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MICHAEL BARTHOLOMEW-BIGGS
FALLING BODIES
INTOURIST

FALLING BODIES

Most of us,
who heard the witnesses gasp out
descriptions or saw photographs
and films we canít forget, will never know       

         how many times
         a voice can yell a name or curse
         in five remaining seconds, tumbling
         through the worldís accelerating centre;
         how fast the heart beats
         when a beast which feeds on speed
         has seized it, sensing freefallís smell
         as sharks detect a spreading smudge of blood;
         how wide the eyes go
         seeing shrinking downward distance                                
         as one certainty to own
         until old instinct slams lids shut for impact;
         how hard is breathing
         in mid-plunge while angled limbs
         tear emptiness to turbulence
         that snatches air away from nose & mouth

Are these the worst
unknowns a horrified half-willing
watcher has to step away from
turning into questions that have answers?
To know too much
leaves less room on a ledge for hopes
(too late to pray) that angels caught
and stopped their thoughts before they struck the stones.

 

INTOURIST

иностранный турист

Nothing hides from you the prisonís
rolls of fishbone razor wire
as your train grinds in.
Welcome to our town, you read,
and you suspect some visitors
find it hard to leave.

The prison is the oldest building
to have been in constant use
and served a single purpose.
But since nineteen thirty-nine
your hotel has been bombed or shelled
three times and reconstructed.

Its front stepsí centres are worn down,
their edges knocked or frozen off.
Inside, tilted mirrors
ricochet identities
along the hall.  And now you think
youíre closing in on Lisi.

This is where she was before
and this is where you hope youíll glimpse her
slipping from the kitchen
to reception where she shared
the desk, control of keys and guest-book
entries with Tamara.

(Both knew, but Lisi noticed more, 
when you were late: when you were tired
Tamara hardly cared.
And if you stumbled over phrasebook
questions, it was always Lisi
who was listening.)

The restaurantís been overhauled
again; but itís still overstaffed
by stern-faced waitresses.
Elastic husky saxophones
stretch and slack a sixties tune
across thin coffee; gritty

muesliís oversweetened by
thick honey of harmonica,
condensed milk clarinet.
Mirrored columns by the bar
reversing consonants on beer pumps
conceal whatís in your eyeline

but you know, if consonants
werenít back to front, youíd still not see her:
Lisi hasnít come
or left a note or waft of perfume;
hasnít read your hotel booking
let alone your mind.

Your fault of course: you got yourself
entangled in this fantasy.
Thereís no way out of this
unless thereís someone here who knows her
and would spare the time to steer you
nearer to Tamara?