What is gone is not gone, we’re not simple as that.
Even leaves reconstitute minerals and light
even children are born programmed for change
with genetic calendars breathtaking in their range.
And that’s it: surprise is never some glimpse of the new.
It’s connection, reprise, that shock of the déjà vu.
I have been here before. You were filled with certainty
on that unexpected day in another country
but the surprise was not place, it wasn’t time
like a ratchet-wheel, it was the other home
never your own, claiming you. Such a way, a long way
to be caught in the net cast not the other day
but back in the genes of the old computer god
who sang the beginning, and liked all that he heard.
2. Tristan, 1990
It’s the night of the Gay Mardi Gras. Wagner
would have just possibly forgiven our indulgence
allowing a Shrove Tuesday festival on this sweltering
Further, I can say he would have given the go-ahead
to street-theatre on a massive scale and with
audience involvement. Involvement includes police
as well as the Penrith Invaders or the Campbelltown
Wagner, sweating in Bayreuth or Venice or being louche
at the expense
of ladies in safe Switzerland, should be dragged through
out here, into surface contact. Think of the new Bridal
He might even have camped it up a bit, people always say
had he been born half a century later he would have
trumped Walt Disney.
On the other hand, Isolde is not Judy Garland.
I always think of bottles, sodden streamers, the postlude
without orchestra of half-an-hour later.
They knew what they were doing, the givers of gifts.
Take this cassette — music is something that lifts
us from words, she knew that. Givers know debt,
they thrive on it and even in absence suck up the weight
of gold from this momentary encounter. Think of last
Think of her smile — her absolute delight
in partaking of the event, her laughter, her impulse.
No, do not take it for granted, it spills
outward already and what it tells you is: take,
but being taken the gift is prepared to strike
back in some afterlight when the fire is stilled
but the moment, gone, refuses to be killed.
Her smile? Yes it was more animated, more alive.
This music, then? She waits in the sacred grove
and the rhythm is complex but repeated. You did not
but already she has you here, next turn in the dark,
4. Visiting Stravinsky’s Grave, Venice
A once fashionable pastiche: walled island with cypresses
the white chapel at the Vaporetto, women chattering
as they arrange flowers. To reach Stravinsky’s grave
follow the signs to Greek Orthodox.
Pound, Diaghilev, “Asphasia widow of H.M. Alexander I,
King of the Hellenes”. Then two white slabs
IGOR STRAVINSKY VERA STRAVINSKY
the small bronze cross set into Vera’s stone
has not yet been prised off. The other grave suffers
Please, no music. That had been part of the human,
our particular artifice that can be plucked like a bone.
Above Ezra a laurel bush, ivy, late summer flowers.
Stravinsky in marble enters a form white as if sound
had been worked upon. In the brick wall
a ragged hole reveals weeds, reeds, the lagoon and bees
swarming. What Igor set down was only the map
for this journey. The instructions were clear
as marble. You are on your own.
This hand is indubitably mine, red foxy skin
puckering back at me with a loose grin
and nails like mirrors breathed on by some ancestor,
yet curiously pink and tender still. We are
constructs on some assembly line of genes —
do I curse or thank whoever filled his veins
with lust to pass forward the Celtic fairness,
its anger at sun, its fondness and its duress?
My twin received the luck of another combination,
olive skin and a practical determination.
Strange, though, in mid-age he turned to healing
through laying of hands and the spirit’s fine-tuning
while I became snared in the drive of ambition.
My skin and my muscle tore me apart in competition
while my second daughter stormed in her own way
with the vehemence and Irish frustration that had
intonation of my own grandmother. When I speak, or
which ancestor jerks from the distant mound and the