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.