Alistair Noon: Guerillistan

Far from the regions in ruins,

the retreats and fire-fights,

the sentries under bare lights

draped by urgent spiders,

the rails run on to the horizon.

My breath stays shallow,

my tendons don’t tighten

when a low-floored, noise-reduced tram

gleams round a corner on time.

The nocturnal documentaries

repeat their routes, like flies,

but the reports are defused mines:

I never dream of a truck in flames.

Bassan, the cirrus looks

like a ceiling for an airbus,

for its midrib and veins.

The cumuli march, the backs

of their heads in shadow,

a bright light on their faces.

Did you fly to Amman,

to bump eastwards by coach?

Is your wife extracting wisdom teeth?

Have they published your research

into water at high altitudes?

The door is slow as it slides

to the outside. What comments

do you have on the weather events,

the peanut butter sandwiches

snowing onto peasants?

Mohammed, the glass is thick

that makes a city into sky.

For ten months, you laughed

from the upper circle

at the faces of the Lost

in the delta of arrivals.

Outside, the upward throttle

of leaves. You played chess

in a transnational mall, cadged

phrases from the language

beyond passport control.

Can you see the Armed Men?

Where’s your sleeping bag unrolled?

Are you listening in Freetown

to night gunfire again?

I was thinking of Thebes.

No place to debate with friends

what justice might mean

then pass your wives and workers

as you climb to the vote,

nor order with informants

and a deficit of consumer goods,

but where travellers die for their name,

and frenzy dismembers the young.

The Chinooks flock across it.

An evolutionary advantage not to pause

on plane surfaces, but rest in corners,

of the Atlas of World History, say.

Once, the wings of a wasp

struck up billows of dust

on my wardrobe-top,

a helicopter landing on the Kush.

Wherever I moved, it found

no windows I opened.

This is my stop.

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