Heads down and shoulders hunched, we set off, trampling
The footstep-gripping sands of Diamond Beach,
Into the flat refusal of the gale,
Squinting into a distance we would fail,
Surely, ever to reach,
However far we trudged, like Charlotte Rampling
In that French film – what was it? – Sous le sable,
Running, and yet not getting anywhere,
Towards the yearned-for phantom of her dead lover.
Massed clouds that seemed too ponderous to hover,
Depending on thin air,
Loomed over us, like sculptures made of marble.
The wind, as though inhabited, howled past,
Like history re-enacted in blown scraps
And moments, formless figures and events,
With the grand claims they make in the future tense
Even as they elapse.
And fictions too, with their invisible cast.
Francesca, clasping Paolo, came to mind,
Whom Dante looked with pity on, and wept,
In turmoil, whirlwind-driven round the second
Infernal circle. And she told when beckoned
The story that had swept
Their souls away. A tern zoomed from behind
And past our thwarted progress with a flair
And effortless finesse, as to rescind
Without a sideways glance all trace of those
Phantasmal settings and scenarios.
The wind was just the wind,
The air the wordless and inhuman air.