Kate Ling


Once again I’ve left my daughter half-dressed
on the understanding at certain times certain things will happen.
All systems have integrity, for example, banks of cloud
and this unseasonable warmth.

Did you wake us early? my daughter said. It was dark in her room
and the lights were blown on the landing.
I’ve been up for hours.

In the early hours my son and his girlfriend
put on their shoes and coats and left for Berlin.
I watched from the door and then from the bedroom window.

Awake since dawn and still I set off late.
But if I hadn’t been late I would’ve missed the sky
which is not the blue of cloth in religious paintings
but the blue of sky itself.

Now I’m late, the bounds of time mean less.
I stop at the pond to write I know why Bas Jan Ader
looked for the miraculous in failure; why art is the immersion
of one in the other.

A memory of his photograph of clothes strewn on a roof
makes everything on the heath stand out. I see the swans
and the different whitenesses of their necks

and in the westward line of traffic on Shooters Hill
two trucks are moving slowly, bearing our family name.

Like a black bird in the corner of my eye, the dream is back.
I watched from the bedroom window a river flood our street, heads
bobbing in the water.

That could be my son and his girlfriend, I thought and I knew
it was, but they weren’t being swept and neither were they swimming.
They strode through the torrent, up to their necks and laughing.

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