States of Poetry 2016 - Victoria | 'Siren' by Kevin Brophy

For Marianne J Boruch and David Dunlap

 

We walk past the ruined past
pasted to the Academy’s cloister walls,
past broken Latin stones’ fractured inscriptions,
one fragment reading ‘OVE IS’,
and I know that though the sea is coming
and volcanoes are not finished with us,
crossing this garden in this courtyard in the evening
with a sentry in a box by the iron gate
watching black-masked fundamentalist
speeches on a laptop on his desk,
all seems to be falling into place
            temporarily and beautifully.

You say goodbye, we say goodbye,
and we drift away down a hillside
past a bar where young people under awnings
drink and talk into the evening, seeming
to know how to live deep into this night
how to make the harmless sounds of conversation.
We want to sit here too with them on the hillside,
a scooter waiting outside
and an unearthed monstrous stone foot or hand
propped artfully somewhere nearby.

The bluestone cobbles tire our feet as we go down
to a tram where more people out of the night
talk, drink, lean a cheek on the black window glass
of a swinging electric lozenge whose brakes hiss.

As a child I was impatient for night to come properly down,
as if doubt could infect the universe if dusk lingered.
Doubt was the rope that tied hands behind backs.
Doubt was the door left half open.
Doubt would keep you from the confessional.
I dragged blankets over my head,
wore soft napped cotton pyjamas
as the night at last came down over me neatly.
I wanted it there, then I wanted it gone
when I opened my eyes.

Night, larger than any cathedral, larger than our suburb,
was the thing squatting over us more ancient than childhood,
always interested only in itself.

Tomorrow the sky will reveal a smog-grey streak
swiped across those distant mountains.
We will walk to the top of a nearby hill,
I will remember your legs over me in the night,
your shoulder against mine,
we cannot untangle these bodies, their unreadable parts,
we are Gullivers to the ropes and threads of the night.

We will walk to the top of a nearby hill
and remember something
as the hill falls away below a low wall
all the way down to a river that rolls like a prisoner
in its narrow cell until its mouth spits the broken
vowels and letters of the past out in an unheard howl to the sea.

This night in the Academy’s cloister
we passed a beautiful stone coffin,
the sliced off tops of columns,
a cocktail party under arches,

and we feel right, we are right,
we step out into the night
and drift down the hillside past a bar
where people sit in semi-dark talking
of the life they have or would have,
glancing up at us as we walk among them,
the night perfect, us perfect too.

 The sea is moving strangely, insistent,
and volcanoes are considering
what sounds they might make.
The enormous ruins are held down
and scraped back by many bony hands.

The sirens we will hear tomorrow
from the park where we walk
will never cease, they will go round and round
sweeping up whatever they can in their path.

 

Kevin Brophy

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