When I wake a parliament of birds. The lumbering
trawl of street machines. And you – only a visitor, out
of the box, friend. Your devotion to the long fall of the
backward glance; such a bawd for memory. And so
loud. You and the politics of nostalgia.
A window-washer once, you shined and shined.
How does it feel now to retire from such a dazzling
affair with all that light?
The mornings we meet you’re out walking the dog,
shaking down a night’s work of being dreamed. You
confide that you’re composing your memoirs; and a
feat task, too. After all, forgetting is always about
remembering, you say. And if half the lies are true the
other half must be, too.
When we arrive outside your brick, block house the
sign reads: visitors enter please by the back door. And
we do. Say, who’s that weedy kid in a paper had hiding
behind the six bright candles, with not quite enough
puff to take the prize? And his look-alike who knows
that dancing on one foot the other is not forgotten, but
who never seems to make it before the door slams shut.
So you confess to sometimes losing your middle
name. Can you imagine a week in which Sunday goes
missing, and the Sabbath occasionally fails to appear.
And tonight when you tell me on leaving, hello:
here’s one foot forward but the other always backing
down. I see that getting anywhere is a tricky
proposition. Sometimes even it may fall out, fenestral
exits are in order. Be safe.
Still, we’ve got an appointment to keep. Our lady
friend insists. Who has just arrived from the opening
pages of a story we’ve been writing for longer than
forgetting is about.
A story in which, even if love is an afterthought, I
see myself leaning into the mirror for a quick kiss. In
which we are following a hero following a hero we
have never seen.
From Cassandra’s Daughter (Auckland UP, 2005)
© Michael Harlow