is to unplug busyness, lock up routine,
travel for eight hours, arrive at
the Grand Hotel des Bains and unpack
in a bedroom without a soupçon of trend
but with four doors and French windows
that could feature in a Feydeau farce; is to recline
in the lounge sipping the transparent gold
of milkless tea and history’s grandeur.
Being away is to stroll down to the river
which cuts through the town, is to gorge
on its ambered browns and mineral greens,
is to be immersed in its gushing voice
as it rushes over the weir and parts into tails
that drift sideways like the threads of ideas
which refuse to connect; is to follow
the white gabble at stones in the riverbed.
Being away is to peer into the spa centre
where the overweight, swathed in white towels,
wander through steamy heat in the hope
of trapping beauty. Away is ambling under planes
whose dappled trunks are reminders of the pelts
of grazing animals, is sitting with black coffee
on a cafe terrace reading Mansfield Park,
savouring its out-of-place Englishness.
Away, I wait for the Source Intermittente
in le parc. It wells quietly from dry stones,
rises almost to tree tops and the topple
is whiter than swansdown, flock, seedclock.
After two minutes it droops, recovers,
fizzles to nothing. But its sulphurs
simmer within the earth whose boilings
and coolings we can’t alter, can’t predict.
And every six hours it resurges as if to prove
to a circle of expectant watchers poised
with cameras that dramatic patterns occur
in a universe some insist is random.