Snap shut the visor. Now you’re anonymous,
Mythic as Ned Kelly, brutal as Darth Vader,
Like an astronaut who looms up to the camera,
-The forever pitiless black
Wrapping a light-bulb head.
Here too, under the mask it’s mine-dark,
Sleep’s loveliest colour,
Where the breath is your only companion,
Your Sancho Panza,
And you’ve become your eyes
Pricked with hunger
For any pin-prick of light.
Now is like moments waiting in a cinema.
You’ve rehearsed this on backs of envelopes,
In the dust on a shed floor, debated
With a sleeping wife at 1 am, seen it already,
Complete, in your mind’s eye.
Still it comes as a surprise:
A hand, your hand, that’s seems far
From where you are, strikes.
And instantly – not one sun but all suns,
All light that ever could be, is!
Pure, absolute as darkness ever was.
Everything is light! No tenor in the sweep
Of his aria so overwhelms like this. Nothing.
It fascinates as when descending at night
Over the coals of a city, say Delhi or Mumbai,
It flares like flames leaping up a curtain,
Lava with its cappuccino froth swirls, gouging canyons.
I swear I’ve seen a cool Buddha sitting
In his cave of yellow lotus there! In this too is
My Sunday School Shadrach in the Fiery Furnace
(As also molten here the memory of the slow tumble of coals
– Giant cobs of solid heat crumbling
From Port Kembla’s coke ovens
That has awed me as no sermon could
Ever since I felt their huge breath
And heard a man stepped there into his vaporisation.)
Shadrach and every other martyr after,
The calm of sati widows,
They cow me with their self-possession.
I am safe behind this glass of story
While down on the steel mill floor
Thunders molten rivers,
The industrial world and our grim religions.
Farther, at the flash’s margin, spatter
Is already grey and bleak like gibbers
Strewn about the Moon we first saw on grainy tv
Already, behind the work a glow is dying
– With it an emptiness as of a parade receding,
Its bass drum booming, fading, way up ahead.
Lift your visor. Ahh! Salut!
Breathe air that’s now balmy-soft as rolling pasture,
Resurface to a day, pale as the moon.
Knock off the scale and at the workshop door
Turning the work over in your hand
A brightly opalescent seam grins
As it catches the sun.