Know that yes, he will indeed
turn the screws on you,
attempt to maim your mortally ascendant
birds. They will be pierced,
taken down by drones and remote pilots.
Forget your truth. It will be shattered
I came to Geneva
by the bullet train,
up from church kero lamps -
it must have been the bullet train.
I rolled in on a Sunday
to that jewelled circling city
and everything was closed
in the old-fashioned way.
In the city of Palais
and moored Secretariat
I arrived in spring when
the Ferraris come out.
Geneva, refuge of the Huguenots,
Courtauld, Pierrepoint, Haszard,
Boers Joubert and Marais,
Brunel’s young Isambard
and John Calvin, unforgiver
in your Taliban hat
you pervade bare St Peter's
in la France protestante,
Calvin, padlock of the sabbath,
your followers now protect you:
predestination wasn’t yours, they claim,
nor were the Elect you,
but: when you were God
sermons went on all day
without numen or presence.
Children were denied play.
I had fun with your moral snobbery
but your great work's your recruits,
your Winners and Losers. You
turned mankind into suits -
and many denims, messer John.
When the doctor cut off my son’s cast the
high scream of the saw filled the room
and the boy’s lap was covered with fluff like the
chaff of a new thing emerging, the
down in the hen-yard. Down the seam that
runs along the outside of the arm and
up the seam along the inside — that
line where the colour of a white boy’s arm
changes like a fish from belly-white to prismatic,
the saw ranged freely — the saw that does not cut flesh,
the doctor told us, smiling. Then the
horrible shriek ran down in a moment to nothing
and he took a sharp silver wedge like a
can-opener and jimmied at the cracks
until with a creak the glossy white
false arm cracked and there lay the kid’s
sweet dirty forearm, thin as a darkened twig.
He lifted it in astonishment, like a gift,
It’s so light! he cried, a lot of light coming out of his eyes,
he fingered it and grinned, he picked up the
halves and put them together and gripped it and
carried it out through the waiting room and
everyone smiled the way you smile at a wedding, so
deep in us the desire to be healed and joined.
Tonight the poet and the glamour girl decide to go on a hike. The first part of the trail is flat. The poet is used to easy hikes, but the trail gets rockier as she climbs up. She slips, slides. Behind the poet, the glamour girl snorts, Ha you can’t even handle such a short climb. The poet gets more out of breath as she climbs up higher. The breathing of the two is wildly out of sync. The poet nags for a rest. The glamour girl is getting hot, so she briskly takes off the navy blue sky. Then she asks, Are you cold? Are you cold? and bites the poet’s frozen ears. This mountain must have no compassion, compassion, says the poet wanting to put down her heart, which is about to burst, but the trail keeps getting steeper, and the glamour girl who is more experienced urges on the poet who is out of breath, Don’t put down your heart yet! If we go back down now it’s worse than not having come up at all. The two stop arguing and watch the wrinkled ridge run up gasping – it must have burst open a spring. The two make nice and drink the spring water. They drink some and spill some. The water spreads. It freezes under their feet till the ground becomes slippery. Now the poet is totally exhausted, Getting to the summit is too much, a mountain can’t be swallowed in a single gulp, and the rhythm of my breathing and walking is out of sync, so this can’t become a poem. But the glamour girl who has been memorizing all the shapes of the valleys says, Why give up now when the view is so fantastic? Then she unties the sun’s belt unrolling it. The sunset gets released at the corner of the sky and the three temples with ThreeThousandBuddhaEnshrinementCommemorationAllNightThreeThousandBowsDevotionalPrayer written on them suddenly float up inside the poet’s panting. Tinkle tinkle – the sound of the landscape, as the poet embraces the glamour girl and cries her eyes out. We have reached the lit temples, the poet is moved, moved. Regardless, the glamour girl closes her eyes and lets her hands relax and says, There’s still the ThreeThousandBows to do, and bites into the poet’s neck.