
‘good for ten years yet’ – get saved.
The cable tautens, and Bob’s car –
insofar as it can still be called
a car – ploughs into daylight. No tyres.
No engine. Chassis on the gravel.
The man operates the controls
with one thumb. ‘Can we help at all?’
‘No, it’s OK.’ Bob’s wife’s niece’s small
son’s playing with a bucketful of stones.
The pick-up humps up the unmade lane.
Bob’s car rides piggyback, bumping side
to side. They turn onto the main road
at the top, and everybody goes inside.
Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, there's a land that I heard of, once in a lullaby
In her deepest sleep, Madam Lisette Talate returns to Chagos,
leaving the Mauritian slums, where so many continue to follow
her example, standing in protest against the lies and chaos
orchestrated by the officials, who claimed there were no
indigenous people on Diego Garcia, Peros Banhos,
none on the sibling islands of Salomon, Egmont, and so
the islands were ‘swept and sanitised’. An albatross
was spared, and the order given: ‘a few Man Fridays’ must go.
The slave ancestors who fished, loved and prayed across
the centuries, the generations who dried the copra, coco,
extracting oil from the kernel of the nut, even the boss
of the copra plantation struggled to see over the rainbow.
On the main island of Diego Garcia, the US base, Camp Justice
squats. The Chagossians are still chanting, Rann nu Diego
thirty, forty years later, fighting for the right to return. Their loss
is unimaginable, these guardians of the Chagos Archipelago.
After dark I call you up,
just to hear the weather report,
that the nights are drawing in now,
and how much you paid
for your latest pair of trousers.
You’ll tell me the one about
PLUTO, the giant pipeline rolling out
under the Channel on a steel drum,
how it kept the tanks fed
for our boys on the continent,
how the ice cream hut along the bay
was really a pump in disguise,
like those Ruperts that kept the Führer
guessing. And the Kamikaze who’d blaze
unswerving to the end, the enemy
you couldn’t help but admire. And I’ll
sing you American Pie again,
like that last night in the hospital,
however many times you try to die.
they request that we inform you immediately you are standing on soft ground
the ceiling lights are swinging in the background
the waves crash, then dissipate the first wave may not be the largest
this is a flow-on event so do not go near do not stay and watch the land
slipping it has triggered other faults like a network of nerves
and the seabed has risen out of the sea there are visible ruptures
running along the landscape this is a flow-on event
but the moon does not cause earthquakes the ceiling lights are a typical pattern
of aftershocks and they request that we inform you
you are a visible rupture running along the landscape
do not stay and watch the nerves slipping
there will be strong currents in the background
the moon has risen out of the sea the first wave crashes, then dissipates
you are standing on such soft ground