The Day the Grass Came – Arvon 1998

Sequences from The  Day the Grass Came

from  1.

The day the grass came

I’d climbed to the top of the world
Asphalt gas tip volcano’s crater of scum-covered tar
Sloping, slithering, down a solidified lake
To mini-gasometers squashed into rust
Squatting by scaffold bars wrenched into s’s and squirms,
Railway lines jaggedly mounting black air
Tangled with cranes crooked over the dangling chains
Clanking on corrugated huts swaying high
On their tracery mounting, clunking on piles
And piles of ladders climbing themselves to confusion …
Everything leading to nowhere …

Railway sleepers lie scattered …

Rotten sleepers lie scattered,
Slumped in the rusty dust.

Sleepers, waiting for what?

Beauty sleepers, waiting for a Prince Charming kiss?

Sleepers, waiting for what?

For four angels to blow

Rolling the earth in a scroll?

The trumpets and gods have gone.

Here at the top of the world
I sit alone
In my tar-stained overalls
Trying to focus my eye
Over the cities I advised
As I walked the world in my overalls
Learning how to be wise.

Through me the cities stand
Rectangular, perfectly planned
Tanks of concrete and perspex —
Live-tanks, learn-tanks, sex-tanks, play-tanks,
Beyond them the work-tanks, make-tanks, think-tanks,
And the tanks filled with monitor screens
For machines to watch over machines.
All tanks connected, computerized.
All tarmac, perspex, one-eyed, and wise.
All constructed by my advice.

Or was this really my plan
When I started to walk among men?

from  2.

Lord Manager sat on his swivel throne,
Surrounded by switches and thinkophones,
Bouncing emails by satellite
To make ’em arrive the previous night.
All the emails ever said
Was “Re your P. As B., take B as read.”
His personal speech-module stood behind him.
To utter one word he needed a prompter.
“Repeat yourself” — it was there to remind him.
“Lord, Manager, always repeat yourself,
Or they’ll kick you upstairs, leave you on a shelf.”
But there’s no upstairs.
Upstairs of Lord Manager’s perspex think-tank
There’s only the sky,
Where all fly-tanks and satellites
Are orbiting round Lord Manager’s monitor eye.
For fifty-nine minutes every hour
Lord Manager demonstrates his power,
Broadcasts himself, surrounded by monitor screens,
His picture repeated a hundred times,
His voice-synth message: “Look, what man has achieved with machines:

from   4.

But then, slow .. slow ..
On that gusty April day …
Slow .. slow ..
On that gusty April day …
Suddenly came the grass …
Slow .. slow .. slow .. and then faster …

First as green fishes swirling the asphalt lake,
Writhing, and swathing, and turning, and breathing the black
Air crawling with dragons of grass clawed up the ash-slopes,
Fly-catching lizards of grass flickering over the ladders,
Lightning-tongued grass licking spattering petals of rust,
And spitting out seeds of dragonfly humming-bird
Mayflies of grass spinning over the squashed gasometers,
Flinging the chains, and tossing the sleepers
Aside in a thunder of galloping bison, as rye,
Warm-blooded herds of rye,
Trample over the green springing plains.
Days squeeze themselves into matchboxes
To escape from this kangaroo grass.
Terrible seeds bombarding the perspex,
Where the last men cling to their speech-modules.
Time is crushed into wafers.
Grass seed vaster than vultures,
Pampas splits skyscraper ceilings,
Peels concrete off like paper.
Years flutter past like oatflakes.
Men flash out of wombs like skeletons centuries dead.

from 7.

There were still, dotted over the world,
Small beautiful men and women,
Who lay down at peace, for oats to breed in their bones.
Men who’d tried teasing ashes for a couple of seedlings.
Girls who’d reared tiny lichens from mould on synthesized cheese.
Some there were at whose death I was present:
Wild girl of Brittany, birdsong stroking your hair,
Blown down swift’s wings in a swoop of twilight,
Blown down a kingfisher gleam to glow like reeds in a whirlpool.
You, my black friend, my neophyte impala,
Corn darting out of your eyes,
Happily washed into wind over ripening mealies.
And you, who once ran to catch at my breath and my hand,
Melt me the mirror, show me death’s kingdom,
Tear out my eye …
And leave me gasping for blood in the lake of gold,
I saw you blown by the moon through the beards of the barley.

Peace, peace at the end.

Only the ultimate island
Lay as it always was:
Sheep-cropped grass and dry-stone walls.
Unchanged by unchanging time.
The man and his wife lay dying.