after the Titanic Artefact Exhibition
Patiently, ticket by ticket, a soft-stepped crowd
advances into the mimic ship’s hull half-
sailed out of the foyer wall, as if advancing into
somebody else’s dream –
the interior, windowless, where perspex cases bear,
each to its single light, small relics –
a tortoiseshell comb, an ivory hand mirror,
a necklace pricked with pin’s head costume pearls.
They might be mine – at least, things loosed
from a dream I had, off and on, for years.
They have suffered nothing, these things raised
from a place less like place than like memory itself –
Where the sea is
worked back upon itself in soundless storm,
a staircase climbs.
Its scroll of iron foliage grows in subtler garlands now –
it is the sea’s small
machinery of hunger, feeding on iron, makes these
crookedly intricate festoons,
as if it were the future of remorse overtaking – Piece
by piece the staircase returns
to the conditions of dream.
In the next room, they have custom-built a staircase.
A replica, reinvented from a photograph,
it leads nowhere – or it leads to the house of images
where nothing is lost. A clock without a mechanism
adorns its first floor landing, hands stopped at that minute
history pours through. We forgive things
only because we own them – This is a staircase
not for climbing, its first step strung with a soft-weave rope.
It is raining as I leave –
long rain breaking itself onto the footpath,
breaking easily into the surface of itself
like a dream without emblems, an in-drawn shine.
Overhead, clouds build and ruin imaginary cities,
slow-mo historical epics with the sound down,
playing to no one.