Saturday, 24 October 2015
'The Day' (2013) by Don Paterson
Life is no miracle. Its sparks flare up invisibly across the night. The heart
kicks off again where any rock can cup
some heat and wet and hold it to its star.
We are not chosen, just too far apart
to know ourselves the commonplace we are,
as precious only as the gold in the sea:
nowhere and everywhere. So be assured
that even in our own small galaxy
there is another town whose today-light
won’t reach a night of ours till Kirriemuir
is nothing but a vein of hematite
where right now, two — say hairless, tall and dark,
but still as like ourselves as makes no odds —
push their wheeled contraptions through the park
under the red-leafed trees and the white birds.
Last week, while sceptic of their laws and gods
they made them witness to their given word.
They talk, as we do now, of the Divide;
but figure that who else should think of this
might also find some warmth there, and decide
to set apart one minute of the day
to dream across the parsecs, the abyss,
a kind of cosmic solidarity.
'But it's still so sad,' he says. 'Think: all of us
as cut off as the living from the dead.
It’s the size that’s all wrong here. The emptiness.’
She says, ‘Well it’s a miracle I found you
in all this space and dust.’ He turns his head
and smiles the smile she recognized him through.
'I wasn't saying differently. It's just —
the biggest flashlight we could put together
is a match struck in the wind out here. We’re lost.’
'I only meant — there's no more we traverse
than the space between us. The sun up there’s no farther.
We’re each of us a separate universe.
We talk, make love, we sleep in the same bed —
but no matter what we do, you can’t be me.
We only dream this place up in one head.’
'Thanks for that… You're saying that because
the bed’s a light-year wide, or might as well be,
I’m even lonelier than I thought I was?’
'No… just that it's why we have this crap
of souls and gods and ghosts and afterlives.
Not to… bridge eternity. Just the gap’ —
she measures it — ‘from here to here.’ ‘Tough call.
Death or voodoo. Some alternatives.’
'There's one more. That you trust me with it all.’
The wind is rising slowly through the trees;
the dark comes, and the first moon shows; they turn
their lighter talk to what daft ceremonies
the people of that star — he points to ours —
might make, what songs and speeches they might learn,
how they might dress for it, their hats and flowers,
and what signs they exchange (as stars might do,
their signals meeting in the empty bands)
to say even in this nothingness I found you;
I was lucky in the timing of my birth.
They stare down at their own five-fingered hands
and the rings that look like nothing on that earth.