Poems
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Courtesy

1

I bring my basketful to serve
Our table. Everything mine is yours.
Everything. Without reserve.

Poems to which I still revert.
Gauguin. Matisse. Renoir’s pear-shaped women.
Music I’ve heard. Blessed Schubert.

Ecstasies I’ll never understand –
Mandelstam’s instants of splendour, the world
A plain apple in his hand.

Lost faces. Those whose heirs
I was. My print-out of their genes,
Seed and breed of forbears.

Whatever I’ve become – courtesy
Of lovers, friends or friends of friends.
All those traces in me.

The living and dead. My sum
Of being. A host open and woundable.
Here I am!

2

Tiny as a firefly under the night sky,
We try to imagine stars that travel
Two million light years to reach the eye.

Long ago on a stormy and starless night
Old people used keep a half-door opened,
Anyone passing could make for the light.

The Russian cosmonauts leaving after them
Bread and salt for the next to dock
At the station. Small symbols of welcome.
Who’s that outsider waiting for you?
We try to imagine how destinies unravel
Across the years towards their rendezvous.

A space for wanderers, lone or dispossessed.
At this table we’ve laid one empty place,
That old courtesy for the missing guest.

3

Never again just this.
Once-off. Ongoing wistfulness.
Wine loosening through my thighs.
Closeness. Our sudden huddle of intimacy.
These hours we’re citizens of paradise.

A nourishment of senses.
Such fierce delight tenses
Between affections and the moments
When, like a theatre after its applause,
This house will fall again to silence.

Let gaieties outweigh
Their own misgivings. Emigré
And native, my desire attends
The moment in and out of time
Which even when it ceases never ends.

I feed on such courtesy.
These guests keep countenancing me.
Mine always mine. This complicity
Of faces, companions, breadbreakers.
You and you and you. My fragile city.

(From A Fragile City)