The path beside the dead coral leads to empty places
where the mind is dilated
and I can forget the little man
I fear I have become,
working in the factory town
grinding shiny seconds and minutes
from great slabs of time
broken from the rock face of Eternity.
In the quiet zone of the empty places
beyond the city's boundaries
I can listen again to birdsong
smell exotic flowers growing
and listen to the breathing of sheep.
In the tubercular cough of old cows at twilight
I hear the disgruntled groans of the navigators
who once built these canals
and the sailors on their brightly coloured barges
bringing gems from the fire-mines,
down the winding, mist-wreathed vallies of evening
towards the distant Sea.
Once I thought I glimpsed a sunken barge beneath the moonlight
and a pale white thing moving behind its weed-choked windows
but then the smog from the distant industrial complex
obscured the Moon and when it finally emerged again
the sunken barge had vanished and I retraced my footsteps
slowly and thoughtfully back towards the fiery eye
of the chimney and kilns, the faint sounds of men
chip, chip, chipping out dinosaurs from the petrified
background radiation of previous universes
growing louder in my ears until I found my own small house
halfway down the winding and smoke-blackened twittens
of the little hamlet of Worthless Dream.
One day, when I have amassed enough broken minutes
to buy my sister Francis a half-day's holiday
from her constant toil in the House of Clamorous Looms and Shuttles
I will leave that damp little house forever,
its door left open, its pitiful fire finally gone out
and I will follow the old and half-silted canal
towards the distant Sea, where, rumour has it,
live coral still grows and seagulls scream in ecstasy.
Other men have made the journey before me
and word has occasionally come back
that if one journeys for seventeen months
one eventually comes to a country where the fields and hills
are free of factories and workshops,
where farmers grow a great variety of vegetables
and harvest fruit from the trees!
Of course it may all be fanciful imaginings and the worse of lies
but I have determined to make the journey.
without hope of something better
a man is little more than a minor cog in a great machine
in which we strive each day from dawn to dusk,
splinters of shattered time corroding the lining of our lungs,
entering our bloodstreams to work themselves slowly down our arteries
to choke our hearts with terrible visions of timelessness and the Infinite.
What do they want with so much time, the factory owners and Masters,
that men must toil their lives away,
chipping fragile seconds, minutes, hours and sometimes even entire days
from the great underground Strata of Petrified Consciousness?
None of us know though all of us have wondered about it
at some point in our lives.
Perhaps even the Masters have Masters for whom they are merely the agents
just as we are dispensable adjuncts of the Corporate and Corporeal Body.
But I have had enough of this back-breaking and soul devouring labour.
Once my Francis has been afforded a glimpse of the dying but still beautiful Sun
nothing will hold me back.
If I start out as soon as my second shift is finished
I can cover twenty miles before the group overseer misses me.
It will not be worth their while to send men out to recover me;
there are many more apprentices waiting to take my place.
Perhaps Francis will think of me occasionally
but she is to be wed soon and will have
a new generation of workers to attend to.
Perhaps in years to come one of her regulation twelve sons
will follow in my footsteps beside the deserted canal
with its corroded coral and murmuring ghosts
and perhaps, who knows, he too might glimpse
the sunken barge beneath the weed-choked waters
and in his heart the same dream that I finally followed will arise.
One day, perhaps, we might even greet each other in that distant land
even poets do not dream of - for, of course, there have been
no poets in this land for a thousand years or more -
but if one did arise he might call that far shore Avalon