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     The Literary Review


Page 45

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                        LINES OF THE DEAD

Agent A — also known as B
Disembarking dead of night
From an old tramp steamer
Among the mangroves of an Asian estuary
The short wave radio unpacked
Set up inside an abandoned hermit's hut
A makeshift table, sackcloth shades
Cigarettes, a pack of playing cards
A battered flask of Black and White

Overcast skies. The grey foreboding
Of the monsoon season. The slap
Of tree frogs landing on the bamboo walls
Listening to the gibbons
Squabbling in the branches
Writing poems in a spider's hand
Playing Solitaire against the shadows of the days
Then, from somewhere out beyond
The beaded curtain and the China Sea
Comes the tap, tap, tapping
The casting of his fate

Furnished with a Burmese passport
B — now known as C
Is bound for South America
Sweating in the stuffy heat of a steerage cabin
On the S.S. Malabran
A Welrod, and a book of codes
Hidden in a suitcase base
The days drag by across the squares
And he's tormented by the memory
Of a beauty lost beyond recall
He tries to rest and watch the falling stars
From a deckchair at the stern
...But distant betrayals disturb his sleep
Words in dreams
He sees spoken clear but cannot hear

Suddenly some player
From an unknown Alphabet
Decides to intervene
Pieces on the board change shape
Sideshow operations such as his own
Are reassessed and reconfigured
**** — His only contact in the game
Is compromised, cut loose, abandoned
Voice and flesh fading in the Ether
White noise from other, lesser minds
Wipes out signals from the London Station
There's panic in the cortex — Silence
...Gathering clouds of radio storms

Without direction from Control
The mission loses definition
He only knows that in end it all depends
On what he's searching for
- The divine coordinates
The triangulation of lost souls
The single point where all the suffering
Of the world will cease
He avoids the other passengers
Dines alone, listens to the seabirds calling
The echoing of submarines
Passing beneath the keel

Just off Santiago
On the kind of bright, clear morning
That somewhere always spells disaster
The ship's torpedoed
And C, with everyone on board
Goes down beneath the waves
But as he drowns he sees his purpose
Drawn back from darkness
Into sharp relief

Red lights of rusting harbors
Blinking in the mist and smoke
The ocean city, seared and blackened
Boarded windows and burnt out skies
Thunderstorms all day and through the nights
An old grey man — now known as D
Pretends to beg for alms
Outside the Blue Moon Diner
By the cross of 34th and 62nd Streets
There's heavy duty static
Coming from the gratings of the underground
Voices of the dead
Seeping from the clouds
And demons raging on all the FM stations
But he's got the pieces of the secret
The great work almost complete
Hidden in the pockets of his clothes
And all he needs is one
Last letter of one last word
To put it all together
And bring the mission
To a close

                          William Corner Clarke __







BALANCE.jpg
                   © William Corner Clarke: BALANCE

                        MYRKA'S PLACE

Meeting Myrka
At a café in Omonia
A heavy, black fur coat
On a hot June day
Her skin as white as Nausica's
A pallor that did not belong
In Athens' light
White as the long, thin cigarettes
She smoked incessantly
Her fingers like broken tapers
Her body trembling
Like an out of focus film

A single, naked bulb
Spread a pauper's light
Around the living room
But on the walls
You could still make out
Photographs of sailing ships
In ornate antique frames
Her father's fleet of merchantmen
Heavy with cargo on sepia seas
Their pale sails billowing
In long dead winds

Despite the shutters and the blinds
You could hear the traffic
On Tsaldari Street outside
And if you let your mind
Wander from the shadows
You'd see the real
Turquoise of the sea
And the sailing boats
Rocking at the quay of Zea harbour
And along the way
You'd smell gasoline and wine
Pistachio and perfume
The scents of oranges and bougainvillea
And there would be the people
Drinking Frappes in cafes
Shaded by eucalyptus trees
The world alive, in flux
Beneath a summer sky

But this was Myrka's place
The dancer who had fallen in
With gravity and dust
The woman who had sealed
Her fate
Within a barren womb
This was the place
Of monochrome and shades
The place where
All her years were gathered
Like unopened gifts
In dark oak dresser drawers

                          William Corner Clarke__

THE BRIDGES OF OLD SHEBANG

In the long lost land
Of Old Shebang
There are no poems
Woods or dreams
Just an endless mass
Of bridges
Stretching as far
As the eye can see

Bridges hammered
Out of darkness
With people feeding
In the shadows
Of the arches
Clothed in rags
And bandages
Nursing wounds
That never heal

Bridges bound
By webs of choking vines
Bridges made
Of poisoned flowers
And human bones
Bridges
Far too full of fear
And sadness
For anyone
To step along

Still
Some people think
Of getting out
Of Old Shebang
- Of walking on
These bridges
Faraway
To blue sky doors
And better days

But these bridges
All go nowhere
They just twist
And turn
And travel back
Into the dreadful
Days
Of Old Shebang

                          William Corner Clarke__