One bird close up by the house    crow
makes the wall’s temporariness
            suddenly exist
            one call into
the arrival of the storm the announcing
by flocks and swarms
            the flowerbeds turning in the solar system
            listen –
Schubert and the thrush at once and
            somewhere in space we
            hang are hanging
            also the red dress on the line I rush to get to
in time
also the slack in the line up-snapping then down
            what scale this pitch-
            changing slapping
of the cotton-poly blend listen and my approaching
arms rising to catch the
            ties my hair blowing over it onto it behind us
            from the open door the violin and beside us
at the edge of the woods the last of the thrush –
            can we hear them
            these flowerheads being carried in this solar system
            sepals receptacles – the vascular bundles
inside the stems –
            near the blown-open door the strings’ diminuendos –
            also these hatchlings in their nest in the eave in the storm born in it
wrapping round them thunder twigs bits of mylar dusk
            also accuracies of the
            built porch of day of
the negative forcing, the solar constant, the
            storm nonstop though modulating round these
            dime-sized heads – in each
the magnetic chip and round it the tiny shellfish-crushable skull –
Venus is almost big as earth was lush at origin had
            oceans imagine yet has no
            water anywhere
            today. Venus
            had runaway
            greenhouse. Could Earth. Of course we know it could he says
at the podium which fits in my head in the spot for under-
the question is rather how long
            before runaway
            one bird now
close up by the white house on the green hill (crow)
            like a lockpick
            one caw one
            into the wildly cursive announcing by flocks and swarms
as somewhere in space we turn are
            the final snowball Earth was followed promptly
            by the Cambrian explosion
            he explains
then eukaryoses cells with membrane-bound nuclei
            expanding rapidly into eleven different body plans
which eleven still encompass
            all creatures ever to inhabit Earth –
            at the edge of the woods now the thrush
            being sung out entirely by
            this thrush –
            the whole forest moving –
under the eave the just-hatching new ones in
            in their
            having been born
            in it –
            this is what is
what will the sunshine tomorrow feel like
            for the first time striking them
            skulls necks eyeslits
            tightening everything
            creaking, pushing open the immense door –
power down now but us in here scanning the screen
            for the emergency we are in to appear here it is
and the sound of the flapping of water
            in wind –
            and the sound of the nations gathering
for their final
            everyone trying to speak in
            whole sentences, listen,
they keep breaking, the suitcases fall open, the
            inky speeches
            wash away in the down-pour, what
            will the delegates say now, listen,
            it is 1965 in Selma, Alabama, the schoolboy is beginning again
his first-ever assignment in his one room school,
            he shall scratch a word
            onto the blackboard,
whose turn is it he thinks chalk in hand
and will there be someone on the other side of this to meet me
            on the other side of this word if I spell it out correctly
            it is simple and powdery and made of seven letters –
the force of the black is impossible to touch –
he stands there like a breeze still thinking he is dreaming
            the dream he is late again for school
            but he is not. He is on time. It is his turn. Who
is the teacher. What is that he feels
at his back in his shoulders. He looks at
            his hand. Its swirling small shadow
            round the stick of chalk.
            From where in the earth did it come
this piece of moonlight, piece of dead coral.
Oh good dark he whispers to the black behind the shadows,
            the hand-shadow being cast by his one self on the dark,
            by the single lightbulb behind him the hum,
his own knuckles here and the tightly clenched fingers
wrapped like a bird-beak around the chalk
            gripping something to bring home to the nest
            because it must be shoved down
into the newborn, this cursive –
            must be forced down in
            that they be made
            to inhabit
            another day –
            it is so simple –
and the next-on curl – and the billowing handshadow
            over each spot he need mark –
and how nothing can
            stop it
            this our mineral
            as here now
            on this page
this uniball pen
            shall write
            if I make it
            his word out completely
            over this

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences