A Fire Broke Out In The West

A fire broke out in the west.
It spread to the other floors and then from building to building,
a calm, smokeless heat.
The streetlights were switched off, block by block by palace by mosque,
and the fire spread across squares, without thirst, all those windows that faced the orient,
an orient that had somehow slipped further away into itself in the night, into the east.
The sun came up.
Only the very tips of the corners of the mens’ shouty newspapers were animated by the breeze,
and now I watched the headlines,
as the male features, combed hair, brow and tired eyes,
disappeared into silhouette as the new day sent light spinning through glasses at lips
and sugared tea promised safe passage.

Still the gulls had not said a word.
Our movement pulled the new sun through lines and obstacles,
light interrupted by cranes and containers, over a dormant cargo ship.
Rhythm was easy.
The long line of wavebreaker held a queue of black life, unfurling itself, pulling apart feathers,
one by one
as the first rays caught them
opening their wings wide in reverent bow to the light.
Amid their thousand a heron, a loner,
I made him observant, I made him disinterested
I even made him him
and now he looked out to sea while the cormorants were still unfolding themselves
and watched our boat chug past with those keen, beady eyes,
that seeming smile,

A low call to sea an alarm clock,
one captain to another,
as the engine was muted to let the oil tanker through
and we span slowly in the current, drifting towards antiquity on its peninsular.
Oh but not for long.
Now the business of things revealed itself.
The oranges and greys gave way to yellows and blues and then to whites
as fevered activity sprung out of that first solemn breath and made all colour giddy.
We were off!
Jumping before the loud scrape of the gangways had even allowed it,
to trams, to taxis, to buses, to dolmu
To commerce.

But then I realised
I was still on the boat.
This wasn’t my city. I was just playing.
All that animation slipped away, became a shoreline, then a skyline, and then a memory.

We pulled back through the waters, heaving, diesel,
as beneath us the northern rivers slipped simply into the heavier fingers of the southern salt.