I cannot know. No matter.
I am in that warm sleep On a Bow Barracks roof, Or was, As I fell asleep with a kite On that ransomed afternoon When the buildings bled in my dream.
Tar- blind, sun- swarmed — Dark, that illumines Bow Street, Light, that seals the eyes of Bow Barracks roofs, — The kite ignored the late- winter jibes Of the wind under its feathers And slept on, Like me, Like an epithet Alive to soundless fall of verbs On dust and ether, But only in inaction.
Still sleeping, already roused, Everything was warm And red As though I wore the skin Of my stomach On my bones, And last night&’s vineyard had wetted it again.
It would soon be evening And a city held its breath, Noisily, In the long sigh of traffic.
Rising, Mid- Afternoon,
On the rooftops of Bow Barracks When the sun sees the wall Through bars of flesh; When shadows rise and fall Athwart The red warmth of a still- beating heart That the anatomy lesson of the afternoon Had uncovered In the grey innards of the city, I was snared by light: Snared As it rode the knuckles of brick Like a lover&’s uphill and downhill tour Of his beloved&’s hand.
It was the flush of touch, The blood of waiting On the impatience of a city As it, still, made up its mind.
Was it a drum that had breached The skin of my tiredness, Wrinkled, not taut with sleep? Or was it The madness of labour Making idle gaps in masonry South of my Bow Barracks eyrie From where you could spy Anxious residents converse With angels through rusting girders And missing panes? The morning had been spent In breathing ( Despite the scent of sewers and soya sauce), The particular essence Of vermillion That casts a shadow in the light, And blue, pellucid, That absorbed them: The buildings and the sky, The hair and the hat, The bristle between Of February mornings.
Little Samara was looking upwards.
Did she believe as the Chinese poets did That moss was impossibly slick, Even without rain? She gazed up leaking drainpipes: The lethargy of plumbing Making the lethargy of her gaze Appear like a tint no one knew Could be deepened.
Her gaze held the reflection of mountains That ambushed you from those red walls.
But, did she know That this far up, Pines need no wind to sing? The hand had fallen in love With the echo of its handiwork.
Why else would I find all around The quiet, red monk, ( That is a Bow Barracks morning), The sight of stooped workmen Building prisons? – Prisons that save us from freedom In our rangings to find Safety from ranging In our city.
Lances of drum- shout Pierce through to the red lanterns Like a cool wind promenading on Bow Street, Fingering them And wishing sleeping residents A happy Chinese New Year.
But somewhere, The raised voices of workmen Is becoming concrete.
What Lenten pleasures then of wine, fruit and abstinence? The red back of the roasted pig That made candles and a dragon&’s lust bleed red Also made Bow Barracks glow Like burning charcoal, Singeing the night dew.
Feasting during a fast, I would rather let The Ancestors and Jesus Christ Settle the matter, Across the breadth Of Mr Liao&’s drawing room.
Such beginnings can agitate Even stone to precious longing, And Bow Barracks is no stone In the sun.
The tanned sound that escapes Southern balconies In the morning — Strauss, distressed, Because of its too- smooth sliding — Makes its way down to me Through the hide and bone of drums Ushering in dragon- immanence.
It often sounds like Berlioz By the time it is on the street, Or Doubt, That is a cuckoo- clock gone mad Because it has missed the hour In its daydream of some grand symphony.
The photographer stood up On the roof of the afternoon, Beside the kite, Above the drums.
Stood to attention As though the red neighbourhood Of Bow Barracks had called, Called to say: “ Move into the clear, Keep still, Take your place In the bareness of your fear, Out in the place, And look down On your own face.”