Letter to Blair from Home

By | 1 November 2019

Brother, when the raven came for me
last night in its black cassock, when my breath
was sweetened with dreaming, I heard you
call to me in that bell-clear treble, Roy,
Roy, and knew there would be no peace, as if
we were still boys swinging in hammocks
against a withering sunset. I reached out
a hand to your voice, hoping to be held & steadied
against the bitter losses, but was stung by the keen
edge of an absence. Forty years since we
laid you down to sleep with the poppies, each
year governed by a distinct shoreline
that the waves’ pale wings, unfolding, have failed
to erase. But the failing is ours, too. It’s what
the living do best. Last Friday, madness tore
like teeth into this country’s history as bullets rained
and erased the warmth of 51 faces all lit with hope
and faith. Why are the prayers of the hopeful
always answered with violence? The media hurried
to explain the blood away—racial tension / unchecked
immigration / mental unsoundness
—but
the blood clung to the prayer mats like a sun
that refuses to set. Brother, I know you’d say to this
with that familiar ironic smile, Nothing will ever truly
wash the dark stain off men’s hearts
, as surely you’d go on
labouring in the streets of Southall, your body
an arrow through every injustice. Here in Napier
all I have is a circle of white pines to sit amongst
as the last light winds down to a wine-dark
bruise over the horizon. When the wind rises
the sand veils the air, each grain etched
with the echo of your name.

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