But what’s there,
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.
You take my hand,
lead me under the archway.
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
Or end when canon fire blasted from
All the years
contained in this space.
What an improbability
that we should come to stand
As an Italian man tries to tell us
we’re in the wrong place.
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 —
But we can’t contain our whole existence
a borrowed room.
I’m no good at endings.
And so I don’t know how to end this;
I leave it to you
to leave me instead.
naked, framed by door.
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
If it’s worth having someone
to stand, tear-wet hand-clasped with,
Someone to smooth your hair when a ghost lifts you up —
I get drunk under a blurry sky.
I flirt with a Frenchman,
and then I flirt with
He pokes my stomach.
My mouth a moue.
It all seems such a waste of time
when the end result is not
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
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
The heel of my hand is wet with
The couple beside me say:
“It’s so much easier to go on holiday now the kids are grown.”