The surveyor's complaint & Poste restante
[ poetry - september 04 ]
The surveyor's complaint
What is land but the wry code left to be broken
at the map's edge, a challenge deferred
to another day's work in mist and rain,
or left to bleach through a summer of trumpets,
a dream lost to measurement, found again
in heavy leaves, fallen like keys on the doorstep?
My fear of houses is about leaving:
the shutting of doors, the creaking of hinges,
the fastening of bolts, the snapping of latches,
pausing at the step before taking a train,
moving on. My fear of houses
is about folding places up, putting them away.
In a province not my own, my gifts begin to work:
tractor, cloud, bridge across the river
activated by degrees; slurry pouring into sinks
from which houses should grow; oranges
gathered and heaped up; the landscape itself,
like a stalled engine, growling to life.
Instead of addresses, the postman finds
a child pumping a thirsty hydrant,
and a barber's throne, twisted by fire,
marooned in a side-street;
to the north, a dented milk churn
sits across the road from an upset pannier,
buns scattered; past the traffic island,
a leather suitcase, handle wrenched off;
to the south, a public library,
stack on stack of carbon ghosts.
The letters fall from his hands
like homeless prayers.