(after reading C by Tom McCarthy)
I will write you a novel in which you
get the boy, you get to fix your hand
over his heart and draw him in, have him
slide his chest, his thigh against you
for the few spiral seconds the tram takes
to turn before it follows the promenade,
the leather straps unburdened by bodies
slap the ceiling, the sun winks from the water,
refracts at a point above his left ear and he
swings away on one arm, clutching his strap,
away and down, laughing and you, guessing
sunspots, guessing shadows, follow.
You get the thin stickiness of ices at dusk,
the Grand Hotel, sea, tobacco and gin.
The sunset's florid, you loosen your tie
and straighten his collar, murmur in Arabic,
in Greek. The gin and sugar on his
breath is sudden, masculine, mad.
He doesn't count his words, not this boy.
I'll write you every impossibility.
They sacked the library here, in Alexandria
and even now particles arise, words
disturbed at your feet, speckling your shoulders.
Let me blot them with my fingers, lift them
free. Smudge them into the linen. You sigh,
patient, serrated. Tilt your hat to shade
your eyes, turn a foot and then an elbow
to the side and pull, yearning away
to your knotted streets, your puzzle-box,
your flight. Step breathless into a shop,
any, the door settling behind you but never
shut, the pages following you the way turning
on starched sheets and feather pillows sounds
like a storm to you, in miniature.
His delicate snores, unbroken. You know
the other boy in the other book didn't
hear quite like you, either.
It will come to this, freezing, watching,
poised to defend every inconsequence.
I know everything about you, your botched
transmissions, your half-remembereds,
your private substitutions. Don't shiver,
it's all for you. Let me begin.
Take your glass, knock back what's left
and the boy, the blasted boy, grins.