A.i.R. | Two Poems by Siân Norris

A.i.R. | Two Poems by Siân Norris

Arches

 

But what’s there,

they asked.

A famous archway.

Built in 200 ACE or 200 AD —

depending on your preference.

 

Perhaps it made sense,

once. This setting.

But it’s confusing now

to find an archway at the port’s edge —

sun-bleached stone white

against the sweating tarmac.

 

Did it once stand alone?

Stark; blue framed in its frown.

Or did it stand surrounded

by an industrial bustle less mechanical

than the cranes that now guard:

overgrown children’s toys

in primary colours.

Giraffes.

 

You take my hand,

lead me under the archway.

We stand

with the light reflecting on our surfaces;

with the sun’s heat in your palm;

with the truth

that in 1816 years

I came to be alive in this moment —

the same time as you.

 

With the reason why

my life didn’t begin

when centurions marched through

the arch.

Or end when canon fire blasted from

the seawall.

 

All the years

contained in this space.

What an improbability

that we should come to stand

here.

 

Now.

As an Italian man tries to tell us

we’re in the wrong place.

 

Endings  

 

When you told me:

“You’re no good at endings,”

and I cried.

My face pressed up against the bobbled grey sheets

of another borrowed bed.

The city outside —

with its heaving multitudes —

doesn’t exist.

But we can’t contain our whole existence

in this:

a borrowed room.

 

I’m no good at endings.

And so I don’t know how to end this;

our holiday.

I leave it to you

to leave me instead.

I stand,

naked, framed by door.

You, half

nude descending a staircase.

 

Is it because I’m no good at endings

that I cry when the plane takes off?

The air stretching vertical between me

and the place that still holds you.

Alarming the correct couple sat beside me

as they reflect on their holiday photos,

first on one lit screen,

and then on another.

The sunflowers that had bobbed in welcome,

only visible from arrivals.

 

I go to funerals on my own.

I wake, panting, from a nightmare.

These moments when I wonder if it’s worth not being

alone.

If it’s worth having someone

to stand, tear-wet hand-clasped with,

at funerals.

Someone to smooth your hair when a ghost lifts you up —

unexpectedly —

in sleep.

 

I get drunk under a blurry sky.

I flirt with a Frenchman,

and then I flirt with

another Frenchman.

He pokes my stomach.

My mouth a moue.

 

It all seems such a waste of time

when the end result is not

you.

 

There must be a reason for me to stand:

naked, framed by door,

my body a strobe in black.

A white flag in the dawn dark.

Watching your back move away from me

again.

Like I watch the towns escape one by one behind me

on the train home,

 

like I watch the Alps shrink beneath me,

my nose pressed against a postage stamp of white light,

until they are reduced to

papier-mâché proportions.

The heel of my hand is wet with

wiped-away tears.

The couple beside me say:

“It’s so much easier to go on holiday now the kids are grown.”