At La Roque the swallows called, whirling round
the house, their tight marine cries piercing air
like words cut into black marble. I remember
their broods on a fine day, the fluffy sonar sound;
and Marie standing still in a blaze of sunlight,
daisies in her hand; and her loud purr at night,
the creak of her sex-life that pushed me from sleep
into the nocturnal business of the adult world.
Our Anna Shackleton was never disturbed at night
except to find the holiest way to die. Kindness
and beauty and upright posture couldn’t compensate
for her poverty. I was the only male to undress
her days with care. Wanting nothing but her time,
I consumed her love like a liquorice; the two of us
lived at my herbarium, urging things to their prime.
Once, charged with Anna’s love of growth, I took
a wounded starling from the grass, before the cats
shared its death. I felt that it had fallen from its
nest like an idea escaped from sentences. It shook
its mild beak and nested in my hands to pour scorn
on the idle cats. But when burdened with the earthworm
of my thought it flew back to its fields of corn.
Other starlings gathered in a warmer place. Athman
and Meriem, with their rich Mediterranean walk,
shoved spices in my face. Meriem dropped her haik
at the door one night to cure my tubercular limbs
with a firm and amber skin. But Athman I remember
best, weeping as my train left the oasis. Through him
the desert wept to see me going North to thought.