Friday, May 05, 2006

Three dreams with dead people in them

Prose poems, or proems.

1. Sherlock Holmes

'Of course I was real'. You remove your left eye and place it in my shaking outstretched palm, where it becomes a fobwatch. The time is a quarter to three, and the sitting room is expecting other guests - armchairs and stools have gathered in small groups, like actors uncertain about where to stand. The windows are sweating, and behind them, in the little garden you keep as a necessary hobby, the shrubbery shakes itself like a dog after a wash. Beyond the garden fence the moorland rises like a purple sea. 'What if I remember seeing you here, when I wake up? Is it alright if I write you down?' You smirk, and flick your fag-end - suddenly you are smoking Camels, not a long black pipe - into the fire. 'I could steal the eyes out of your head and you wouldn't see me'.

2. Le Corbusier

The ultimate bomb, you are saying, the weapon nobody dares talk about, must refuse to disperse objects in space. Today nobody is afraid of ruins - how could they be, when they live surrounded by the rubble of building sites, the burning wrecks of the morning motorway, hourly reports from the war? The ultimate weapon must not fragment the world any further, but instead collect and order its pieces. Exploding over the enemy's capital, it replaces that city's mad sprawl of suburbs with an orderly geometric pattern, ten thousand identical apartment blocks interspersed regularly with playing fields, gyms, and Starbucks cafes. The bomb claims many civilian victims - it moves children, for instance, out of their homes and into dormitories, long hygenic halls where they can be fed and taught by uniformed state employees, and thus relieved of class distinctions and Oedipal anxieties. A second bomb explodes over the plains outside the capital, turning that patchwork of ten thousand freeholder farms into a single banana plantation.

You stop to pour another drink, and I turn my head sideways, hoping it might stop aching. Looking from the balcony out over the gum trees, I realise that the cloud whose symmetry and speed we had earlier admired is a flock of thrashing doves.

3. Gu Cheng

Are you really dead? Tonight red moons hang from the fig trees in Albert Park; it's Chinese New Year, and the language that was so jealous of you blows about, harmless as the smoke from these barbeques. You know all this of course, don't you? Your body is still on display, still hanging from a thick branch near the rotunda, still swaying gently - in an act of will? The kids laughed, as your spine snapped like a wishbone. Was it the cheerful expression on your face, or the hat you'd made out of old jeans, the hat you used to catch bad dreams? They soon turned and hurried off to the nearest stall, to spend the Lucky Money their mothers had bought them. Now a dragon mooches through the parting crowd; arms and legs grow from the tears in its silk and paper sides. Can you hear those fireworks? Their smoke smells like curdled milk.


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