The Other Country

Astrid Alben is a poet, editor and translator. Her most recent collection Ai! Ai! Pianissimo was published by Arc Publications. Her poems, essays, translations and reviews are widely published, including in the Times Literary Supplement, Best of British Poetry Anthology 2015, Oxford Poetry and Granta. She is also the artistic director of PARS, which invites artists and scientists to share their most revealing, beautiful and mind-boggling thoughts and research around particular topics.

The Other Country

Dreamt B spoke to me
telling me he sees
clouds drift in a carton of milk.

Evening light he says
is a flock of birds
skimming the rooftops westerly.


The sky disappeared that night
and in its stead a permanent cloudbank
squats on rooftops.

In this cloudbank small luminescent
baubles hover which I guess
B continues used to be streetlights.

The light sprains his shadow
dispersing me B says
running clear out from underneath me.


Across the border the river flows through the rain
yellow comes after mustard seed
every leaf is a slipper thlupping on summer.

Across the border telephone wires
are caught in the antlers of the open road. It is where
why did you leave means why did you come back.

Across the border one foot easily
forgets the other but that’s neither here nor there.
It isn’t one thing or the other.

B says
the border is just a line.


But what he really wants to tell me
is that across the border
I want to speak to everybody

and most of all yes
most of all I want to speak to you.
Because everywhere

B persists
picking up the carton of milk
and raising it to his lips

everywhere he went that night
I watched babies being born
their fists tightly balled

but in death B says
wiping the corners of his mouth
our hands are open.


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