Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Dislocated

I fell asleep in Cincinnati, and woke up 36,000 feet above England
A little lost but still fed by a happiness drawn from the roots of another place
Like a cutting suddenly removed from a garden to a botanist’s specimen box
Carried through customs to a train station and given a free map of London
A color-coded vascular knot of streets that gave me a destination 
The names on signs where I could roll my luggage around with purpose
Up and down the sidewalks where scattered groups of workers smoked
Chatting about their lives and the abundant lies of perception
How much has to be left out for any of it to be useful. 

The St. James on Buckingham Gate has Cuban cigars and Polish waiters
A place to adjust to another time and purchase some much-needed rest
Until the open window of my room in the cool afternoon 
Admits the voices of children playing on an asphalt school ground 
The shouts of familiar words in unfamiliar accents
Strange adverbs of time and place and manner of action
The playground is empty when I finally get out of bed and leave
Take their memory, a gift they never knew they gave, one that cost them nothing
But has it really changed anything?

From London, the road leads west, towards the edge of old Saxon Briton
Where moonrakers once stirred the ponds for cheese
Towards a hilltop with holy wells and steep sides facing south 
To a room in the Old Bell, near where the west wall used to stand 
War makes a village.
Malmesbury pulls me out of my room like water from a spring. 
The sounds of bells from the abbey and the church near the car park 
Small tires on wet pavement on the wrong side of the road
An Alfa Romeo or Audi with a small engine
It is impossible to drive fast on narrow roads with blind curves
So many pedestrians for such a small place
People walk, run towards the center of the old town 
Footsteps on stone sidewalks before stone houses of the same stone 
Is there a stone left in these fields after twenty-five centuries?

If not stones, then certainly children and the old people who follow them
Here bound together by the elastic space between generations
The young are eager to live, to be somewhere other than where they are
Would the silent old ones with canes run if they could
Has the acquisition of so many memories taught them 
Nothing worth keeping is made in just one lifetime?

Something is happening in Malmesbury tonight 
Up the hill from the Ingleburn and the Avon
There is a celebration near the grave of King Athelstan
It draws people up the sidewalks and past straight walls of broken stone
An old man going the opposite way, heading west out of town alone 
Perhaps he forgot something, perhaps he is weary from the hard work of history 
Perhaps he is thinking of the way he used to measure his life in good years 
Now he hopes for a good day or two
A boy runs, two children skip, excited as only the young are
Unconcerned about what they will do and how they will pay for it 
A woman carries a dish covered in aluminum foil, a gift or a product 
A celebration must have food, prepared fresh and enjoyed right away. 

Up Abbey Row, white lights illuminate the old ruins
Strands of bulbs across High Street glow alternating red, green and yellow
Lights above children excited by a taste of freedom, life out of the ordinary
The allure of familiar faces in unfamiliar shades and poses
A night when something, anything might happen, everything might change
Either under the lights or in the dark places of the town
There could be love, or pleasure, or danger, and everything might change again.

A four-piece band that has not missed a meal plays Christmas carols
Just steps away from the ancient dead, behind wet stone and iron
Inflatable playgrounds near Market Cross, the drone of compressors
The living move without fear past the dead in shadows
The living move past stones no more than ornaments
A kind of yard art in the perception of those who do not yet realize 
Everything important begins in a crowd of inconsequential events
Only the passage of time conceals what is lost, reveals what is worth possessing
What should be thrown away, forgotten, or buried in the ground.

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