La Cascade de La Vis
Suddenly, there was a smell of time travel.
Bruno was a restaurant cat.
The elaborate lobster and the simple worm,
the deposition of the chalk of the South East.
This Adonis of a man is spending a lot of time
in the shallows with a plastic yellow bowl.
Desperate, I shat in the river
and blinded the children playing in the waterfall.
A pregnant woman speaks to her partner
about the coldness of the water with her hands,
but by this point she had remembered the time
and we had to go on.
Although you didn’t know her very well,
she was your best friend. A ring of four or five
youths came round him. He lay dead for ages,
the Polish and the African communities exploding.
Joseph watched a child walk down the aisle,
place a paper insulator sleeve from a coffee cup
on the carriage table and squirt Lucozade
into the ring. You can tell he was a little shit.
What a little England of blue Lucozade forms
and collapses out of itself. With cars on the roads,
the agent of war was actually nobody.
Bluewater ripped the heart out of the Medway Towns.
The MP asked me if he would see me at the centre,
I did decline.
It is traditional to think that this is about consolation
but it is not about consolation. I am so relieved
by water, so relieved by how quickly it gets in,
how quickly it will begin to bring everything down,
the New York City Subway learning by one terminal
swallowing what it is to have been so interred.
Something on the floor is always surprising, if it is
water, Ophelia cannot believe it as she looks down
at the puddle in her room, there is no source of water
for this; if it is a broken face on steps with a flannel
over the crunch and the towel impression of a gape
and suspension; if it is a rug rolled on the pavement,
a cocoon for a child; if it is a tide rolled like a rug,
rug and uncurled. I have walked, big and friendly,
in the morning after a great separation, along the dyke
that solves the miniature delta of that place,
above the spoons of stranded tide and the addicted mud
hardly struggling against its sedation, walked
a mile above the fresh seafood, over the dune to the sea,
and only now rushes back the golden water,
the alwaysness and back fingers of the crumpling,
the electric and foil: can press it and dent it in, the erotic
way looking at it is different stuff to it is being.
The same thing is true of water beneath the dock,
across the waters from the centre and its stranded gate,
Southampton, I mean, the pink water that hovers
beneath the long thin flares of the refinery, the shadows
dashing from tree to tree in the ancient hunting ground,
the tick that moves in shade across the leaf of a fern,
the speedboat which produces the golden light becoming
peach on the soul, and the trees and flarestacks opposite
going mangrove in the hot black mist of darkness;
the sudden cooling, which touches the skin, of nightfall
provoking a nakedness. A face comes out of the water
in the harbour, a face drowned by its own tears,
original and personal sauce. I’m stuck, it says. I’m stuck it says.
There are the creek with the tide in,
the many places to eat food of many different types,
the heritage slipway and the old skill of shipbuilding,
the drowned face dialling hopefully at the bus stop,
someone else in particular crying desperately
on my personal phone, saturation and the effects
of saturation. For a while, tide, but then break down.
I forget the Surrey towns as quickly as they come,
the cluster of horses at the base of the bare tree
in the distance. An elderly couple lucky enough
to retire to a house between a road and the railway
tracks sit in their garden for breakfast.
Pestilence has gripped the edges of every leaf
in this part of the tree. I did not mean
pestilence; I was clutching at words and things
got out of hand. A warehouse full of powder.
A playground alone in a field. So sorry
I wasn’t able to get back to you this morning,
I was at our stables with the pet sheep and Rhonda’s pony,
dissolving like a supplement over the animals,
the finger of the power station chimney at Dartford
standing alone by the mustering Thames.
What a difference a day makes, walking
along Commercial Road in Portsmouth.
I look back across my life and it all makes sense.
Two schoolgirls approach to ask me a question.
Where have you come from today? The past, I reply,
unfairly. But her Glasgow accent had provoked the smell
of fish and chips on a ferry to the Western Isles,
the anxiety induced by stormclouds over the lochs
making the afternoon too much like evening
or giving it an unrecognisable time character altogether.
The shopfronts emptied themselves into my vision.
A man in rural Hampshire seen from the train,
standing before the storm in his bungalow’s doorway,
is never an agent, always an imperial figurine.
Not a craft; an experiment with memory. A Victorian
building, very unspoiled, right in the middle
of the countryside where the church fits into the village.
The children had, obviously, fathers and they worked
at the dockyard. The shopfronts reflect figures,
some of them in wheelchairs, some of them with pets.
Spirit is not a Husky but she is a North American
Timberwolf. There are ghosts, too, or reflections without
present origins, people getting ready to leave the train,
the shouts of children at the beneficent school,
the musicians at Haslar Immigration Removal Centre,
all of whom will come together, somehow, in the future.
[Joseph Minden’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Tears in the Fence, PN Review, The Literateur and elsewhere. He was part of the team behind The Polar Muse, a project commissioning poems for The Polar Museum in Cambridge. He regularly collaborates with composer Laurence Osborn and artist Kat Addis.]
Copyright © 2016 by Joseph Minden, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.