A Dreaming Week
–Carol Ann Duffy
Not tonight, I’m dreaming
in the heart of the honeyed dark
in a boat of a bed in the attic room
in a house on the edge of the park
where the wind in the big old trees
creaks like an ark.
Not tomorrow, I’m dreaming
till dusk turns to dawn – dust, must,
most, moot, moon, mown, down –
with my hand over an open unread book,
a bird that’s never flown . . . distantly
the birdsong of a telephone.
Not the following evening, I’m dreaming
in the monocle of the moon,
a sleeping S on the page of a bed
in the tome of a dim room, the rain
on the roof, rhyming there,
like the typed words of a poem.
Not the night after that, I’m dreaming
till the stars are blue in the face
printing the news of their old light
with the ink of space,
yards and yards of black silk night
to cover my sleeping face.
Not the next evening, I’m dreaming
in the crook of midnight’s arm
like a lover held by another
safe from harm, like a child
stilled by a mother, soft and warm,
twelve golden faraway bells for a charm.
Not that night either, I’m dreaming
till the tides have come and gone
sighing over the frowning sand,
the whale’s lonely song
scored on wave after wave of water
all the wet night long.
Not the last evening, I’m dreaming
under the stuttering clock,
under the covers, under closed eyes,
all colours fading to black,
the last of daylight hurrying
for a date with the glamorous dark.
What starts things
are the accidents behind the eyes
touched off by, say, the missing cheekbone
of a woman who might have been beautiful
it is thinking about
your transplanted life-line going places
in someone else’s palm, or the suicidal games
your mind plays with the edge
of old wounds, or something
you couldn’t share with your lover
there are no endings
people die between birthdays and go on for years;
what stops things for a moment
are the words you’ve found for the last bit of light
you think there is
They explained to me the bloody bandages
On the floor in the maternity ward in Rochester, N.Y.,
Cured the backache I acquired bowing to my old master,
Made me stop putting thumbtacks round my bed.
They showed me an officer on horseback,
Waving a saber next to a burning farmhouse
And a barefoot woman in a nightgown,
Throwing stones after him and calling him Lucifer.
I was a straw-headed boy in patched overalls.
Come dark a chicken would roost in my hair.
Some even laid eggs as I played my ukulele
And my mother and father crossed themselves.
Next, I saw myself inside an abandoned gas station
Constructing a spaceship out of a coffin,
Red traffic cone, cement mixer and ear warmers,
When a church lady fainted seeing me in my underwear.
Some days, however, they opened door after door,
Always to a different room, and could not find me.
There’d be only a small squeak now and then,
As if a miner’s canary got caught in a mousetrap.
The Leaky Faucet
All through the night, the leaky faucet
searches the stillness of the house
with its radar blip: who is awake?
Who lies out there as full of worry
as a pan in the sink? Cheer up,
cheer up, the little faucet calls,
someone will help you through your life.
to the endless paranoiac suspicion
In Defense of Adultery
We don’t fall in love: it rises through us
the way that certain music does –
whether a symphony or ballad –
and it is sepia-coloured,
like spilt tea that inches up
the tiny tube-like gaps inside
a cube of sugar lying by a cup.
Yes, love’s like that: just when we least
needed or expected it
a part of us dips into it
by chance or mishap and it seeps
through our capillaries, it clings
inside the chambers of the heart.
We’re victims, we say: mere vessels,
drinking the vanilla scent
of this one’s skin, the lustre
of another’s eyes so skilfully
darkened with bistre. And whatever
damage might result we’re not
to blame for it: love is an autocrat
and won’t be disobeyed.
Sometimes we manage
to convince ourselves of that.
Waking up in the same skin isn’t enough.
You need more and more evidence
of who it is that
wakes up in the same skin.
But what evidence?
Reality is unreliable: a whirlwind
of dust that appears
and disappears every day.
Your thirst stretches out its white dunes.
Every day in the dust
not islands but their darkness
heaped on the polished mirror of a sea.
Not doors but their shadows
slammed in the house of wind.
Not lighthouses but their half-second SOS
in red, green and yellow.
Not language but languages.
Not a hand closing a curtain
but a hand.
And the day is over,
not wiser than the night in which
you waited for someone
who came and wasn’t what you waited for.
When we don’t have the fatherland that we have
Lost by silence and by resignation
Even the voice of the sea renders itself exile
And the light that surrounds us is like a lattice
Quando a pátria que temos não a temos
Perdida por silêncio e por renúncia
Até a voz do mar se torna exílio
E a luz que nos rodeia é como grades
Have you forgotten what we were like then
when we were still first rate
and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth
it’s no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners
the whole pasture looked like our meal
we didn’t need speedometers
we could manage cocktails out of ice and water
I wouldn’t want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days