If an astral pilgrim were to ask me
what it’s like to be here,
I would have to say
“Things accumulate”. Then I’d show him
how leaves in autumn fall to freedom –
I’d explain about soil.
I’d take him to beaches of sand and pebble –
explain about oceans, the action of time.
I’d show him bright rectangles where there hung pictures;
point to webbed veils in disused barns.
We’d trip round a scrapyard where oil-stained puddles
moved as kaleidoscopes under the sun;
I’d explain about rust and name all the lichens.
He might be amazed at the pyramids of tyres,
the involuntary sculptures of twisted metal.
I’d have to explain about house-dust and skin.
I’d show him how papers heap on the table:
bills, invitations, half-written thoughts,
and how some gravestones behind the old church
slowly subside and lean on each other, like
sleepy heads in a long train ride.
It follows I should show him the pictures from Auschwitz –
mountains of shoes and spectacle-frames.
It follows that I should,
but how could I explain?
Winner of the T.S. Eliot prize, University of Kent, 2006
© Caroline Fox Betts 2010