The Golden Mean

The Golden Mean by John Glenday

Book: The Golden Mean by John Glenday Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Glenday
The Ghost Train
    a twinned sonnet
    Roy, this is how it finishes: we’re riding Dante’s Inferno together –
    that cheapskate ghost train where Fred Hale hides from his killers
    in Brighton Rock . I’m Fred, of course, and you’re my friendly murderer,
    my twin, the one doomed to be sitting alone when the car shudders
    to a halt in the din and glare of a South Coast early summer.
    This is what life is all about – cheap shocks and clapboard horrors
    the whole scene clichéd and overblown – the way the two of us peer
    down into the abyss beneath the rails: a seethe of black, impatient water
    fretting the stanchions that hold us clear of purgatorial fire.
    When you looked into my face, you looked into a mirror,
    and smiled, and took my shoulder, held me safe, then pushed me over.
    My eyes opened five minutes early, yours closed two decades late.
    Is that the tide I hear behind us, or the ghost train’s plywood thunder,
    or the clutter clutter clutter of loose film clearing the gate?
    John, you died two decades early, I was born five minutes late.
    Two frames of the one short film – that’s really all we were.
    Now that one frame is cut, I’ll carry back twice the weight –
    your life folded in mine – to 1921. We’re boys again – back in the foyer
    of the Regent with Nanny. Valentino breaks her dusty heart four
    times in a single week. We saw it here for the first time – the raw power
    of film: that dance! Death galloping from the clouds, the Great War
    breaking like a sea against their lives, and in the end, The End , a blur
    of shadows between fresh graves, the audience all shiftless whispers.
    A hundred times we sat in that immense, small dark, and breathed air
    rich with smoke and sweat – the reek of a strange, new fire. Remember,
    we filed out glazed and dumb with joy and dark – back to the trashy glare
    of life going dimly on. John, next time we stumble out into the light together,
    guess which of us will blink, and which will disappear?

The Steamer ‘Golden City’
    after Eadweard Muybridge
    Far from the sea, you still feel part of it –
    all those dull impatient lights,
    that reckless hush. But the way
    the morning breaks against itself
    marks progress of a sort; like a prow
    digging under, ploughing the hours white.
    Even on land, even right here at home,
    you find yourself stalled by the sense
    of something you cannot see dividing
    and falling away behind.
    And you wish it could be real, that wake
    trailing back beyond ocean or purpose;
    something to prove to anyone
    who cared notice that for a time,
    if only a moment, you were going somewhere.

A Testament
    I was so young. I wanted to experience the world, so I stared
at the sun until my eyes burned hollow; kissed all the women I
could ever love until each kiss dwindled to water. Now hardly a day
passes but I find myself blundering into the sea; or gathering in my
arms an unspeakable fire.

The Lost Boy
    im Alexander Glenday died November 4th, 1918
    November,and nothing said.
    The old worldwhittling down
    to winter.Ice on my tongue:
    its wordless,numbing welcome.
    We bloodybelieved in war
    once; we cheeredwhen our children
    sailed off forthe Front. But now
    all languagefails me. Listen:
    â€˜Army FormB. 104 .
    â€˜ . . . a reporthas been received
    from the Field, France . . . . . .  was killed in
    Action.’ There.Alexander
    has been killed –my couthie boy.
    Nineteen, lookedmore like fourteen.
    They told mehis howitzer
    was shattered –a shell ‘cooked off’
    in the breech,and the blast tore
    them apart.They were too keen
    of course, boysblown to pieces
    with that GreatWar days from won.
    Boom. And gone.I’m a blacksmith.
    I’ve seen whatwhite hot metal
    makes of flesh.My own wee Eck.
    I’m to blame.I was the fool
    who signed, andhim still far too
    young. Fifteen!His mother flung
    her mug atme, mute

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