Monday, 11 June 2012

On the Corniche

The second hand has stopped

and there'll be a queue behind me

if I stand here much longer,

in English national dress on the ledge.

Speedometer max and the brights turned up.

The sea is throwing ornaments at the rocks

and shouting orders at me

to believe the spirit level and plumb drop,

the truth of the cliff face

all the way down to twelve waiters carrying

twelve suns shining from twelve silver trays.

And I've lost trust in my feet,

while I hang onto symmetry

and hang on to my handbag with both hands

my name and address inside

and a postcard home.

I heard a wave strike the hour

and a voice through the music say,

'stay by the wall the dance floor's iced over with spilt beer'.

Young tornadoes pulling my curls their way

lopsiding me to the edge,

though the queue can clearly see

I haven't moved an inch.

Snow never used to settle by the sea.

My identity in my handbag

the strap in both hands

and why at times like this

do I remember the escalator fire

18th November, Kings Cross, 1987, London?

Did the woman hear me remember

as she turned back?

'I'm getting too old for this,' she said,

'look at the time, I'll set a place for you,

meet me for afternoon tea.'

And she walked between me and the edge

a ten year second

her feet were precise,

her hand didn't catch me,

her heel stayed on her shoe,

I didn't go with her,

two women, connection unknown, unreported.

She'll be passing the sugar by now

and wondering if she should pour one for me,

while I look in a line

down only as far as the address in my handbag

who to inform.

High steppers on the corniche

their sea playing marbles

while mine is demanding to know

why I can't move on this path

as wide as the one I walk to work.

I think I'm sweating

so therefore I'm hot

therefore I'm thirsty

and being at a table with people I don't know

and over brewed tea

would be better than standing here.

I could tell them my name

and undo my fingers from my handbag,

I wouldn't fall off my chair.

I could turn,

face my back to the rock

thousand years behind me,

ninety degrees to the sea and the edge.

My necklace feels the weight of a cannon ball,

I can't take it off

both my hands are holding my handbag,

my eyes zoom and focus

breath taking views

take a breath and focus,

it's the fashion this year

to concrete the beach

and embalm the bathers.

I feel the colour of lard reheated,

the wind riling up the sea

I'm cold. Waxy cactus hot.

Wipe in the dirty white lard

the only way to shift it is to scrape it away,

not like faded black out on a good time.

Muscle over wound,

my blood flushing loud as doors banging

into my hands, my fingers wound round

my bag strap, must hold onto something

my name and address, who to inform

has to stay with me,

my eyes on the rocks

my arm, leg, head, arm, face

on the rocks

my blood in the sea.

Have I been here what remains of my life?

Would there only be a witness

if they looked up at a scream

before they saw someone fall?

I'd hate it to be the woman who invited me to have tea with her family, all of us English. Cut flowers in water. Would she want to take a photo of me with her daughter if I was the type to fall off a cliff? My family at home in England, their address on a postcard.

Or I could turn my back to the sea,

in a second,

my feet don't even have to lift or cross.

Silent rock only, a lizard; stone then clockwork and a flower growing out of the rock. Jaguar red, minaret petals, kaleidoscope circle, powder puff pink backcombed through a crown dripping dots. Cutlass leaves folded longways, grown a silver crop. Deep stitched to the cliff face. I almost cry when I see flowers growing between the pavement and a wall.

I've seen something like this one before. When we looked through the window of the film star hotel.