from Dry Stone Work (2014)

 

CONCRETE POEM

The ghosts of men who haunt this track
won’t fade the way their footprints in the dust
are driven off by wind or rain. For men

it surely was, whose urgent need
to get to fields and flocks, trumped every sign
for drying concrete, drove their boots and trucks

across the still-to-set but hardening surface
of the past. A past where traces
of a shovel or a rake are secrets held in stasis

a roadman might detect, while others
see just shadows, creases in the finish of the road;
unlike those flagrant tyre tracks scrawled

from gate to gate. Or these deep scores that tell
of grasping far too late that one man’s truck
had sunk up to its axle in the stuff,

sloughed in the footprints of his rescuers;
and this past, this one deed imprinted in the place
as clear as time will print its passing in a face.

 

BLANKET

It flops down from the cupboard shelf by chance,
the grey of something needing to be spread
again on earth, below taut canvas, half
remembered sky. Still hinting at the smoke
of memories, it slumps like wood ash now
beneath my feet, green blanket-stitch the moss
on stones placed round a fire.
                                           And glowing red?
A name tag tacking this to me, to years
in single figures, summer camps in fields
ploughed over when the tents were razed and gone;
the imprint of the past like patterns left
by grass stems in the flesh of knees,
                                                     that fade
as skin is stretched in standing, walking tall.

 

ZAKROS

Tales say the first to dig here found
not masonry, remains, but little more than rocks,
a random stash of what the earth had left there,

men had skirted, struck, ploughed over
in the course of daily toil. Tales that foreign schools
were close, were closer than they knew

to what persistence would have brought them to
with time.  That time they did not have
but others, coming later in the day, native speakers

talking to the men who farmed the soil, found
just the faintest blush of memory
for potsherds, broken tile, hints at hand-cut blocks

a spade had grazed some early morning
when the air was cool, defining this,
their spot: the palace every clue had brought them to,

each inscription had predicted, long before
its ritual spaces, lobbies, stairs were opened up
to air, to commerce of a different shade, its footfall

treading floors earth loosened from itself
where cisterns, full again with water, harbour reeds
the wind blows time through, sighing as it goes.

                                      Kato Zakros, Crete

 

TOKENS OF ADMISSION

Bound in, the way the foundlings were for permanence,
each strip of cloth is both their future and their past
cut so with blades that one will match the other

should the latter change, the mother find the wherewithal
to make the journey back.  Few did, so few that even
one page in a score of scores matched up is rare;

while pattern after pattern, warp and weft, pins
every child nameless to its place, to noted features,
measurements and dates, each mother more than absence:

twill or damask, linen, silk or lace, a sliver of the clothes
the infant wore when circumstance reduced them
to a bundle, a parcel passed on unaddressed.

 

HISTORY

It’s paper still. Look, it holds its shape
lying on the coals, holds the print

read not a moment back on white,
now black on grey, curling in the hearth.

It’s lighter now. The updraft picks at edges
slowly crumbling into ash, picks at all

the history we toss as trivial to fires.
Look, we’re courting dust. Our hands

will cast away perhaps a thousand words,
drop them all as easily as shedding skin.