Blesok no. 57, November-December, 2007

The Plunge

Fiona Sampson

The Plunge

    Grace is the law of the descending movement.
          – Simone Weil

A cry bursts like a wing-beat:

among clicks and whirrs of language
your voice comes and goes.
Scraps from a hospital bed.

Is this our destination?
It’s called a journey,
but you’re not looking for something –
don’t want to arrive
    in the cubicle dark
    at the end
beyond the night-lit corridor.

At dusk, mist rises from the river.
The green ball
in the drip-feed
lets only a little  

We’re going to the very edge,
to the darkness
where windows float their little boats.

Your illness is a kind of pact;
to bear it
is to bear even death
in this name – love.

Past midnight, I lean against the wall
to let a trolley pass.
It’s always the same face on display,
twin cheekbones raising the skin
like tent poles,
your nostrils

with the promise of air.

This is the river we dream about and dread.

Once, we saw an eel
caught by a heron,
the bird drinking it down
as if it were a black river.


rippling polished lino, here it comes,
the wound
in the corridor’s throat –
your shout
bursting the darkness open.

The giant listening on my tongue
    with the sound,
I walk a corridor
as if there were something to count,
as if tiles spelt clues
            or numbers:
they slide away
behind me.

Even as I tighten my hold
you’re disappearing.
You telescope into your own black centre.

Is this it?
      All the love-feast
this salty

The loneliness of your naked body
before the doctors and their equipment
uncovers me;
I feel the river’s long
cold on my skin –

        As you become unknown
even to yourself,
going on ticking and beating into the unknown
where you fight or yield, obey –
as oxygen detonates your lungs,
              the catheter
milks your bladder –
or drown.

Is anything beautiful
left in the world?

You’ve placed fear on my finger,
ringed river-bird.

Draw the curtain.
Beds fill, empty and fill.
Is there any music to justify this?

Take me back to the midsummer river
hidden under brush –
that trickle of meaning.

Your fear
      and mine
make a verse with no answer.

Knee, hip, shoulder:
in the window’s mirror
at the body
floating up
to the surface of night.


for C.

    Room after room
    I hunt the house through
Robert Browning

Fogbound, the house

towards a bluish distance,
where copses
stain the fog and pearl it.

Even the foreground’s muted –
bramble, grass, willow-stem: flattened
as if colour
no longer carries a charge,
as if it were sound,

next door’s car starting
in two dimensions
         of tuh-tuh,
the lorry on the road suddenly too close;

distance can’t keep these things
in tension.

        Fog shields you –
it’s a kind of caretaking
that reduces big questions
            to presence,

making you want to open the glass door
and step out
into its tall
A wateriness
lifting your hair.


The unknown is always arriving,
a continual rescuing flow round you
and on:

    fog’s oozy bloom,
the pages of books –

their intimate, unconditional voices
all forgiveness when  
      below tall green walls
they fluttered off the shelves
into your hands.

Their leaves were soft, cool;
something opening
            as they flew open –

Already the dusty-boarded classroom
was being inked-out –
       blots on the sun –

Light slid across tables,
paint turned the water in the jam-jar milky,
when you blinked, you saw red and gold
enamel your lids.

You could almost touch
what was spacious and vivid
as the sky beyond the windows

where tiny birds
looped in an Atlantic wind.


You long for what’s spacious and vivid –
the unveiled mirror;

     leading down perspectives of longing
the way temple floors at Plaoshnik on Ohrid –
open into Byzantine colours
of pheasant and peacock

while below, on the afternoon shoreline,  
reeds meal themselves yellow,
water crusts with glitter
          thrown out ceaselessly –
knots and fissures –
to the centre of the lake.

The slit of your traveller’s eye opens
and shuts
at the shock of this.  


On hot afternoons
dust visits the foyer of the National Museum

where the foreigner – awkward,
mute – pays double.

Behind the cashier
display-cases are turning themselves into mirrors,

light sibilates along them;
here, here
it whispers,

smudgy with echo.

You press a finger on humming glass –

a deeper note rises through the hum
like its shadow,

as if your being here throws the switch
that lights-up the tableaux:

registering you they respond, dilate.
Alone in the gallery, you’re blushing

with a recognition which seems
            inauthentic –
too self-conscious;

but you want to slide out of yourself
into blacks, blues, reds,

the weight and swim of a geometry
familiar as your reflection.


Where to start from?

In the Winterreise bad weather makes a shroud,
fog binds the world
with cold-as-charity bandages.

Setting off
into the invisible, beyond music,
you strain at something  
glimpsed –

but the retina’s
all fog and shine,
light curtained by water.

How to catch what you’re looking for
in the mind’s
       tricky lens?

       in the exit’s street-glare,
you remember ash twigs
held up for a moment against fog;

the way winter light slips
            from room to room
of a house among water-meadows –

and how something was going ahead of you, always;
as if crowned with water droplets.

World Asleep

Darkness opens like a gate
again. My fingers on your latch
are tender when they lift the tongue,
slip a catch, then hesitate

across the entrance where you wait.
Your smile’s a darkness joined to dark:
it widens as I close this gap –  
almost noiseless. It’s getting late:

nocturnal landscape – a country
I didn’t choose – and I’m alone with you.
I kiss the soil. Its sweet reek
of straw’s like longing, a snare of honey

to bite and bring me home to you:
a costly heimat. A world, asleep.

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