I

A factory, the train line curving off

to cross the motorway—

between them this falling away of ground—

two or three acres where for years

the council trucks brought building rubble—

mounds of shattered concrete, brick shards,

bluestone and steel mesh overgrown with grass

and now I walk into the wreckage, its tricks of scale—

broken horizon stone, its outcrop weeds

and head-high grass, hulls frayed with light,

dry fennel stark from the mounds, dandelion,

sow-thistle the colour of barbed wire self-

seeded in wind-shale, in soft mortar at the level of my eye,

its closed array—and it is the first place, place itself

grown inward to my sight—

along the side of the house, in the playground

where dry ground slants to the fence,

out of the history of their names

where these same weeds thrive

which have made for me a heraldry

of my forgetting—Tussock rampant in field azure

and set me here in its abyss

as though there were some vanishing point

in what we have named landscape

giving the bright scenes place—­­

Which is to say I have not seen it yet—

this wilderness to me which is to itself single,

closed in its processes, happening over and over

though not to itself, being to itself a storm

perpetually in the front of light—

 

II

What is a place other than where things happen?

I met the photographer at the station and we walked out

into those scrappy grasslands

where between the train line and the gully

tyre tracks lead away into that wreckage

which was our starting place—

Who are you to me to say what I should dream?

A vault of light in which every thing appears

down to its last detail—the smell of fennel, even,

rising where we stepped over the railway line

and climbed the cutting’s side

when with single cries wrens

scattered up out of the grass—a movement

like the reverse of something breaking

or that idea of place which persists

behind its uses—self-effacing, capacious, forever

inventing a centre elsewhere—as if to say

What the future will keep of this place

will be its innocence, a hunger as undeliberate as rain—

Do you see them out there, figures among the stones

and their names for grasses?

Out in that unimaginable field

in which wrecked worlds heap their monuments—

an accumulation of fragments which only here

convert themselves into a scene—

The two of them stilled like figures on a vase—

painted Caesar smiling at the curve,

This victory I call peace and remember in stone

Only I have vanished into my life again

the way a photographer walks off into his photographs—

 

 

This poem was first published in Cordite 50.0 (May 2015) and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the Cordite editors.