Moscow was different.
You went mute in Moscow: the city
spewed silence, a colourless
cavalry marching through
the air, invading throat and lung,
blitzing words before
they could flee past frontiers.
Later I learnt how General No – both
arm and anthem – had waterboarded every plea,
proof and argument you placed; would
transmute from verb to noun to idiom;
and materialize at airports, hotels,
banks and breakfast.
Two meridians away, I waited:
would have faced four days of pitch
quiet, utter disquiet rising
with Pethedine in frayed veins
somewhere in Le Chesnay – if
your fingers hadn’t defected, sipped
syllables from a GSM, thrilled
to the taste of this draught, broken
bounds and tapped in turn.
Thence thought shuffled through,
numb at first, then in an outbreak
of soundless words. Tossed
via satellite, garbled by stray
bolts, retrieved – with arrogant ease –
through a mobile network, they sailed
into my head without knocking.
eager to dialogue and duel,
they filed onto shelves, counterpanes, brackets,
poised on pelmets, and danced:
dervished in fire and grace through dawn,
noon and dusk till we all heard
you had boarded hope
further east, then they floated
down like spent petals.
I picked them up and wrapped them
in pages of Plath, Eliot, Alvi
(left two within a Murakami),
packed my bags and caught
the next flight to Beijing.
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