16 November 2008

Glyn Maxwell

[from Glyn Maxwell's Hide Now, Houghton Mifflin, 2008]

Being too young to pass
the gate, we made our distance from a loop.
We'd ride around our house, and every lap
would be another mile
       into the mist.

Ten laps to France,
twenty there, a picnic in a field,
then twenty more to Germany, an old
box or two a Schloss
       by the back fence

and thirty more, who knows,
Austria, Russia . . . While my little brother
pedalled out of sight I'd fix a border:
a cold guard with a gun,
       a hostile pose,

harder question. Eighty
laps away the world was very tense,
there were shots fired, he found me dead and once
I found him dead and once
       we separately

lay down and died.
Him in a heap by his bike in the back garden.
Me face-down in moss in the front garden.
Nothing happened for ages
       as our mum dried

the dishes at the sink,
and put them away and saw he was still there.
The clouds went slowly over Hertfordshire,
till the rain began to smudge
       the scarlet ink

of our cardboard Chinese flag.
But we stayed down in the drizzle, we were dead.
If the other had gone inside it was too bad.
He didn't cough. I didn't
       scratch my leg.

In distant lands we died
we were thinking as we trooped into the warm,
and washed our hands in water that was steam
in our own home with the day
       dark blue outside.

Hide Now

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