The Impossible Stubborness of Walls

Holding out as time and space and grief
Ravage the holding in. The brazen
Promiscuity of objects that move
To new homes, and glow with the accumulation
Of new-gathered riches. The unthwarted rigour
With which the shape of things cling
To the walls which held them up, the naked nails
Rejoicing in their unreplaced importance.

The returnee is eyed askance: cupboards retaining
The unwanted residue of indecision
Refuse to acknowledge the suitcase
And carry-on items that accompany moving.
Necessity is not the driving force of need.
Items left, undiscardable, regard the rest
As mere luggage. Unstable, movable.
Lightweight air freight.

No, home is never where the heart is. Ask the walls.
The brick and mortar that stand as you walk
Ride and fly where the heart takes you. Cement
Understands immutability. The resistance of immovability.
Make new homes, go. But if you really want to leave
Use your bare hands to tear those walls down


No Dues

(For Naomi, who walked the last mile with me)


It took some doing.
Room to room, some
Much frequented, some
I’d never seen. The Estate
Office, for instance, being
So close to the Ladies, you
Would think, on any one
Of the many days I
Slept, bathed, re-adjusted
Myself in the midst of
Classes, commutes, pangs
Of hunger, horror,
Exhaustion. You
Would think the Estate
Office would have fallen
In my way. But they
Were the most reluctant
To sign off on the steps – millions –
That my feet walked, treading
Their real estate. Of what use
But in this one room: ‘No Dues’.

The Library, where I sit
Forever in an attitude of
Years ago – they forgot the year.
They fixed it but I sit there still
Like a reader the years refuse
To budge: ‘No Dues’.
And for the many ways and
Many days in which they fed me
The walk from the Café
To the Mess merely led me
To affectionate cooking crews:
‘No Dues’.

But the corridors did not sign
And the rooms I passed ignored
The paper I clutched. Mine
Was the eye that took in
The tiles, the bricks, stored
With years, the voices, the
Faces I feared to look in,
That I would not let go
Which I would not let loose;
What would they sign? ‘No Dues’?

What manner of reckoning requires
Such an accounting of desires?
Would the Chapel where I still
Take off my shoes, produce a bill
With ‘No Dues’? The terraces,
Which elevated our poems and views,
Let me hop back in? ‘No Dues’?
What manner of debt persists
What coinage still resists
What piece of paper insists
That I fall for this elaborate ruse
And leave this place with no dues?