‘The miracle of loving what dies’ – Albert Camus

The miracle of a girl who – at school
in summer in the twenties,
dawdling with her friends in a brine cavern,
among the carved passages under the fields –
after getting back late one afternoon,
was ordered to talk to the class about rock-salt,
and did so, amazing herself and them –
the miracle ablaze in her as she spoke,
as she speaks now about her grand-daughter,
who inherits the shape of her eyes,
for whom the world is also ablaze, lit
with the miracle of friends and her friends`
friends, who know nothing at all about rock-salt.

Miracle of the sea,
brine-white sand. Miracle
of summer, the roasting sun.
Miracle of the smells of the bodies of friends,
Albert and Didier and Marconi in Algiers,
born the same year as my mother who never knew them,
moving among the shining leaves of ficus,
the warm wool and faecal smell
Didier carried around with him,

while the same summer, the same moment,
for her it was the taste of salt,
it was the scent of heat,
sweet drinks, liquorice,
river-mud under the schoolroom window.

The delicious sea outside the schoolroom door
of Albert and Didier, children in class
in different countries, clothes,
an odour of joy, sometimes of rage,
beauty, and its second face, distress,

dissolving, like crystals in brine, to memory,
and launched on the river outside my mother`s classroom
were ships that reached Algiers smelling of mud,
just as those from Norway smelt of wood,
just as those from Germany smelt of oil,
As more intense the sun heated the city,
Grinding plaster and stone to a fine dust.

To those now dying who were children,
children in school, children in the sun,
who never met because of the tenuous drift
of a world still local in its extremity,
I say it was a miracle you lived,
That you lived on and beyond that summer
Into a world luminous as those fields,
Rivers, streets like overheated
Corridors, leaves of ficus,
Smell of the bodies of friends,

That you lived on with friends,
Lovers, children,
Remembering eyes of the same
dissolving colour, the miracle
of chance and strange silk,
miracle of brine,
miracle of death.

And of a girl
now an old woman,
with difficulty undressing herself
for the process. The difficulty

Of the no-less adjacent
but real and surprised wonder
of life going,

of trying to recall,
in delayed passages of speech

as if for her unpresent friends
instances, facts, this, that,

dissolving, luminous
words, miracles,
bits and pieces, rock-salt.

from Dinosaur Point