The Manchester Review
George Szirtes
Four Poems
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(15) Curtains / blinds

It was when time was finally receding
we found perspective, or rather it found us,
diminished and helpless on the far horizon.
Perspective was the thing we’d keep our eyes on,
since shrinkage was, for us, a form of bleeding,
and everything was closing in around us.

So everything closed in, and we were shrunk
within the very terms we thought we’d mapped,
our maps being vague approximations,
too imprecise for neater calculations.
Either our systems or our eyes were junk.
However free we were we still felt trapped.

However free we were we still were locked
in houses too small to live in, cars too wide
to miss a pot hole or a traffic cone.
The mind won’t fit the skull, it just gets blown,
and yet keeps spreading and will not be blocked.
It wants to fly because it’s stuck inside.

These words want out. They want a natural light
if only so they might feel less uncertain.
Perspective starts here where they say their names
so any drawing underwrites their claims.
Their vanishing point is what is lost to night
whose drawing is the drawing of a curtain.

Little by little she let down the blinds.
The light in the room obeyed her as she moved.
It was a work of delicate gradations.

She could control gradations in this way,
leading the light as if it were a horse
she might have ridden right back to the stables.

Horses of light were champing at the bit.
They stamped the darkness, breathed a thin grey fume.
Light trembled with excitement that was fear.

The blinds kept moving, light was growing thinner.
It was like dusk, or dawn, some half-way station
between two busy major terminals.

And in that darkening there was a moment
when breath failed and the pain slipped into numbness,
and night, or just the blinds, brought darkness on.