The River Seine
(after Paul Celan)
Tonight of no stars, only clouds —
a city wrapped in crumpled paperbag.
The cigarette, a cork in your mouth
like traffic in a bottle-neck
longing to get out.
You can see the horn-sounds
as colour above the river.
This dark-houred clock, your flawless water
will only embrace the open ones —
those who've thrown a stone in their eye
and felt a ripple from the pupil out.
In hesitant hope
your cigarette smokes a thought… ‘rebel’.
But to turn this world to verb —
to hurl yourself in the river
and feel the razor-tooth skeleton bite.
No, something invisible
has summoned the wind
to warp the word into ‘sober’.
O all this hoarded time
gluing elbows to our sides.
Only semi-submerged, barnacles
have formed on the bottom of our souls —
words not worth uttering anymore.
Our reckless abandon is derelict
with insouciant desires.
To turn this world to verb, get a life…
No, not to go out like a firework,
red flower in wilted sky —
to pitch yourself in the river like a stone,
disintegrate and drift,
wash your mouth out in the ocean
where sea-wave and sea-roar,
even in a whisper
will never cease trying to shut us up,
though we’re saying nothing really at all.
To stub out your cigarette on the vertical stone
and sink into the river unnoticed...
O in the deep upon deep
comes the caesura —
the break between worlds.
(previously published in Southerly, 2007)