The wall of mountains.
Solid, stilled waves.
They stand out, crystal clear
in the early autumn sun,
you can think of a well-settled
widespread Buddha sitting,
the horizon corralled with his limbs and sinews.
A wall thick with the touches
of hanging oaks and copper beeches.
You feel what has always been in between
the blotches and shots of time,
the clamours, the hush, the forgetfulness.
But I’ve always crossed the road
with a smile from their eyes
that do not tower but descend
and bathe in the light.
The illusion of a streaming world,
in the lines of a streaming Buddha’s gaze,
to take solidity and weight
and get to a halt in quiet support.
I hang on then on the cliff’s teeth
in coppery brightness,
over the great illusion
of my sprawled plain.
This armchair is solid,
soft only on the surface,
it sustains you perfectly, you know,
thoughts trimmed into a steady sailing.
It’s hard to leave
after you have touched, just sitting,
such a certainty, your dog nesting
on your legs, her curved back adhering
to the crook of your arm, her breath
surfing on your skin, a gentle snoring
where skies and plains run,
the long ears sprawled
on your lap like a shawl.
Settled you are at last
to the eyes of your own roots.
Sheltered in between
gravity and the coming stars.
Dung, manure. It comes from the farmhouse
at the centre of the village –the only old building still standing,
besieged now by blocks of flats- it looks big
and quietly shabby, with often an aged woman in black
pacing up and down the muddy yard
and a background of a cowshed, tractor and haystack.
When we pass and gaze we sense the same blaze
of an antique sun cast on a texture of sepia light.
It’s when we get at the crossroads and I remember
how often you have said that, without reserve,
you love the smell of dung –well, I think about it
there, where the air dries it on the grass,
on the high plains, in the mountains,
dung that becomes food for the earth and sunlight
like us all, food for the wind with a glitter
that is maybe made of the desires we are going to leave…
And dung in a farmyard awakens the memory
of what was one of my first desires, stepping
into a yard and play, breathing
basic earth, that honesty underfoot
when still I didn’t know the word for it,
but what I breathed once is the same
I am breathing now, passing by this farmhouse
on this tarmac road without a pavement
where cars whoosh like the wind, disrespectfully,
with, from behind the stone wall, the smell that fills
even the noisy anonymity of these swarming engines
with the same steadiness of an earthy grip.
Tendons and hooves.
And the shiny circles of horse-shoes.
Their clanking four-steps of a rhythm
on the hard ground, the gravel’s stare.
—Much better walking now, and walking only—
our legs plastered to tensed ribs
while we whistled and breathed trying to emulate
the hills and sky’s aloofness.
Going downhill we even dismounted,
the road becoming a slippery glitter,
a blade brushed by early sunshine.
Then, the softer ground on the plain, by the river:
it almost sang
to the longed-for outburst of legs and lungs.
It’s not different now from the train window
this stretch of muddy, pasted white stubble,
a sparkling bareness, a tense, taut skin.
With air and heart in a clap, undistinguished.
The enduring mantle of memory.