To the Metropolitan Police Force, London:
the asylum gates are locked and chained, but undone
by wandering thoughts and the close study of maps.
So from San Francisco, patron city of tramps,
I scribble this note, having overshot Gloucester
by several million strides, having walked on water.
City of sad foghorns and clapboard ziggurats,
of snakes-and-ladders streets and cadged cigarettes,
city of pelicans, fish bones and flaking paint,
of underfoot cable-car wires strained to breaking point...
I eat little—a beard of grass, a pinch of oats—
let the salt-tide scour and purge me inside and out,
but my mind still phosphoresces with lightning strikes
and I straddle each earthquake, one foot either side
of the fault line, rocking the world’s seesaw.
At dusk, the Golden Gate Bridge is heaven’s seashore:
I watch boats heading home with the day’s catch
or ferrying souls to glittering Alcatraz,
or I face west and let the Pacific slip
in bloodshot glory over the planet’s lip,
sense the waterfall at the end of the journey.
I am, ever your countryman, Ivor Gurney.