Treasure Island

Thomas Blackburn

(1916-1977 / Wales)

Café Talk


'Of course,' I said, 'we cannot hope to find
What we are looking for in anyone;
They glitter, maybe, but are not the sun,
This pebble here, that bit of apple rind.
Still, it's the Alpine sun that makes them burn,
And what we're looking for, some indirect
Glint of itself each of us may reflect,
And so shed light about us as we turn.'
Sideways she looked and said, 'How you go on!'
And was the stone and rind, their shinings gone.

'It is some hard dry scale we must break through,
A deadness round the life. I cannot make
That pebble shine. Its clarity must take
Sunlight unto itself and prove it true.
It is our childishness that clutters up
With scales out of the past a present speech,
So that the sun's white finger cannot reach
An adult prism.'
'Will they never stop,
Your words?' she said and settled to the dark.

'But we use words, we cannot grunt or bark,
Use any surer means to make that first
Sharp glare of origin again appear
Through the marred glass,' I cried, 'but can you hear?'
'Quite well, you needn't shout.' I felt the thirst
Coil back into my body till it shook,
And, 'Are you cold?' she said, then ceased to look
And picked a bit of cotton from her dress.
Out in the square a child began to cry,
What was not said buzzed round us like a fly.

I knew quite well that silence was my cue,
But jabbered out, 'This meeting place we need,
If we can't find it, still the desire may feed
And strengthen on the acts it cannot do.
By suffered depredations we may grow
To bear our energies just strong enough,
And at the last through perdurable stuff
A little of their radiance may show:
I f we keep still.' Then she, 'It's getting late.'
A waiter came and took away a plate.

Then from the darkness an accordion;
'These pauses, love, perhaps in them, made free,
Life slips out of its gross machinery,
And turns upon itself in unison.'
It was quite dark now you must understand
And something of a red mouth on a wall
Joined with the music and the alcohol
And pushed me to the fingers of her hand.
Well, there it was, itself and quite complete,
Accountable, small bones there were and meat.

It did not press on mine or shrink away,
And, since no outgone need can long invest
Oblivion with a living interest,
I drew back and had no more words to say.
Outside the streets were like us and quite dead.
Yet anything more suited to my will,
I can't imagine, than our very still
Return to no place;
As the darkness shed
Increasing whiteness on the far icefall,
A growth of light there was; and that is all.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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