• Paul Mills


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