Empirical

1 May 2015

I
A factory, the train line curving off
to cross the motorway—
between them this falling away of ground—
two or three acres where for years
the council trucks brought building rubble—
mounds of shattered concrete, brick shards,
bluestone and steel mesh overgrown with grass
and now I walk into the wreckage, its tricks of scale—
broken horizon stone, its outcrop weeds
and head-high grass, hulls frayed with light,
dry fennel stark from the mounds, dandelion,
sow-thistle the colour of barbed wire self-
seeded in wind-shale, in soft mortar at the level of my eye,
its closed array—and it is the first place, place itself
grown inward to my sight—
along the side of the house, in the playground
where dry ground slants to the fence,
out of the history of their names
where these same weeds thrive
which have made for me a heraldry
of my forgetting—Tussock rampant in field azure
and set me here in its abyss
as though there were some vanishing point
in what we have named landscape
giving the bright scenes place—
Which is to say I have not seen it yet—
this wilderness to me which is to itself single,
closed in its processes, happening over and over
though not to itself, being to itself a storm
perpetually in the front of light—

II
What is a place other than where things happen?
I met the photographer at the station and we walked out
into those scrappy grasslands
where between the train line and the gully
tyre tracks lead away into that wreckage
which was our starting place—
Who are you to me to say what I should dream?
A vault of light in which every thing appears
down to its last detail—the smell of fennel, even,
rising where we stepped over the railway line
and climbed the cutting’s side
when with single cries wrens
scattered up out of the grass—a movement
like the reverse of something breaking
or that idea of place which persists
behind its uses—self-effacing, capacious, forever
inventing a centre elsewhere—as if to say
What the future will keep of this place
will be its innocence, a hunger as undeliberate as rain—
Do you see them out there, figures among the stones
and their names for grasses?
Out in that unimaginable field
in which wrecked worlds heap their monuments—
an accumulation of fragments which only here
convert themselves into a scene—
The two of them stilled like figures on a vase—
painted Caesar smiling at the curve,
This victory I call peace and remember in stone
Only I have vanished into my life again
the way a photographer walks off into his photographs—

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