"It's the dead of midnight, and Orion wheels round..."

by Iain James Robb


It's the dead of midnight, and Orion wheels round-

With passing road-streams as its parallax, cars

More distant from us, as the next one's windows

Blocks the view of riders free from traffic lanes; I

Am not your window. As you glide, or go to ground,

It's not through feigned modesty, at that desire

Or this I lose now: as your mouth goes round-

And slopes from what fills out my thoughts with fire.


If you see the stars come out my sweet, they shiver

For themselves; they were not ever blue with you:

But white are all the static worlds we leave behind,

When caught up in swaddlings, when we seek the river…

At the traffic-juncture we don't notice now,

As a fly knows nothing of a fall from beauty-

Nor knowledge, or of life, when there was none to know;

The ploughman it is only tills, then fears the plough.


No difference whether office block, or sight

Of broken lot, a lune-fall vow, before a steeple:

As the roofless lanes are all devoid of running people-

As the violet ranks of clouds which make their tideless flight

Our vows. This ever even is the town or city

That resurrects itself  in us a city's paragon…

In sleep, whose liquid lengths again, my pretty,

Take your face, with all the naiad-lights that die by dawn.


Though we cannot see these clearly, though a cloud is bright,

And dark in pastel latticings against our stars,

Above, and whip-scorned, riderless, in firefay flight,

The constellations hide. There are no gravid bars

Between them, just the sum of bare uncounted places

Nearer here, it seems to touch, than our dumb cores-

Between us, myriad drifts of pale, and fractured, faces…

Tuned by sightless light that sifts and sides all shores.


We might imagine separate lives, to beat the pabulum;

Your face I've fractured into rafts of silences

Brings back their glass of masks. I sense our traffic passers

Shift along like knives through night, below strange galaxies.

-Once I had made imagine a pale martyred stripling,

Nailed with bloodied garlands, to a willow tree,

That jerks to jellied zephyrs, could have held my features-

That are turned for due against you, as he shrieks, “Aiee.”


We smile thus a while and we consider laughter;

In their one-way wash of window-scapes the cars lose light.

A cloud-wrack hangs in ganging flocks of bled magenta-

And ignores her scarlet lattice in her floodlit flight.

And there are no wounds our fingers tend, memento mori

Is what I call you - just a smoothness lacking cracks…

Except the hiss-performing lips we close, behind the doorways-

That cancel out our kiss, and passing parallax.


And I once imagined faintly a pale martyred stripling,

Nailed along with bloodied garlands, to a willow tree,

That jerks again to zephyrs, could have held my features-

That are turned anew against you, as he shrieks, “Aiee.”

Speed well my dareway darling: though the speedwell enters

Death in den, by Fall, your eyes pass breath their highborn blue…

There is no other colour the high night remembers;

It also is outlasted but will fall from you.