Between the portals and the axials lay the central slab
with its flotsam of euro-cents and hair-bangs, wet-scarred words,
a Ryanair boarding pass kept from flight by a pebble.
Just when the grey rain cleared enough
to take a photograph and find the atmospherics
I’d so looked forward to, your mobile rang.
Our teenage son in Corsica, wild-camping with a hammock
in the heatwave. You stepped to the left and the signal died.
I asked you if you’d heard his voice. ‘No,’ you sighed,
wondering why he’d phoned – assuming it was not
his friends who’d tried, or someone official from a ward.
You’d been standing on the line between the axials
and the portals, where the sun still casts
its westerly rays on midwinter’s day above the mountain
by the sea, precise as a laser . . . so, shuttling in cross-stitch
and staring at the mobile, we searched like fallen adepts
for the place, that square foot of pulse
you’d stepped out of sync from, not quite
keeping sentinel enough. And wandering still further,
out of the stone circle and up into the heather
then worrying the track back to the gravel of car park,
it was as if we’d caught on the too-warm air
word of something dreadful that only the wise
might know how to neutralise: deciding what the offerings
should be; and who must be sacrificed, and where.
Tour Magne, Nîmes
A broken molar on the top of the hill
stooled by pigeons who make a dovecote of it,
dazzling in the sunlight swept by today’s
mistral, it flaunts its imperial decay
in green spots of pellitory-of-the-wall,
in broken arches and a ragged crown
giddying into clouds where the look-outs once
surveyed the world as known to Rome.
It reminds me of the Pentagon. And of my son’s
Czech schoolmate – a brilliant girl –
who threw herself over its rail last year,
leaving only a note in her bedroom:
You thought you knew me. I’m sorry.
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