pumice: ninth rendering

The question that dogged
The footsteps of the early humans
When they were first upright
Must have been:

Is it possible to make soap
From the body
While it’s still alive?

The second would have been:
How many bodies
Would we have to have
To make enough?

And the third: In what way
Would they need to be alive?

These thoughts, the mere products
Of claustrophobia, isolation
And inertia, arise from the practical
Consideration that

You can’t make an escape route
That leads into the ground,
Albeit that it’s become impossible
To build above it,

The races flow together
The mingled waters rise
And cover the earth
Now at 6.6 billion
Soon at 7

In what way do they need to be alive
For this to happen?

Like the slave owner
Who thought negritude,
That blackness could be bred out

We’ve thought purity,
That love and light
Could be bred in
And installed
Under conditions of hygiene,

Black and white, Arab and Jew,
Asian, Caucasian, African,
The colonists, the colonised,
And the occupation,

Applauding individual efforts
In this direction,

We’ve knowingly endorsed
A worldwide programme of eugenics
Opted for the sexual selection
Of the daytime soaps.

Until today, when getting into bed
With the enemy seems a dubious
Prospect, replete with new dangers

Risks, which could not have been
Foreseen only fifty years ago:

The bent wire of a universal human
Nature now looks like the instrument
Of an abortionist

And the skin forming inside it
Is no longer the minimal surface
Of our similitude but the maximal
Surface of the differences between us

But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?
Confined inside the message that
I’m being watched for signs of love

For showing sexual interest
Or having simply
One unclean thought,
By countless eyes,

I’m a mole
And it’s a dirty job.

When I found her,
Halfway in her preparations
To join the teeming things

That scuttle above our heads
For which we don’t have names,
I saw an angel crouching over her.

I could at that stage
Have grabbed her ankles
And pulled her out
From under it

But I didn’t want to divert
Its attention away from her
As usual, onto me.

As if she was
Receiving something
From the angel
Her mouth opened

An order, a mouse,
An official slogan,
Whatever it is angels have
They can’t digest,

A lump of fat, I no longer
Know what it was

She didn’t look at me,
Let alone turn to me for help,
It was as if she stared
Into her own mouth

At her tongue, her teeth,
At the wet and redness
Of her gums,

It wasn’t a violent act
And afterwards I kissed her face
And for many days after that
She just hung there, halfway in.

I wondered, as I’d once been told,
If I wasn’t myself an angel
And not a mole
At all.

I should never have lugged her
Down here, if my father had been
Conscious, he’d have put a stop
To it.

My mother never met her,
Never knew
Of the efforts I made
To live.

And I regret that I’m the only one
She ever had. (My mother,
You fool!)

But what if there are others inside her
Just inside, waiting to replace me?
(Inside my mother!)

Why shouldn’t there be?
Even when she’s dead,
They’ll keep a record.

But what if they’re there now?
Slightly off-stage, in the hallway
Of her inner-city flat?

I’m sure they would
Imagine themselves
Exactly as I am,
Day in, day out

The only exception being
That they have a way out

A door, which will
When the time is right
Be held open for them
And will shut behind them

But then, they don’t!
And so comes a closer resemblance.

The entry they expect
Is a doorway on a painting
Which hands seize violently
And thrust aside

To see what’s underneath
Because it’s actually a curtain

Then there’s no way out
At all.

But they still come
These wriggling worms with feet,
For whom there are no names

I hear their manoeuvres above me
Already, the tramp of their small shoes

Making tiny holes in my solitude
Which is all I really possess

I wonder if they know
If it’s possible,
How much,
And in what way?

Whereas pumice is formed
In a single spurt from a wound
Deep in the earth,

Soap is solid and continuous
And has no grain.