Friday, 3 May 2013

Through the sky


We emerged on to the tower roof:
sky luminous, pale blue, spring afternoon.
Ely Cathedral faint and far away,
a band of drummers, taut, filling the square,
Cambridge around us, with its grit of churches.
And climbing down the spiral steps we passed
woodwork and ropes hung silent, vertical.

Although it was not in my gift
to clear the Earthward trip from Pluto,
I gave the signal to the lift
at the wrong time for me to do so.
The lift once set in that career
would burn its passengers to ash
from friction with Earth’s atmosphere,
or hit the ground a deadly smash.
I called the passengers.  They gripped
survivor hope against all hopes
with hands that bled and chafed and ripped
stopless on solar system ropes.
Was there still time to show a care
by telephoning and confessing
my guilt before it hit the Chair
at second hand from others’ guessing?
O no, the Chair was off that day
in Mozambique, somebody said,
out of all reach that I might say
on this.  Besides, the line was dead.

Waking from that: new file over the botch
(still live, unclosable); the wake of guilt
receding with the tide; less shed than fade;
I lay not lied; Earth was under a cloud:
a weight, a poor fit, something disallowed.

This was my entry in the Lymm Lines competition in 2006.  I am afraid I cannot now remember the theme of that year's competition.  The poem's most recent outing was to the Fosseway competition, judged by Liz Cashdan -- and she was kind enough to give it a commendation.

The poem reports. with a minimum of poetic licence, on a weekend in March 2006: a climb in the tower of Great St Mary's, Cambridge, followed by the dream about Pluto.  I cannot say what lay behind the dream, beyond the guess that it's likely to have involved anxiety over something.

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