I cut it fine, ten minutes house to ferry
someone’s car reverses, I swerve in,
slam the door and sprint.
On the ferry, surprised to see you
most convivial of local friends,
you’ve seen my run, my breathless moment,
yours is the quiet watch of everything. I am tempted
to breach protocol and hug you.
We ensconce in talk of books,
the loveliness of Caspar David Friedrich’s
clouds at the NGA*, Absent Knowledge,
the French café in the Rocks,
one instant I look at a man behind us,
who’s reading what’s left of a book –
covers gone, edges rotten, spine guttered,
pages yellow-browned and thick with damp.
Like a razor, he slivers in,
nearly beautiful in his homeless apparition;
matted hair, scent of mould, mordant gaze
fixed on a rotting page
too real a ghost to be imagined
a man intent and barely visible,
behind us who own homes rich in books
and in ourselves a surfeit with text.
You say later, this is a poem?
I say yes.
You cut it fine, the ferry pulls in,
the water laps. Your friends sits,
starboard, reading something rotten.
*NGA National Gallery of Australia