The weather in Geneva

 

1816    summer    they’re out on the lake

it’s cold    colder than England    a cold wind   

 

just one sail and a rudder fighting the blast

no forecast    sky a coal-black seam       

water becoming wilderness as it thrashes

 

here with her husband and friends  

she can’t speak         

spray spits in her face    they curse God        

 

she sees slabs of exposed mountain   

outcrop where a single bolt

causes rock to shout    I am alive

 

they don’t know about an eruption   

in another place    in a dark hemisphere   

enough smoke and ash to cover Europe

 

afterwards    indoors in a country of rain

they will build a fire and each tell a story

 

Byron will write ‘The Darkness’  and Mary   

will begin hers with an evocation of ice

 

naked newborn Man among the crags   

lacking name    memory   tribe    justice

who craves     in a cold century   

 

as she writes she prays he’ll never be

 

 

 

 

Message to an off-world

 

after an epoch of sleep    the alert shock

saying to yourself afresh    I am I

 

think of earth the first time walking through grass

fine hairs on your arms prickled by scents

 

breathe    remember         

not my voice but an older transmission

 

how it leaked    a form of moisture

into the growing brain    

 

that first shaping you as you are

 

 

 

let it show you by the flickering it holds

as you remember    how calcite

 

moved like the moving flanks of giant cattle

stone becoming fluid in ochre     charcoal   

saliva    drawing lion-faces in a frieze

 

here in your new Late Pleistocene

smell the limestone damp of underfoot mud

 

feel your breath flickering on rock

record    without such beauty no survival