A blackbird binds the fragments of dreams
with the twine of his song;
a scattered archipelago of reality
emerges from the night:
clang of dawn deliveries; rumble
of dustmen’s carts on cobblestones;
the dragging steps of the Golem
after a night’s watch over his precarious city.
A welcoming bathroom, this: blond wood and glass,
the white enamel washbasin fashionably raised
above the shiny white top. And it was talking to me.
The air was alive with hissing and burbling, with ticking
and clicks, snatches of songs; and borne on this stream,
now, and again now, half-caught, the ghosts of words.
Doubtless a rational explanation applied, involving valves,
matters of pressure, bubbles of air trapped in pipes –
but still: that room had a message for me. In the dark
it was whispering secrets; in the small hours its hisses
grew desperate, offering the answers to all my questions –
and I lay listening all night, too tired to understand –
hip-deep in muddy water
waits for the tourist boat
his bright eyes never leave me.
When the tide turns, Barang,
they tell me
I’ll slit your throat.
The boat belches diesel.
We pick up speed.
A fat man on horseback rides into the sunset.
Blue jeans, red shirt, black cowboy hat.
“That’s Dave,” says Rosie over the microphone.
“He’ll stop there on the bluff for you, four minutes.”
The shutters click. He stands immobile.
Four minutes, and he trots towards the tourist bus;
heaves his redshirted belly off the little horse.
His face is dark and still.
This is the famous dignity of the Navajo people.
Two dollars for a photo of yourself astride his horse.
There are no takers. He just stands.
Later, in Suzie’s hogan, we watch her weave a rug.
She’s ninety-five, says Rosie, and almost blind
behind huge spectacles. When time is up
we file past her, from south to north, to show respect
and stuff a dollar in a cigar box. I saw Dave earlier
in Goulding’s campground store: a fat man
buying candy bars, something to keep him going
while he hitches up the trailer, loads the horse, and
drives out to the bluff over his nation’s holy land
to ride for tourists until the sun goes down.