Paradise is various and has no ghosts;
in it there is nothing to remember.
Only children can live there, unknowing,
part-time, between ordinary terrors.
Perhaps it is one great garden, rampant
with green, with fruit that force themselves
through blossom that’s still on the branch.
There must be water – a stream, a beck, a river.
It could be a street, the tap of a raindrop
releasing the spirit of warm paving stone,
the angle of shadow across bright red brick,
the smell of a warm car parked in a market place.
Fruit and flower still force themselves in,
through cracks in brick and kerbstone,
in guttering and old ledges, high up.
The animals, too, they walk, fly and crawl
as if they had never been away, flies
in the kitchen, black clouds of starlings
that turn between buildings, cat in the hedge,
woodlouse and spider in corners overlooked.
All built flimsy on earth, its deep miles
of rock and lava, its delicate blue membrane of air
all of a piece as we hurtle as debris away
from the lost beginning of the universe.
To be there would be to remember nothing,
to walk in the weaponless fields
before the clock had started. Now it’s only
sensed – in the movement of limbs into water,
in the whirr of a sparrow’s wings, perhaps,
or a sudden scent of dogrose, or something that
slowly develops, like the face of a friend
to a patient doused in amnesia, after a crash.
For someone it’s happening now, for the first time;
like that boy and his dog who tumble and run
down a sloping field of wheat, leaving dark trails
the wind cannot smooth away as evening come on
and motorway drivers flick on their lights,
eager for static destinations –
all of them moving through the in-between hours
when the glancing traveller catches
figures on forecourts like golden statues.
And when the boy who has cake for the asking
becomes the man who must struggle for his bread
he’ll think he lived in Eden once or twice
in a time when he could roam between stream and street
and everything lay before him like a sloping field of wheat.
Michael Blackburn. Published in The Ascending Boy, Flambard Press, 1999.