International Bridge-Playing Woman

  1. where must you wander? Macao, the Moluccas, a spa
  2. near Minsk, as far as Montevideo? Do the hands
  3. you lost haunt you? In aerodromes
  4. and embassies the cards were shuffled, dealt,
  5. assessed, while catch-phrases whirred and chimed. Under a comic
  6. pith-helmet his supreme Loneliness, the ace
  7. of trumps, divided the continents and time-zones, braved
  8. assegai and fever, emerged trembling from the interior
  9. like pure prestige. The picture cards
  10. leered roguishly as the Emperor’s Band slid
  11. into ‘There’s a long long trail a-winding, into
  12. the land of my dreams’... One
  13. fled what one was, and the house where the towels had always
  14. to be hung straight on the towel racks: - Since you must tear,
  15. the quivering poplars whispered, yourself
  16. bodily from your roots, let your thoughts
  17. aerate and take wing; step
  18. around the griffins, across the gravel, through
  19. the dense, familiar shade cast by church
  20. and church-tower. May you
  21. engage and defeat fear, strike even as home swells, blurs, or collapses
  22. into a trick of air. While we
  23. rustle and flex in the breeze, you will be floating
  24. above squalor and sprawl, as remote and elusive
  25. as a cloud. In the small hours,
  26. in the lull before monsoon or typhoon
  27. or insurrection or revolution, as the chambers of the heart
  28. dilate, breathe in the night and let it stain
  29. your blood, and obscure the lines
  30. between black and red, chance and fate, abroad
  31. and England. Either you belong
  32. with those who belong, or you believe the stories
  33. the cards tell, whether pieced together in windy
  34. Mandalay, or in a small hotel tout près de la place Pigalle.