for Charles Bainbridge

Room after room
I hunt the house through
—Robert Browning

Fogbound, the house

towards a bluish distance
where copses
stain the fog and pearl it:

even the foreground’s
bramble, grass, willow-stem flattened
as if colour
no longer carries a charge,

as if it were sound,
next door’s car starting
in two dimensions
of tuh-tuh,
the lorry on the road suddenly too close;

distance has stopped keeping these things
in tension.

It’s a kind of caretaking,
how fog shields you:
the way it reduces big questions
to presence
making you want to open the glass door

and step out
into its tall

A wateriness
lifting your hair.


The unknown
is always arriving,
a continual rescuing flow around you
and on:

fog’s floury bloom,
the pages of books—

their intimate, unconditional voices
always forgave you when,
below tall green walls,
they fluttered off the shelves
into your hands—

their leaves were soft, cool;
something opening
as they flew open—
a way you were

Already the dusty-planked classroom
was being inked-out—
blots on the sun;

light slid across tables,
paint turned the water in the jam-jar milky,
when you blinked you saw red and gold
enamel the back of your lids,

you could almost touch
what was spacious,
as the sky beyond the windows
where tiny birds
moved in the Atlantic wind.


You long for what’s spacious and vivid—
the unveiled mirror—

leading to longing
the way temple floors at Plaoshnik on Ohrid—
open the Byzantine colours
of pheasant and peacock

while below, on the afternoon shoreline,

reeds meal themselves yellow,
water crusts with glitter
thrown out ceaselessly—
knots and fissures—
to the centre of the lake.

The slit of your eye opening
and shutting
at the shock of this.


On hot afternoons
dust visits the foyer of the National Museum

where the foreigner—awkward,
mute—pays double.

Behind the cashier
display-cases are turning themselves into mirrors,

light sibilates along them,
here, here it whispers,

smudgy with echo.

You press a finger on humming glass—

a deeper note rises through the hum
like its shadow

as if your being here throws the switch
that lights up the tableaux:

registering you they respond, dilate.
Alone, in the gallery, you’re blushing

with a recognition which seems
too self-conscious;

you want to slide out of yourself
into blacks, blues, reds,

the weight and swim of geometry
familiar as a reflection.


Where to start from?

In the Winterreise bad weather makes a shroud,
fog binds the world
with cold-as-charity bandages:

setting off
into the invisible-beyond-music,
you strain at something

but the retina’s
all fog and dazzle;
light curtained by water.
How to catch what you’re looking for
in the mind’s
tricky lens?

at the exit’s street-glare,
you remember ash twigs
held up for a moment against fog;

the way winter light slips
from room to room
of a house among water-meadows—

how something
was going ahead of you, always,
glittering as if crowned with water droplets.