Invincible summer |||

Against the fragile human land

In my dreams I’m still driving… Meantime, police in London report finding a car bomb outside a Park Lane night club, lucky things. MPs in the still-used-for-parties House of Commons (not to be confused with the Ministry of Sound) who have been wondering nervously if they’d been soft on civil liberty in recent years, will sleep more soundly now. No more worrying about whether all that money so sternly spent on security had not been better spent on, oh — road safety, for instance? The NICE committee, that has to assess risks, outcomes a-and actual evidence and then anguish over what treatments the NHS will provide — would any of this antiterrorism funding circus survive its scrutiny?

Of course, it’s mischievous of me to even hint that there is anything less to the car-bomb story than meets the eye. Undermining our already vanishing faith in public institutions. But no, I’m confusing cause and effect again, silly me. Wasn’t that done by the Bliar at N°10, never brought to book for it? No wonder featherheads such as I find it hard to rely on official announcements.

In times of stress, fall back on the classics. Cui bono?

Cut to Zbigniew Herbert.

To Marcus Aurelius

for Professor Henryk Elzenberg

Good night Marcus put out the light
and shut the book For overhead
is raised a gold alarm of stars
heaven is talking some foreign tongue
this the barbarian cry of fear
your Latin cannot understand
Terror continuous dark terror
against the fragile human land

begins to beat It’s winning Hear
its roar The unrelenting stream
of elements will drown your prose
until the world’s four walls go down
As for us? — to tremble in the air
blow in the ashes stir the ether
gnaw our fingers seek vain words
drag off the fallen shades behind us

Well Marcus better hang up your peace
give me your hand across the dark
Let it tremble when the blind world beats
on senses five like a failing lyre
Traitors — universe and astronomy
reckoning of stars wisdom of grass
and your greatness too immense
and Marcus my defenceless tears

Selected Poems, Penguin Modern European Poets, 1968

Meanwhile, my mother invites us to flee London for the safety of Birmingham. Things must be bad. Ask your mum.

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