Evacuation
Tapes

Under threat
for Janet

I do not remember the purpose
Of your call, only you telling me
So lightly, almost gaily
The last stroke of luck
Could fall any time.
Whether good luck or bad —
Depending on how it strikes you —
Will make no difference,
All interpretations, options
Schedules being withdrawn
On the last page, except acceptance.

There was, in the changing
Timbre of your voice, a curious
Excitement, an excited curiosity
As though you had already joined
The queue before the exit sign,
Poised to look back one last time
With raised hand, a traveller’s
Flashing smile, before shuffling
Through the last gate
Eager to learn a new geography
Dwell in a different dimension.

Does it matter any more
How or what words
Are coupled on a page
Now that the warning has come?
Not that it tells us anything new.
We are born to know,
Can never forget or ignore,
All stories have the same ending
Programmed unalterable
Undeniable, inevitable
And nothing we ever say or do
Think or feel, will make it otherwise.

Last year you sent me a photo
Of your blossom tree in bloom.
This, you wrote on the back,
Is a poem.
May your next spring be
A revelation like the first,
As poignant as the last.
As for me —
Swamped by this wave of panic —
I must learn to swim
A stronger stroke.
Better still,
Learn to walk on water,
Or stay here, clinging
To my upturned boat,
Whimpering and muttering to myself.