In the Realm of the Senses

Michael Hofmann

One perfunctory fuck on our first night,
then nothing for ever ... only jokes and hard lines,
cold water, mushy soap and sleep that never comes.
We hurt with tiredness, and are abashed by our dirt.

We fall further behind the days, our overnighted systems
struggle with smoke and sights and consommations.
The yellow Citröen sits up and fills its lungs,
a black and white green-backed mongrel sees us off.

The road skirts the airport like a stray runway.
Incoming planes make as if to pick us off.
Sometimes it divides: one half runs along the ground,
the other makes a sudden hump – my fear of flyovers.

A little further, I read the simple-minded vertical lettering
on Ariane, the unmanned European rocket, the harmless beige
skin-tone of café au lait, falling back to earth
in eighty seconds, no use even to the weatherman ...

We return late at night, my eyes are on stalks,
the breeze whips them into stiff peaks of inflammation
as they stare and stare at the city lights, Gruppensex,
Massage Bar, the breasts a woman bared to cool ...

Our cat has sprayed the house to greet us.
Lust hurts him into eloquence, almost speech –
like the rabble-rousing live music on the record-player,
cynical, manipulative, knowing where it wants to go.

Too tense for sex, too slow to kill, nothing
is as loud as the throbbing duet of the pigeons
in their bay on the roof, as the hours he spent
trapped in a thorn-bush, inhaling a local beauty.