That ol’ London thing, waiting at a crossing in rush hour between showers and a book falls out of the sky, lands at the side of the road, hardback, heavy, with a thud, the biography of a sports personality with late-career broadsides to discharge, and you look up, and there are only clouds. A day or two later and the same pavements are rammed with the supporters and opponents of President Kagame of Rwanda who is due to arrive at The Savoy. All morning the air vibrates to the sound of horns and singing. A limousine arrives, above it clouds.
That our lives are nothing less than fissile
is a blind spot on a blue retina.
We arc our actions, our thoughts, like missiles;
sing praise, hope the heavens make us better;
behold the sky and hold it high, careful
not to see the cracks that let the light in –
or the umbra, its foretelling, which, shared,
might point a compass towards compassion.
The shadows of celestial bodies
fall to earth with no poetry, reason
or goal. We are better than this, we say.
But when we play gods we soon discover
those graves we think beneath us are above.
She didn’t torch the place. Not yet. The others could have done it if they’d wanted. She fudged a tear. Anything more might have signalled guilt. Her predecessor, Gestas, would take the blame. They’d be happy to let him have it. They’d needed to crucify someone and Gestas, such an impenitent robber, the one she’d called friend, lover, rose highest. As she knew he would. Somehow she wandered away and washed her hands, thinking of how she might return. Someone would do well out of this. And she had the names and numbers, the secret places, the matchbox and fuel.
The man who did too little.
The man who did too much.
The woman left in the frame.
The woman who ducked the issue.
The man who spoke too late.
The man who spoke too soon.
The woman with the loudest voice.
The women you never heard.
The man who no one liked.
The man who was most popular.
The woman who called the shots.
The woman who only followed.
The man who knew everything.
The man who knew nothing.
The woman who told lies.
The woman who told the truth.
The man who ran away.
The man who remained.
There is something in human nature, I heard it said, that is disruptive. We favour the underdog, laugh too loud, stare too long, make stupid remarks. We are drawn to sarcasm, cynicism and hypocrisy. We tell little lies, become brave and boastful or lazy and stubborn. We accelerate too fast, brake too late, take the back roads, know better. We laugh at understanding, deride intellectualism, groan at athletes, hate art. We don’t trust anyone and mock experience. We spill pints, turn our backs, mutter spite. Me, I chase bicycles up mountains, screaming at the riders, dressed only in my pants.
The world is painted black and red. It runs down the walls and across the dusty floors. They came here. I tell the man. They came here, can you not see? Are you colour blind? Look at the walls. You can touch them now, go on, get it on your fingers. They have dried of course but they were hot and wet. This is my family. It was their home. Do you not see? Can you not see where it is heading? Follow the cloud of dust or this will happen again, it will, if you care, if you care…
At first it is just a haze on the horizon but then it grows: a cloud of dust, moving fast, skittering across the desert sands: and then the noise: at first a hiss, or a sucking sound, and then a clattering and a rat-a-tat-tat. Soon the noise degenerates into a succession of booms and crackles and finally, finally come the engine roars. The engine roars are worst. It means they are near. It is that minute of fear, where what was distant blasts into reality, shattering all hope and dismembering thought. I cannot think. I want to die. I might.