Running and jumping from one grassy
platform to another I stop. On
the next patch of grass. Branches so
arranged as to focus a beam of light
on it. White and gleaming against
the green of the grass. The white
jumper. The white jumper. The white
We were sitting upstairs and in the whitest end-of-day light
the walls white too it felt not just like we were above
ground but that in spite of being in Covent
Garden we were on a ridge above a
forest looking down our feet in
thicket dark our heads
I hadn’t seen Hugo in years.
At primary school, we would stay up late and play
Sonic the Hedgehog, passing the controller back and forth
when one of us died. Run, jump, jump, run, jump, run, run.
One night, his grandma screamed at us in Urdu.
She wore a plain white nighty.
We stopped laughing, or we tried laughing quietly.
By the time we had completed a level,
we could run through each jump without looking.
On the way home
I ran past a Pret,
a Spaghetti House, a Five Guys, a Bella Italia.
The path lit by the lights of passing cars,
the pith of a discarded pizza.
Pret, Spaghetti House, Five Guys, Bella Italia.
Crossing the road a car honked,
its owner shouting through his closed window
Look where you’re going, cunt.
I was looking for the white jumper.
The Nazis admired Caspar David Friedrich for his blood and soil
In several paintings two friends contemplate the moon,
which seems to be exploding.
One shows the blast in its white
heat; another has the sky a darker blue; the moon dark too.
The moon is down. I have not heard the clock. A friend rests his
hand against another’s shoulder to console him.
I know that
blood stands for race and soil for nation but blood and soil makes me
think of bloodied soil. Do some people imagine themselves
in the same relation to their place of birth as a scab to a wound?
I asked if she was scared – my mum translating.
Of what? The coup. No, she was brave.
In Sumatra once, having paid our respects
at the tomb of her husband, we drove into the jungle.
Everywhere was green. We stopped by a store
and the driver left us to fetch water when
men came out from behind a truck. She gripped
the overhead handle. The white blades
of their machetes gleamed. Everywhere was green.
Bob recounts a dream:
I see a green meadow and a white coffin.
I am afraid that my mother is in it, but I open the lid
and luckily it is not my mother but me.
her hair grew
at the roots.
lay her in
coffin in a
the forty days
Lid and lip are little words. Little
things, too. The short i associated with
lightness and pith.
“The pith of my system,” said Coleridge,
“is to make the senses out of the mind
– not the mind of the senses.”
The mind’s white
rind, not the white
I want to call her closed lids
buds because shut
they look like petals
tucked away which
could at any moment
bud. At her wake
she asked for pearls
to be placed inside
and on her lids
to light her to the afterlife
and stop her eyes
from growing in this
In April, children chased each other round the garden.
I thought of
the white jumper
the black hood worn by hangmen
to hide the world and keep its wearer hidden,
to denote sin and keep it out.
Théophile Gautier dreamed of white swan-women
singing and swimming down the Rhine, each one
whiter than white down but one among them
clair de lune, pure, trailing boreal fumes,
breasts like bunched camellias – a blanched battle
of satin and Paros marble, communion host
and candle. Of what white was her whiteness
made? Pallor of alabaster. Duvet of dove.
Lactic drop and lily. Crystal ondine. Mother of God.
At the end of 2001, people gathered
outside the mosque. A mother pushing a pram
held a white placard in the other hand.
I watched her from my parents’ room,
the sky like drinking water through a straw.
Friedrich Nietzsche recounts a dream:
Once the distance between us was so small
you could have crossed over to me
Cross it, I said to you.
Cross over to me.
But you didn’t want to.
And when I asked again, you were silent.
Now mountains and rivers have come
between us, and at the mention
of the footbridge you cry.
The next morning in the breakfast queue,
the man taking room numbers asked why I was in town.
I said I was giving a poetry reading. That’s odd,
he replied, and moved on to a children’s writer.
At Leeds, a kid was hanging by the barriers.
The station manager stared at him. What’s he doing?
Being a little rascal, said Karmar. He started
to walk away before looping back, then jumped
the barrier and ran.
Run. Jump. Run. Run. Run.