I give you a charmed, non-strange meson,
it disappears in the blink of an eye,
you give me a neutron, it falls to pieces
in minutes; I offer a pion, it decays in less
than a nanosecond. I ask for an axion,
a zeno, a Higgs boson, you say they are still
theories, they only exist in the mind.
You ask for a quark, I'd like to know
what flavour you'd like: truth or beauty?
I hand you a muon, a kaon, they vanish
without trace, you give me a microscopic
black hole, it evaporates before I can touch it.
You hold out your hands, but what can I give you
when nothing will last? I kiss your lips
and the heat of your mouth lingers a moment
then disappears like everything else.
Your coffee grows cold on the kitchen table,
which means the universe is dying.
Your dress on the carpet is just a dress,
it has lost all sense of you now.
I open the window, the sky is dark
and the house is also cooling, the garden,
the summer lawn, all of it finding an equilibrium.
I watch an ice cube melt in my wine,
the heat of the Chardonnay passing into the ice.
It means the universe is going to die:
the second law of thermodynamics.
Entropy rising. Only the fridge struggles
to turn things round but even here there's a
hidden loss. It hums in the corner, the only sound
on a quiet night. Outside, everywhere in the vast
sky stars are cooling, I think of the sun
consuming its fuel, the afternoon that is past,
and your dress that only this morning
was warm to my touch.
I descend on Holborn’s escalator
watching my wives pass by on the opposite side,
smiling, waving at me; they shout in Swedish,
Russian, Urdu, that they’ll always love me.
Even my English wives croon in their dialects.
My Japanese wives bow low, their kimonos
showering the stairs with the scents of Hokkaido
and Kanto. My wives are everywhere;
pacing the corridors, rushing to Kilburn,
Gatwick, Paddington, staring at me as they go.
They have new husbands now, waiting at home,
but I know it's me they miss. As we tunnel the grim
postcodes of Lambeth, Borough,
the Elephant and Castle, most of my wives have
left to catch connections for Kent or Sussex.
There are just the two of us now,
husband and wife for a couple of stops.
We sit in our seats, rocking in unison.
She fondles her wedding-ring, then starts
to weep. What can I do but join her?
We sob through Waterloo and Kennington,
all the way to Stockwell where she picks up
her bag, and slips through the doors.
I can picture her room in the Walworth Road,
her Joss sticks smouldering, that smell
of patchouli she’s left in the empty carriage.
I go home alone, lie in an empty bed
while all my wives are sleeping with men
who do not love them.
Beyond the house, where the woods
dwindle to a few stray trees, my father
walks on the lake with a hammer.
He's never seen so many stars,
and wonders why
with all that light in the sky
it doesn't cast a single shadow.
He takes a few blows at the ice, and drops
a sack-full of bricks
and kittens into the hole, listens
a moment to the stillness of deep winter,
the hugeness of sky, the bubbles of warm
oxygen breaking under his feet,
like the fizz in a lemonade; the creaking
of ice as it settles itself.
His father's at home, coaxing voices
out of a crystal set, a concert from London.
Ghosts in a stone.
My father doesn't like that, he prefers
the magic of landscapes, of icicles
growing like fangs from the gutters of houses,
the map of the constellations.He turns on the bank
and looks at the sky, Orion rising over Bradford,
Cassiopeia's bold W, asking Who, What, When
and Why? And down in the lake, the sudden
star-burst of four kittens under a lid of ice,
heading to the four corners of nowhere.