It wasn’t the stars that frightened them.
It was the stairs.
You could climb to the height of the sky
but there were more than a thousand steps
and each one took a year off your life –
you would soon be lost in the time
of your great-great-grandparents
and before you knew it
no one would speak your language.
You would be shovelling snow off a hillside
and hunting for turnips,
the unborn image of yourself
spitting curses and alone
in the fiery darkness.
Beneath the coal, light.
Beneath the mud of the road
a child’s notebook filled with the letter A
and a ballerina’s slipper.
The road went further down under the trees, under fences and slowly decaying houses, below high-voltage barriers and under purple fields of bracken and thistles. Entering the ocean, it continued unperturbed across sunken valleys where cattle once grazed, over the skeletons of abandoned shepherds’ huts, below the stone slabs of the drowned city.
And beneath the road of your waking breaths the road of not-seeing, not-moving, the well-paved royal road of sleep, and under sleep the road of spiralling dreams – and under that, the lone solitary road, a road with no one on it, the road where all the dreams of a lifetime, remembered, not remembered, fuse together, stretched out under the world’s inner sky. The long quiet space of the one flash of light that held you.
I place a wall.
Inside the wall
explosions, puffs of smoke,
an island erupts
between sea and sea,
on one side the moon,
on the other the sun,
and in between
a jagged row of mountains
reveals an infinite anfractuosity
of tiny loopings:
a temple summons me
to hold it in my hands
Inside the wall
infinity the size
of an eggshell.
Outside the wall
The planet moves
in its slowly circling
Lightning tears a hole
in the dense summer air.
Across a tilting twilight floor
I carry a bowl
that is empty.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on December 19, 2020 as "Ideas of travel".
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