Hearing the Ice Cream Truck
My friend’s flat is strung
with all the souvenirs of living:
birthday cards hanging from the fridge,
blurry shopping lists in her childlike script,
a lesser-known Penguin with spots of rust.
One day we’ll make choices without doubt;
we tell ourselves, as if telling makes us wise.
One day we’ll master this domestic wilderness
where we still call our mothers before the handyman,
one day we’ll have our own minds
and terraces to house them in —
even if we do still look up
at the sound of the ice cream truck,
even if it still echoes like all the places
we cannot go back, now we are
You said once you wanted a Pompeian house,
all atrium and vestibulum,
all colours so vivid
they take their fists to time.
But what does it matter?
No one paints to survive
that kind of ruin.
You tell me things that happened to you
like they’re from someone else’s life;
like you could deny the brambles,
as if the flesh forgot.
As if you might find home
in every outstretched hand,
in boys who hid their cruelty
where daylight didn’t remember.
But you did.
You remembered the way
dirt remembers a rainless season;
something ruthless about you cutting
through life on the smoke of those
who razed you.
I saw the smoke
on the bus that day,
how it sealed you into the morning
and left only fragments —
an arched brow, a pale wrist,
your laugh with that prefix of hesitance.
One day archaeologists will dig up
our things and put them in museums,
and write articles, and give lectures,
and theorise about you
and your Pompeian house.
Tell me nothing
on the boardwalk,
legs over the beckoning shallows.
Better yet, tell me what we think
we’re grieving, cased in classrooms
with the months falling around us
and shaping our arms out to whoever will listen.
Tell me this restlessness we have
no right to feel, not an at home bone
in the home of our bodies.
Tell me about time,
about the autumns we tried
to make stay in spite of the years
that lurched on; trailing ghosts.
Speak with me the morning,
from its first idea to this
fine dissolution, summer
waving in the air.