He was only eighteen
Perched on a stolen bike
The night was cold and clear
He’d enjoyed some speed and then some beer
He took a fast ride
No lights, no helmet, not insured
And then a block of steel brought
This one-man chapter to a sticky end.
But where would life have taken
This young lad
If speed and speed and alcohol
Had never intervened
To take away an energetic soul?
So he will stay eighteen
Through all the years that see
Nations perish from neglect
And subatomic particles become
The routine currency of dreams.
He will remain eighteen
While all around
The world runs dry and vehicles fade away, and
Pollution brings the planet to a halt
While somewhere else
A lad of just eighteen
Rides someone else’s bike into tomorrow
While trying hard to leave himself behind.
Threw my leather belt on the floor; it
Fell in the shape of an ampersand
Perhaps I should from this event
Unfold successive meanings, or believe
That what can fall may also rise again
By telling us that we are incomplete –
Without the and, where would we be?
“He could have made a life in books
Or learned to talk with princes in the dark
Instead of which he bought and sold
The brief exciting cordials of death
And so a gun-shaped hole began to grow
There on the crazy paving of his years….”
I cannot tell a dozen tales at once
We’d never hear the stories thus expressed
The tangled yelling would reflect experience
But what meanings in the tumult lurked
Would have to be guessed; for just a
Single narrative would never serve to show
The complex density of any vulgar sense.
Fowles, they tell me, is no more;
A conjurer whose letters, words and dreams
Purveyed more meaning than we dared to see.
Perhaps his books had better been
published as faux-Georgian hardbacks, with
Yellow paper, marbled rims, and all the dust
That only comes from twenty years of lingering neglect.
Perhaps one day, we shall suggest
That men like Fowles could teach us how to see
The liquid words that shimmer in the gloom.
The Duchess in her chair enjoys
An aquarium filled with white noise
While antiparallel doors continue to display
The weightless truth that fills another day.
Somewhere between the solid and the gas
I find a squalid shadow and a hammer made of glass
From which to drink an undiscovered wine
That lets the Duchess think herself divine.