Smut shimmers at the close of day
in my crying brain, origin of the crying game
which I play relentlessly from wall to wall
at Horseguard’s Parade, where Martin Amis
hung around, in my dreams, some time ago.
The bitter slither of snakes on skin,
the quiet time between morning and morning.
The sunspots still glowing here, and there,
and everywhere. Men with guns who guard
the men with guns who guard the gentle men.
Tell me what a rhubarb is. Where it flowers,
where it grows; what kind of petals does it show?
Does it bloom among the horsemen – untrammelled
by the thump thump hooves which, though
never seen, come loud and fast at enemies; through wind?
What does it taste like? How prepared?
Triumphant for being picked, or scared?
I wish to know how rhubarb dreams;
whether it goes quietly or screams
on a wavelength far beyond our ears
for mercy, love, or just in hope of
being far away from here. Horseguard’s Parade,
so I hear, imports a lot of rhubarb in.
I’ve been told it looms in every dish –
from pies to stews to meat to fish.
‘Why do the horsemen eat so much?’ we ask
each other by the wall, as the gun men
come up to ask us whether we have mistaken
them for a hotel. We gain directions to The Marriott
and walk off obviously elsewhere. Maybe we look
old enough at night for this, or maybe they hated
every moment, tried to shoot us, and found
their bullets were soft rhubarb which would
not harm us, could not bear to. Maybe every
vegetable on earth is looking out for us, gasping
at the way we waste our limbs and voice, our suffering
and ability to prosper; the way we use up time
on tiny things no bigger than a tiny itch;
on a car we do not want to buy, or a streetlight with a
wan and failing light. Your blonde hair whips
around your neck and I can’t speak. You look better
than anything I have ever seen. Buckingham Palace,
which we are near, is right now, to my eye,
a piece of shit. If it exploded
I wouldn’t notice for a moment; maybe a minute.
Everything is a fog. I am very tired but pretending.
Maybe if I look at photographs of coffee on my
phone I will be ready for another blissful hour,
and won’t yawn. You are a dream – Solipsism is
real and finally proven. This is a trick – I am
being tricked into loving every second
of my life, and feeling moved, and feeling good,
and feeling better than I ever have, and more alive.
I know exactly what will happen next; some sad text
and then a vanishing. You will never read this poem.
Your reaching mouth which doesn’t quite reach mine
but grazes just the corner of it; the soft warm feeling
of another human face close to my human face, unblinking.
When I look at my features in the mirror I am blown away
that you were ever here, ever close, ever felt near enough
to kiss, ever anywhere but everywhere; but also that
you are not here; not presently floating outside my
window; that you will not be knocking now.
Solipsism is real (not fake), this is a trick, but also
a treat – a treat of the light, for me, just me. You emphasise
nothing is a guarantee. I never thought it was, thank god;
do you think I’d be able to walk around if I let myself
get so bogged down in certainties and definite things?
I yearn for possibility; and now, having it, holding it,
wish desperately to make it real. But calmly a steady calm
takes hold; holds, specifically, my hand. I think of rhubarb;
so purple and deranged; desperate for a chance to walk around
and feel something, to sip the street with lungs which can
feel the different qualities of different air. I think of
horsemen, eating rhubarb pie, the unthinking pleasure of
working joints. I think of the fields where rhubarb grows;
first wet, now dry, now fully grown. I know that every
moment which I spend feeling anything is not worth
regretting; that anything might happen, that I must find
a way to be happy without knowing. I know that Solipsism
is probably fake, when you get right down to it. But
that even tiny lives are better than the rhubarb lives
of rhubarb boiling in a pot; that even very small events,
to a rhubarb, would be worth dreaming of forever; that
dreams are just as real as people are, and often nicer.
When your blonde hair whips around your neck
you look better than anything I have ever seen. I thank
my eyes for letting me know, and turn gently, calmly,
from the scene. Everything is real and waiting;
even bread and butter should thrill. Just to be, digest,
feel, understand, think – all these things worth dying for.
Rhubarb from the greengrocer lays gently in my gentle
hands. I tell it things; I whisper dreams; then take it
from the outside land – into the soft warm flat
I live in; a vase looms from a corner of my vision.
I put my rhubarb into water – I hope he flowers, hope
he grows; reveals which petals he can show. But no
matter; the vase is his – a place to softly contemplate
the evening light, to think, to feel, to see; a place to
endure unfeeling night, to love, to wilt, to dream.