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Invitation


The invitation is written in viscous ink,
not dark, exactly,
but carrying shadows.

The paper has passed through many hands,
or so people insist.
Historians of the future may
probe its crevasses,
(or its crevices, should someone tell them the difference),
seeking some emblem,
like dusting for fingerprints
on the absence of rock,
or scouring melted snow for a bootmark.

Gaps filled in with lack
obscenely erupt in cold dark nights of soul.
Or we spectate from mountainsides
on frozen mornings to see how the landscape
cracks
and shifts its load from shoulder to shoulder,
a wounded hermit with fraying straps.

The surface has grown deep here,
creaking beneath its inscriptions.
Some corners curl inward and others away.
A beckoning thing.

The anachronistic urgent plea —
‘Répondez s'il vous plaît’ —
vainly whispered by a silent film star
to inevitable disappointment,
drowning in a key changed by
calloused fingers.
Now just a formless breath,
dissipating in the deaf air.
Artful directors tend not to linger
on sounds that were never there,
or on monochrome lips
made stupid and sad
by infantile muteness.

And so the invitation begins to look less handsome,
like a single leaf on an overhung autumn street,
trod deep into the pavement
by thousands of careless footsteps.
Ink forgets its dry old confidence
and begins to run


Mark Wood