When it’s summertime at night in Hyde Park one walks alone.
So I, alone, walk under wind and dark and all things free
breathing warm air. There’s a smog around London now
Keeps it dusk. Makes day dirty, makes morning dusty
makes it all glow in Hyde Park like a swan apart from swans
on a lake not shining. A swan sharp like blue thrown white
out of grayscale lost in exposed dusky night. Like a swan
that moves through clouds that should hover
to look clean into your face. Not to wonder but to
demand explanation, gentle commander. In careful
appraisal, a swan that slides right into your quiet night
like a held hand that cannot hold you but holds you.
This is Not London, made beautiful by London, making
London beautiful. This looks right into grayed eyes
And speckles unexpected phosphorescence into haze.
I want to stay. I like your quiet questions.
I like your laughing eyes, still and drifting.
I like Hyde Park when I’m alone in the glow.
You say you don’t know why I am here. I agree. There are steps here I
wouldn’t try to convince you I stumbled on. Maybe I chose to mount this house.
But you won’t close that door behind this screen– here– my face is shrunken pretty and
you have eyelashes. Eyes like what rivers are when they leave beaches
to find the forests so shining even more blue when there are greeny evening shadows. So
many eyelashes. You talk funny. You sound like I’ll hate you when we’re old
taking black coffee. You’ll finish the oatmeal and read me things loudly and I’ll tell you
how much I hate your damn old voice. My voice and your voice will roll with the ocean
and the gulls and the heat and we’ll hate the whole thing over coffee.
That’s what you sound like. You with your body like a lighthouse. So corporeal I can just
feel waves tumbling up and over and all around you and never moving you. Good
lighthouses move when the ocean rises. Your hands are ugly, fat, uneven,
calloused like you’ve worked hard at something before. Like you’ve tried
to lift something heavy gently. I don’t know why I look through this screen,
this door, at the ocean in your face. You have shown me
nothing of interest but
won’t you leave me there on the bottom step to bring when you go up?
It’s true that the only real difference between living in the city and living in the country is whom one shares air with. Morning coffee is the same—albeit varying in its bitter—but the change is what clattering, tinkering, tittering, or mumbling the summer air pushes through the window. Air in the city has been breathed, or perhaps, sucked through cigarettes and emitted through exhaust pipes, pregnant with every decibel of hum and call. Country air has been breathed too, I supposed, but in that playful way that leaves and streams infuse, filter, fill, empty, and spin it. Even with skies and fields of lazy activity, country air sounds like one’s best conception of silence. This is why one is so surprised when one identifies (as everyone can) a taste of country air floating up from Brompton Street. It is that shocking coincidence of sweet air and birdsong that reminds busy people that summer can, too, land on London.
How long have you been this way?
White-flaked vines spill out your windows like you’re a summer city
You haven’t fooled me but I’m smiling
It’s like your brick was made for these sunsets
Orange on brick on windows shining in the eye of your
Old friends across the way. Won’t you show me home?
You’re a city that holds on hard. Your white front doors
Your black door numbers beat like a tap like all the ladies
In their newness and their tapping and their beauty
You’re a city with rats and top hats. You’re a city
That people want to know. That people do know as
You breathe new faces into your ribs and breathe out,
Gently unchanged washed clean. You’re a city I cannot know.
Funny city. You make me think that this is your belly
This may be the nature of the beast but it is a beast
White and clean and claiming that you are only like this
Such a pretty city has firecrackers has daddy issues
Has rigid rules has soft music has held breath and breath
Gentle city. I am lost in you. And unconcerned perhaps
I stumble over your groundswells that you’ve
Stopped noticing. Though isn’t it my way to find me
Always in swollen cities? Hello city.
Let me breathe with you in this light.
If you took hold of my nape and lifted me weightless
back, into the dark. If I saw the world pulled
wordlessly into a pin. If shadows shrunk and
that last light shone shots along wet narrow walls
until that last light shone nothing and if you kept going
and I’d only know the going because of not stopping and
there wasn’t wind anymore and I couldn’t hear my
breath but when it hissed through my teeth what if you
kept going and all I could feel was your hand on my nape
still pulling and my belly rising and hands out
like that was all there was. If you took me back into
the dark I would see echoes of the path, snapshot of
that framed shadow at a dinner table, leaning I would
see bright, burning light I wouldn’t let go of that creamy
oozy light like butter on bread the bread on the table
and I’d cut it clean through and white light would bounce
off silver knife and WHAM there’s a butter knife in my wooden table
wooden table old in runs of browns, yes waves of browns like
oceans so grooved that a wooden ship might coast over that one there,
and spotting a bay, shoot to land for creamy yellow lightning hits
SILVER on the water and you’re swimming and swimming
and your voice will go up into nothing and shadows dark
shadows of birds swoop like a fan in correlated wrecklessness
and swoop down and swoop over and around like one black
fan like holding your hand out the window in the wind like that
feeling cutting through heavy air until it catches, slicing down
down down and an oar catches water, sharp pressure caught
and with current like this you can’t pull it up hands on wood blisters on palms
you twist the oar, find the angle, slice it back, spraying, dear God
cold water ship in the oars, put your bare breast on the seat
and itch with salt and grip the bow with your hands and
GOD don’t close your eyes you know you’ll be seasick but there
there it is you are seasick now and when you do close your eyes
you are still there swooping in your head like a brain on strings
like a whale in a net suspended on a dock as it swells with the
boat but it does not swing with the boat it does not it does not
it might tear the boat in half because THERE the great boat leans left
and THERE the whale follows just not in time and a great mast
leans right as the whale pummels to the left and over the left
side of the ship breaking through rails, FLAT dead into water big
waste when the ship rights and you roll on your back and your brain
is still there thank goodness and suddenly sun warms then burns
a freckled shoulder, your mother’s shoulder, your mother’s freckled
shoulder with an ugly mole but mostly nice freckles if you if you pulled
me I’d see my mother’s mole in the freckles and I’d be dizzy and careening
into darkness by the nape of my neck coasting back aching
sick to my stomach and breath in my teeth and along
the tip of my nose until you let go of me flying along water along
wooden table stages so flat so shining until you
let go of my nape and let my brain slingshot back up my throat
and into my eyes let me leave you now let me be free of this
dark dark dark dark dark dark dark fast of this ship that this
SILVER is shining until I let my arm fall and I cut into hard
water splintering spray hits hard cuts down hand temple
back shin stomach hit and it’s painful here on the surface
let me cut in and down slice my raw body in your COLD
I’m spending my summer in London. This weekend, I stayed at a beautiful estate in Henley, hosted by a very kind member of British nobility. On Sunday morning, he urged my friends and me to go for a wander.
A big house sits on long little driveway, tucked into and under the trees and the bushes of a green gray morning. It is a great family estate in Henley. It is all hidden, specialized. To be explored. To be discovered. To never be shown, but to be stumbled upon. Each corner, each bridge, each carefully-cared-for shrub, was hand-placed, thoughtfully chosen. Was known by the Honourable as a child, playing, rushing through mazes. These immaculate gardens somehow seem skipped through. The geese, so perturbed by my wandering, flap at mossy water, tell me that these grounds are not unused; they are undisturbed. That world, these gardens made to be the color on grayest days for a timeless family. These purples, these least assuming of flowers and leaves— lavender, rhododendron, crawlers— these are meant to be trampled and climbed. It is a child’s estate maintained by old, tired, happy men. It is the estate of Lizzie, wandering, reading. It is the estate to make you fall in love. It is an estate that hides shyly behind its cap yet holds arms warm and wide at the welcome. It opens its gates and spins you around and lifts you up and pulls you into its aged mystery. It sits you at some perfect bench and some conversation. It offers you quiet and kindness. Ladies will scuff their shoes on the way to the stable. Horses will stamp at flies but nose at your fingers, demanding nothing. Chickens in the distance will tell you, young buck, that there is more to be discovered when you have another summer-cold morning of exploring. It is an estate that knows much much more than you do. It is the gut, the heart, the gentlest nobility. It is the treehouse, held up by and holding a grand, healthy, broad tree. Sturdy, unremarkable, grounded, looming. You see, a gentleman doesn’t mind a bit of branch in his study. A gentleman clears his own porch of bramble.
It is shrieking. It is frothing. Its spine is twisting is knotting around limbs and fingers
White shattering mouths gasp for breath at the surface and heads crash dead on rocks
on soft beach spinning murders splitting and sliding back down. Those aren’t
just fingers. Those are backs that is rippling blue flesh so raw it shines. It is
writhing. It is choking on pieces in its gut it is not okay.
He says he will be buried here on this bluff. I say I’ll be married. Hazy
soft blue ocean fuzz blurs beneath and we watch bleached sailboats sliding watch
the pink with toes on matted grass and red wine in our teeth. We watch the
night dance over and into its blue until it goes dark. And it will be all gentle.
And it will be all good.