Saturday, 14 December 2013

Report on Arrival by Robin Skelton

Report on Arrival


They ask me where I was born.
I have no history
but the length of my bones,
and my religion
is the tablet of stone in climbing grass.

They ask me how much I am worth.
In pounds or dollars?
I scrawl dollars upon the sky.

And will I settle here?
Will I ever go back?

The rubber stamp
rolls like a whale on the pad,
and silence waits like a heron.

I can’t go back.

That is why I am here,
why I am breathing.


At thirty-seven I make a new start with the sea
and the peeling arbutus by middens of clamshells humped
up near the Reservation. Officers hope
I’m in work,
                 have a place to live,
                                               won’t let Faith down
by raging through roads that are underseas to green
rag-hanging chestnuts and oaks with a bottle or woman
or setting a mountain ablaze.
                                           I will fire a mountain
someday up-country where bears have the masks of people
and whales tunnel down through the seas, and I will call
         (They said “Call us back”),
                                                spinning black charred fingers
round the numbering disk
                                     “Yes, I have settled
          pretty well fixed,
                                   yeah, doing fine,
protecting the fire from the green,
the blaze from the cold”.


Would you say I was
Tell me
soberly under these trees that drag flat fingers
down on the English roses,
                                        Would you answer
I was a dangerous man?
                                    I don’t lie down,
        without recalling
                                 a woman’s mouth,
a woman’s hands, a woman’s breasts, a woman
mocking the folded roses,
                                       Would you say
now in your letter that I should be given papers,
rights, and freedoms?
                                 Could you ever say
anything safe of this
                                                 grey quail
in wool skirts
                    walk in line
                                     down the sidewalk,
                                     on God Street?


You would rather see photographs?
                    I have photographs
         (taken against the light)
                    of my wife and children
And of a big brown house upon McLaren
        where you think
                    (quite reasonably),
                              that I live,
Having written me there, and
                    getting this answer
        on the right paper,
                                   headed with the right name.
The evidence all points that way.
   There is even a mortgage
      And an insurance policy
                                         which is signed
                    (yes, I admit it)
                             with my name.
                                                   And you
Want photographs of the trees?
                           of the porch?
                           of a sitting
Family smiling?
                        Would rather have that than this
attempt at a genuine map
                                      of an entirely
                different country
                           we are all alone?

Robin Skelton, The Hunting Dark (London: André Deutsch, 1971), 9-11.