I went to London recently and walked through the Barbican Centre on a balmy evening. All of a sudden, I remembered the first time I had come here, when I was still new to England and to Western ways of being.
Was it November or February?
We were down from Cambridge for the day.
Nights fell early, that I do know.
A few lost flakes of snow found us embracing on terraces
as we meandered through endless walkways.
Twenty years and we still haven’t found the play or entrance to the theatre.
How we giggled as yet another dead end loomed,
never thinking that soon
we would face our own
blocked corridors, no-exit wounds.
We practiced our dancing by the lakeside, exulting
in winter dearth of its fountains
no parallels no metaphors
to make our ballroom steps falter.
Twenty years and yet
your hand feels warm
wrapped around mine, safety illusory.
Today the fountains are trumpeting water and sound
to fill hearts with peace, minds with Zen chanting.
There are still summer cadences to this September lull.
My life? Oh, turned out fair to middling,
not as deeply blissful as I once glimpsed
through our entwined limbs on narrow college bed.
So why do I stop to ripple out, retreat,
why allow my heart to drum out aching beats?
You see, I was hoping
that you too might never have felt such joy since,
such lust-laden satiety.
But now I think it likely
you have, and more than once,
it’s just me
who lingers on borders of might have beens
slurping in nostalgia along with daily bread
destined to mourn not be mourned over
remember rather than be memorable.
When they open me after death
and find the wizened heart of walnut size,
they will see your name folded in tightly
source of all the dry rot
killing belief in mumbo-jumbo of twin souls.
Once, when I was twenty, I was not brave enough
to defy conventions
and go out to meet my turquoise-fired lover.
And I’ve been paying ever since.
[This is very much work in progress, only a rough initial draft of the poem. But the impression of the setting was so immediate, so vivid that it made me cry and I felt compelled to share, especially since we were asked to revisit something painful at dVerse Poets today. I’m off to read what others have written about, why don’t you join me?]
- The Hanging Gardens of Barbican: The Barbican Conservatory (theprodigallondoner.com)