Love is a place


Closer through that which no one will ever know,
we raise our two glasses.
We see our light, each in the eyes of the other.
A man and a woman, in an instant,
can be wrong.
But the instant will never come back


Evening falls and, from the terrace,
listening to the leisurely waves,
I stare at the beach, with a lukewarm sun
and calm, green and orange sea before me.
I see a tall woman arrive,
almost naked, with a silent child,
and he is stark naked. They are the only ones on the beach.
The child sits down, and doesn’t move.
The woman drops her gear and the clothes
and moves around him, picking things up
and dropping them again. She does not speak to the child.
All at once she leaves.
The child gets up and dips his feet in the sea.
He stands still looking at the horizon.
The woman comes back: she is carrying a drink.
I feel the chill of the setting sun on the nape of her neck.
She hasn’t said a word to the child and they both stand
with their feet in the water.
The woman goes back and continues
her dance around her disorder.
Even distance cannot conceal the desolation.


It was a wooden piece of furniture, huge and dark,
polished like a mirror:
my father would never allow
anyone other than himself to work it.
He would always play the same record,
as though trying desperately
to find out why, when he listened to it,
it arrived somewhere.


Robert Schumann, Concerto for piano
played by Friedrich Gulda.
I go on listening to it and remember
a street of small houses in Las Palmas,
each with a goat on the flat roof.
In the background, the sea.


When I was a young man
I built a dome made of iron.
A few months ago they demolished it.
Looked-at from the place where it’s ending,
life appears absurd.
But its meaning comes from forgiveness.
Each time I think more and more
about forgiveness. Already I live in its shadow.
Forgiveness for a dome made of iron.
Forgiveness for those who pulled it down.


He underlined as he read: he did it as though the book
were a house on fire.
His mind was searching for something
implacable and abstract that they had hidden from him.
Lots of pages ended up covered
by underlinings in pencil and ink,
black and coloured, one on top of another.
His meticulous, confused self-portrait.


His face gradually set
in the fixed expression of an anger
that came from having lost his way
in some profound incompetence.


And later there arose
the innocent smile of his silence.
He didn’t know me:
I was part of the lands
he had with such effort won back from the sea
and which the sea was flooding again.


You hear this calm evening sea,
half organ, half cello.
It grows dark. Like all the old, you keep watch
over your approaching end, while all along the beach
the sea is a piece of silk unfolding.
You listen to what the breaking waves tell you:
that those who will love you, will want you to die.
Because you will love them, you will want to die.
The implacable logic of love.
The implacable logic of death.
The relief that comes from knowing they are so close together.


One night we took him with us
to his first concert.
He sat so quietly between you and me.
The light from the spots made an island of
piano and sax. In the dark, in his shy eyes,
there was the gleam of the instruments.
The most profound rightness of music
will be his shelter in the face of loneliness.
He will still have the warmth of his dead sister.
Our companionship. At any concert whatsoever.


When I turned fifty I bought myself
all eight volumes of Gibbon because I thought
that at the end of my life I would read them.
Sometimes I go over to where they stand,
and simply touching them with my hand calms me.
I haven’t read them, but they keep me company.
Now, an imperceptible voice tells me
it’s high time I started reading Gibbon:
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
is this History known as Universal,
the only kind that consoles.
As useless and magnificant as an aerial view.


From what dark place inside me
do two magpies silently fly away?
We were young, travelling by car
and, as we came round a bend
we saw them there on the tarmac,
pecking furiously at a dead dog.
Just at the last moment and without haste
they flew up unfolding the elegant
black and white of their plumage.
We said nothing – you were driving
and made a gesture of disgust.


I have never forgotten it. If I look at you,
still in the depths of your eyes, slowly,
two magpies silently fly away.
I love what is left to us:
this nuptial flight and the carrion.


Nobody comes along it any more, the path
we see from the house. Grass grows over it:
now there are only nervous blackbirds
pecking at quiet absence.
It’s a path of no return. The house
endures slowly and, very often,
muffled in mist.
Here inside, memory turns welcoming.
Welcoming and sad, for nothing
protects as sadness can.


Love now means gazing out of the windows,
for the past is a holiday
for us alone.