Sunday, November 8, 2015

What Does He See Where I See Only Stone?

What does he see where I see only stone?

The man is still, his gaze fixed on the ground

but that gaze compels you to look again;

in such  moments a mind might overreach the stars.


I see my reflection, he says;

I see my hair no longer covers my head,

its silver ring above my ears, he says,

is like gorse cleared from a hill-top.

And, he says, I see the child struggling

in the young branches of childhood,

the school doors fanning him on and on

through corridors of captivity, a whirligig

through years, disremembering his own footsteps.

I see the would-be lover, and he loved his hair;

he put a shine in his eye like I polish a shoe;

and his full bracelet of teeth; my God, he could smile.

I see how time subtracts: aging dreams

till they become hobbled old goats that have outstared you,

till they have become unbelievable.

My young loves reflected back have their young faces still

but I would be afraid to see them now.

My plans and projects are shunted, rusting old carriages;

I don't visit them anymore. 


The old man's arms are folded so fingers lie like stripes

on his right arm, forage in the dark woolen sleeve

of his left. His head is slightly forward,

his eyes unblinking as though entranced

by weeds growing on the floor of a pond.


I see too that I never held the reins of a life,

that indifference is a colander, indecision has the grasp

of a hand without fingers. Days are punched down

like receipts onto a nail; named, counted, collected,

they grow into months; life flitting across the pages 

of a calendar, falling  into the holes between Christmases.

And I remember those Christmases

long ago when I was young, the totting up  ̶

over a drink  ̶̶ of departed faces and the wishes,

the wish-bone skinny wishes for the coming year

that smouldered beside a glass of stout and then went out.


I see those faces whose roots entangled with my own,

how arrogance blinded me so I could not see

it was the carpet of their roots that buoyed me up

until recently, feeling them slip away,

feeling the cold gaps they’ve left around me, I discovered

it wasn’t I that put the colours in my head,

and with that discovery much has toppled

that hindered my view. I see, as though from a height,

my head is indistinguishable from all the others

rushing like froth from this life that we call



Now his face is raised, his eyes red-rimmed

with the racing bobbin that’s in his head:

I saw the ground and the scuffed toe to my shoe;

a lifetime might have no other measure than

its number of worn out shoes.

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