Lock the door. In the dark journey of our night
two childhoods stand in the corner of the bedroom
watching the way we take each other to bits
to stare at our heart. I hear a story
told in sleep in a lost accent. You know the truth.
Undress. A suitcase crammed with secrets
bursts in the wardrobe at the foot of the bed.
Dress again. Undress. You have me like a drawing,
erased, coloured in, untitled, signed by your tongue.
The name of a country written in red on my palm,
Unreadable. I tell myself where I live now,
but you move in close till I shake, homeless,
further than that. A coin falls from the bedside table,
spinning its heads and tails. How the hell
can I win. How can I lose. Tell me again.
Love won’t give in. It makes a hired room tremble
with the pity of bells, a cigarette smoke itself
next to a full glass of wine, time ache
into space, space, wants no more talk. Now
it has me where I want me, now you, you do.
Put out the light. Years stand outside on the street
looking up to an open window, black as our mouth
which utters its tuneless song. The ghosts of ourselves,
behind and before us, throng in a mirror, blind,
laughing and weeping. They know who we are.
Mean Time (1993) is a sombre collection, where memories return to linger over moments of transient happiness and connection: scavengers for happiness and love. As the title suggests, human experience is measured against the inevitability of mortality and time’s monumental capacity for indifference to human need.
This poem is a careful gift. It has a reflective, ruminative quality that suffuses the entire poem with sadness and significantly no erotic release.It reads as a very private meditation on the loss of love. This loss seems a culmination of of other losses, especially the loss of ‘home’. Disorientation and dislocation seem pivotal to the mood and message of the poem.
‘Lock the door’ the poem begins, cleverly reinforcing the name of the poem; both intimacy and ending together. Is this an imperative or even a suggestive imperative? What is being shut out? What remains within? Does ‘lpck the door’ convey a sad resignation to the solitary life, even when or especially when there may be another, somewhere involved? I am not sure. There is a vagueness that is sustained throughout the ‘mean time’ of the telling. This engenders a spectre like quality to both the voice of the speaker and the poetic content and we are not truly sure who is present or absent and who is really haunting whom. Grief blurs the boundaries between self and another. There is a companion on this ‘dark journey’ but whether this companion is of the mental or physical realm I remain uncertain. Night is the time for lonely reflection. Hauntings. The vulnerability of a relationship and the risks taken in sharing our histories , our ‘childhoods’ take on a quietly monumental aspect as the relationship falters and reduces the speaker and the other to observers on their lives’experience.
Interestingly there seems little hope of resurrection here- very different from some later poems. This poem reads like a very bleak elegy: Even a burial of the self.( More to come)
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