By Matt Kirkham
You call me outside to hear the bats
and I find I can no longer hear the bats.
They flicker from the outstretched sycamores
through a world of rarefied speech normalised,
their accents no longer open to me.
The clouds above the light-spilling city,
above its flat streets, above the mountains beyond
who again turn their backs on their shadows
that fall eastwards like the shadow of a ship,
and the sky, in the way its colour is here declining
and here darkening behind and above,
are taken from what experience? From where?
You hear what you say you can hear.
I gawp upwards at the sky, those colours.
What is the fading over the centuries,
and what deepening as we stare back
over a dockland bridge to another city?
The painter looks out across the canals.
In the candlelit room below his apprentice
crushes stone from Kandahar, mixing it with wax,
with linseed oil, drop by drop, almost speck by speck.
Their city will see reflected in the depths
of these blues the painter’s patron’s trade
with the Indies, his slaves, his spices,
the sky above his redbrick warehouses,
the navigator’s sails as they fill and swell.
How the patron fumbles for his wife at night,
following her whispers: Councillor. Burgomaster.
Like me, he is old enough for friends to fall
into fear of forgetting, and lose themselves.
Grain by grain, ground down to fine powder,
this weighing the spectrum. This form of abstraction.