Friday, February 1, 2008

Ray Templeton

What Happened Next

Slipped into the side pocket
of a rucksack, in its dim light
I looked for a corner
to rest my head. Eased
by travel’s motion,
halfway over towards sleep,
I could reckon time and distance
by the craik of seabirds,
the clack of wheels on rails,
the echoes in great city termini.
At first, I dreamed
of curious destinations, of waking
to a sudden shock of sky and sun,
but soon I learned to love
my dark berth of wool and canvas.

In The Estuary House

The breath is in the walls,
distemper’s texture of impure white –
and in the woodwork, escaping
in layers of paint, corners flaking
to loosen dark browns, green and yellow,
an earlier chemical brilliance.
The breath is cornered, by glass
crystalising dust to unfinished shapes,
inside and out; condensed on iron stair-rails
that leave a damp slick on fingers,
and in the waxcloth’s skin
between feet and floor.
The breath is audible
in the stairwell’s quiet,
leaks from rooms where pages
had been inhaled and exhaled,
where carpets, chairs and beds
took so much body heat and turned it cold.
The breath is on the table,
the brass-laid box, the vase
of seagrass and feathers –
off-whites, tans and greys –
a bowl of cowrie, limpet, bivalve,
dry with the salt of open air and condensed water.
The breath is on the upstairs landing,
where the sun’s stain
lengthens on the shot boards
till it penetrates the house’s narratives,
particles in the air wavering with the sound.
The breath is in these repetitions,
weakening, of clattering shoes,
pouring water, shifting furniture,
the way voices spill out when a door opens;
the way they’re trapped again
with the deadlock click of the latch.

The Family History


Sandstone the hands feel:
an open doorway.
The knife’s point
the cut peel slides from.
Spirals of language
on a kitchen floor.
A name, a future memory,
a gap to slip through.


Another night:
a pool in the flow,
a story in another place.
Ears full of noise,
breath full of fiery air.
Ripples – new voices,
different names.


Somewhere else; inside,
a plain room – outside,
an old postcard.
Written lines of new beginnings
that will work towards old ends.


The longest journey:
places they
can barely dream
of rooms and roofs.
A ribbon’s consolation.


On the map, where feet fell:
here, and here,
and here. There is
old air for breathing.
Skin still feels the stone.

A Nightcap

The connecting space: an old-style beer and wine shop
on the corner, halfway up the hill, not long before closing.
A bell chimes when the door’s opened. Out in the night,
life’s behind curtains, a quiet street at the end of summer.
It’ll be his last, though we don’t know that yet, and he’ll still
be there tomorrow. The day’s last act is measured out
in strings of coloured light, to movement’s drone:
bottle rolled in tissue on the back seat, a little clear night air,
a hint of expectation. Drifting through the town’s
last streets, then a dozen miles of country lane. The gap
closes; the line’s crossed, on to gravel, on to grass,
an hour or so till sleep, the space connecting.

The End Of The Long Lens

Invisible, they miss nothing, those eyes on me.
I breathe heavy life into what follows me,
watches me. A door opens, closes; a shutter clicks.
A car moves in and out of shot, leaves shiver.
Another empty minute passed. Footsteps on the street
create the stalker. I catch the smell of burning.
Who cares enough? Why fix on me – a silent
scrutiny? Talk to me, frighten me, take the blanket
of my acquiescence, my identity. Security:
you carve it out of solid walls, or layered glass.
Still you feel the chill, skin prickling. As pressure builds,
things break. Someone walked on my grave.

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