GOING TO SWITZERLAND – A Poem by Gareth Jones
Elegy to a Lost Lover
Online – where else – I saw you’d been to Switzerland.
Not skiing, sledging, skating, bar your usual thin ice.
No show in mind, no crew at heel, no pad in hand
Just storming up dirt tracks to silent lakes where secrets lie.
No camera at that forest gate, no swivelling eye
Could keep you out; no editor nor censor heard
That barrier crack, wheels churning mire, our headlamps high.
And you’ve been there in style, without me, with no word?
The mean hotel was aeons hence, it’s true, the heat that northern night,
The waterfall through half-closed curtains tumbling warm and damp.
The flight from Gatwick, gateway to the skies. Our fight.
The luggage trolley rolling brakeless down the darkening ramp.
All history. A love tryst, cynical, illicit.
‘Tell me you’re good for me’, you said, to canapés and drinks.
Oh, I was good, I was, though I could not solicit
Closed doors open, circumvent those gates or skate those rinks.
The crowded floor, the easy speaking autocue,
Fatigue, my need unheeded, predatory the glance you threw.
‘Go pick him up, your ideal lover!’ All I thought of you.
‘He was’, you told me idly, later, ‘your idea, you knew’.
That scoop was not your last mistake, nor were you mine.
Malpractice scourge, you prosecuted every venal doing,
Flayed injustice with an instinct true and fine
But cared not how you got there, bowed to no one, paused for nothing.
Orphan causes wetnurse, warrior insomniac
For miners, Ireland, Greenham, Women’s Rights and Health you heaped
Each on the other, till devil you dared to name laid claim, hit back.
A strange contagion. Born of air. Broadcast and broader reaped.
Invention was your gripe – all witness must be verified –
While I invented all I knew. You found me false, jejune,
At worst mendacious, rating things you vilified
And doubting violence, vice or versa, justified your tune.
My verse you would inter it, for you lived it, were it.
Metaphor was not your thing and there we parted ways
Authorially. You’d spell it out and I infer it.
I.P. killed us. Copyright. Once more infringed in retro-gaze.
Fallen headlong, blind, I witnessed nothing but your
Leather shoulder bag and knitted parti-coloured scarf
Flung round your lovely throat in hotel bedroom door.
I’m off now. New campaign. Another man. An awkward laugh.
We didn’t end well, as endings end. For I was lewd
With bitter youth and you on heat to drive the struggle on.
No angel was my Angle, flaxen-haired, with flair for Celtic feud.
A pendant to your neighbour, our bête noire, bronze gong, long gone.
Maybe you’d seen that water falling, known that ache.
Perhaps the passing time had brought to mind
The views we aired, the pillow shared, the loving, sweet and fake,
The yearning and the learning and the lying double bind.
But debts outlast their lending, love its ending. For your sake
If Switzerland your destination, surely it was mine
To take you up that untarred track to frozen lake,
To read your map and grip your brake. Again, as then, I whine:
Turn back! The dusk brings watchmen past that shattered gate!
But if you had insisted, I’d have let those headlamps shine.
For seconds of your off-screen time I’d navigate,
To have you, once, for me, off-bounds, off-duty and off-line.
You never were. Nor bounds, nor duty, nor fine line.
And once you knew the show was up, you ran the ensign down
With dignity’s surrender, upper-lipped resign,
You found that lake, alone, you dived, eyes wide to watch you drown.
I don’t know what the Swiss for funerals is. I do know
That your ashes melted frozen mass in one combustion
Throwing soul through glowing firmament in constellation
With the gods. A star. As victim or hero.
If any libertarian earns the term of martyr
You’ll be she. Forever challenging convention
Trespassing taboos and cliques, outsmarter
Of authorities, demolisher of inhibition.
I saw no online obits – your outflanking, cheating‘em.
For honours stick to merchants selling cheap. You never sold.
You were the best and worst of us, now lost as deep as Dozinghem
A promise unfulfilled, forgotten, history untold.
We need you now. The northern skies are darkening
And barriers are down you could not know or even dream.
Who could have known the way the path was narrowing?
No lake, no secrets, only forest. Dark on dark. Drive on. Full beam.
21st October 2014