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The coach pulled
into the parking place
of some roadside restaurant
outside Paris

we decended the coach
and went inside

Miriam and I sat
at a table together
and ordered

other members
of travelling group
sat about
and the driver/guide
sat at a table alone

What do think
of it so far?
she said

I liked Paris
I said

I missed that
she said
I fell asleep
on your shoulder
in the coach

she had
one moment
we were talking
and then she was silent
and her head rested
on my shoulder asleep

Beethoven piano music
played over the coach radio

and I gazed at her there
her red curly hair
lit up now and then
by the street lights
that we passed
on the way

her head slipped
down my arm
and on to my lap

Hope you
didn't mind me
sleeping on you?
she said

I didn't tell her
that I kissed
her head.
Black Dog,
bleak depression,
sits beside me
on the chair;
we sit alone,
no one else
is there.

It puts its icy arm
about my shoulder
as it did when
I was young
and the same
as I am older.

It whispers
in my ears
with chilling breath
awaking my deepest fears
of life and death.

It lies beside me
on my bed,
it enters each
nerve and pore;
it shows me dank
visions of past and now,
chills my bones
and heart,
l'uomo non può salvarsi
the Italian monk said
-man cannot
save himself-
we were in
the monastery garden
digging potatoes
for midday lunch,

seul Dieu peut
nous sauver
Dom Blaise uttered
-only God can save us-
and I listened to him
taking in his greying
tonsure and beard,

I opened the book
heavy and aged
smelling of time
and Christ on His cross
-Christi in crucem eius-
fingered and page worn
worn by fingers and eyes,

absque omni
condicione electionis
Calvin said
-unconditional election-
He does not elect us
because of our merits
but by His sovereign choice,

but Dom Joseph said
that is not Church teaching
we are saved by our freedom
to choose and accept
God's grace
and we sat by
the monastery beach
face to face.
The silence
of the abbey church
was such
I could hear
my heart beat

and just a red light
at the altar end
to indicate
that Christ was present
in the tabernacle

a monk in black
passed from the cloister door
to the bell tower
to ring the bells
for the office of Compline

my first visit
and later Dom Joseph
taking me to the refectory
for a late supper

and he was permitted
to break the grand silence
to answer my questions

and the cloisters
half in and half out
of the moonlight
in the stillness of night.
Nima's father paced
the private ward room
she told me
hands behind his back
building himself up
to begin his lecture
about her drug abuse
and that type of people
she mixed with
(not me he knew only
that I was some guy
who visited her)

You know what he said?
Nima asked

Not until you tell me
I said
sitting beside her bed
where she lay smoking

He said I was a big
disappointment to them
and that his
medical colleagues
were doing
what they could
to get me clean again

she paused
If only I could get out
of their mad house

I lit a cigarette
We could go into London
for a few hours
I said

Guess it's better
than being stuck here
she said

so we did
(having got permission
from the nurse)

we went up West
and had coffees
and burgers
and visited
Trafalgar Square
and she spoke
about her parents
and their middle class
values and agendas

and I thought
of the weekend
we had at that
cheap hotel
and lying
in the double bed
having pretended
we were newly wed.
I had been on
the press machine
and on my way to drill holes
when Rory stopped me and said

You want to join my band
we've got a few gigs
in Hamburg
and we're looking
for a sax player?

Not my scene
I said
I'm into Jazz
not toot-tooting
behind a pop group

he nodded his head
and said No problem man
but if you change your mind
give me a bell

I drilled the holes
and liked Keely
and her deep voice
and I played behind her
in a warm mode
like Prez did
behind Ladybird

and Juliet
a while ago
snuggling up
to me in bed
whispering words
into my lying
down head.
She makes the bed tidy
and opens up the window
to let in fresh air

Benny had left
some moments ago
to go with his parents
shopping in town

her mother is still
out shopping
Benny has been there
replenishing her honey-***
and stopping her lips
with kisses

over the way
she sees the farm
where her father is working
and hears the sound of cows

up on the drive she sees
her mother's car arrive

so she goes
down the stairs
to help unload
wondering if her mother
had seen Benny
along the road.
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