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I Remember


1


I slipped my kiss into your naked mouth. My hands tightened on your buttocks. I could not deny.

2


At first, the birds had white feathers. I remember. I remember how excited you were when we first went snorkelling. Real fish! Hanauma Bay was the best; the fish were so tame you could reach out and touch them. I remember other places, other times. I remember Atele Beach and the island of Tongatapu; I remember the reef outside the hotel at Fiji; I remember the ghost crabs on the beaches of the Gilbert Islands. I remember the birds. The birds had white feathers, and they flew between the blue sea and the blue sky.

3


I remember he said it was not in the public interest to release the report. A tragic blow, but his conscience was clear. They checked the viability of the scheme. Of course the Government was not involved. The public and the press were barred from today's meeting. Any questions would be answered in due course. The installation had no military significance whatsoever. The first shot was reactive. The bullet tasted his kidneys but decided it preferred his liver. I remember that the Government had a clear conscience and that nobody was to blame.

4


In France, south of Chartres, the land was flat. Roads stretched away into the distance. We stood by the roadside trying to hitch a lift. Vehicles travelled through the flat farmland. Many of the vehicles were military vehicles travelling in convoy; there were so many military convoys travelling along the road that I thought maybe something had happened. We had no radio, and we had no way to know what was happening.

5


At first, the birds had white feathers. They flew between the blue sea and the blue sky. I slipped my kiss into your mouth. I could not deny.

6


Nietzsche said that man can be superman. He meant no harm by it.

7


In London, I used to get on the Victoria Line at Finsbury Park and get off at Euston Station. You could hear the trains from far, far away, steel thundering against steel with a roar that, at times, if you were in the mood, could seem quite magnificent. The first thing to be seen was the lights approaching through the darkness. Then: impact! Thousands upon thousands of tons of steel sliding past, sliding, sliding, faces, blurred faces, screaming brakes, faces coming into focus, faces, hiss as the doors opened, blank British faces with no eyes staring at nothing and nobody. It was a way of life. You got used to it, in the end. And the good times were good, whatever anyone says.

8


I remember London. I remember you. I remember your body, and the touch of your naked lips. I remember that at first, the birds had white feathers. At first, the people had faces. At first, the garage had a sign which said this station holds less than fifty dollars. Your arms went a little red, but, thanks to the suntan lotion, you didn't burn. I still have a list of the Arabic words we tried to learn in Morocco. Policemen with moustaches and with pistols in holsters. Nous cherchons un hotel, monsieur. Could his father-in-law help anyway for the sake of his own daughter. At the moment I cannot think of how to help him and he has been so good to me.

9


In France, south of Chartres, there were military vehicles travelling in convoy. So many convoys. Maybe something was happening. We had no radio, and we had no way to know.

10


I remember that in Paris, the trains of the Metro were much quieter than the trains of the London Underground. The trains ran on wheels of solid rubber, and were much quieter. Do you remember Paris? Do you remember the Pompidou Centre? All through the day, in the big square outside the building, there were actors, students of mime, puppet masters, magicians, fire-eaters, African drum groups, people playing the guitar, and people who sold plastic birds which flew through the air with loud flapping wings. Sometimes there was the cowboy who ate razor blades. And cigarettes! Yes, I remember Paris.

11


I remember Paris, and I remember the birds. I remember so many things in such perfect detail. The memories are structured with precision, like the workings of a watch. In my memories, vehicles move along the roads; in my memories, planes take off and land at the airports; in my memories, there are tens of thousands of people in the streets of the great cities. I remember you liked reading about Bloomsbury, and you always took one spoonful of sugar in your coffee.

12


At first, the birds had white feathers. They flew between the blue sea and the blue sky. An elegant machine counted away the minutes. I remember Paris, I remember London. I remember other places, other times. There was no military significance. I slipped my kiss into your naked mouth, and I remember -

13


Impact! Thousands of tons of steel sliding past, sliding, sliding, sliding. The sun -

14


The sun becomes the sun.

15


At first, the birds had white feathers, and they flew between the blue of the blue sea and the blue of the blue sky. Then the sun became the sun. Heat became heat. Light became light. Their feathers began to burn. The birds were on fire. They turned to cinders as they fell. Steam rose from the surface of the lagoon.

16


I remember she liked reading about Bloomsbury, and she always took one spoonful of sugar in her coffee.



Publication details: "I Remember" was published in "Craccum", the newspaper of the Auckland University Students Association, in Auckland, New Zealand, back in the 1980s - let's say, provisionally, in 1986. Hugh says: "I have the original newsprint somewhere, but where I have no idea. Should it come to light, I will post the precise publication details here." Copyright © 1986, 2002 Hugh Cook. All rights reserved. Note that this is a Cold War poem. The birds really did burn. And, burning, fell ....


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