Invincible summer |||

From an anthropologist’s diary

I write to you beneath a date 
that I have taken from – at last – another people 
now some time gone. 

This landscape is a waste, but once spawned cities. 
And I have proof beneath the sand: 
a chamberful of ghosts they left for us. 
I write to you, who will be interested. 

§

The building is impressive: underground 
the vault is sealed in lead and seems secure 
from earthquake and explosion; it looks set 
to stay long as there’s planet round it. 
There are even signs of a pyramid’s base; 
a ragged granite ‘X marks the spot’. 

On the archive’s door in seventeen scripts 
a message is graven deep in steel plate. 
We have translated it: No man shall open 
the Time Vault until — and then a date. 

We entered. No way to tell their years 
and days, nor how they reckoned them. 

§

It is almost childish, their intense belief 
in a future beyond their own; as if 
they had seen History, towering above them. 
Their History was a god that judged as they did, harshly. 
They make this suit to it. 

Presumptuous maybe, but there you are, 
books, films, and my days spent like a dumb father 
hearing tales out of school.

It is an irony that these reports 
will be forgotten, probably misfiled. 
We don’t like stories much 
and treat our own no more respectfully. 

Eleven years between the stars: 
we came here slowly, feeding richly on our time. 

§

…t hey knew the blessing of the sun 
but used it ill. Their words are full 
of terror at its brightness, how it might 
yet burn inside their cities … 

§

This day I write I have unlocked 
the secrets of their years. Prometheus 
was prophesied three thousand years 
before them. Their prophecy stood on the door, 
a thousand years ahead. 

I told you how we opened it last week. 
It had been sealed three years before. 

§

Their single moon is up tonight, throws shadows 
even in these shining dunes. I sit here 
writing, and look back upon my patient 
years spent sifting through the stars for life. 
Both fingers cramp against the pen. 

Now who will tell me what it’s like with four? 
I throw my arms above my head 
as if I could call down, take back 
from all the rambling skies the length 
of my circuitous journey. 

The fused and glassy sand 
throws back a twisted image of them 
broken by the knowledge of these last 
three years, too short, all gone.