Vrbas, Serbia: the Conference of Cycles

 Vrbas, Serbia: the Conference of Cycles

It may be
that the ways out of the station have been transposed:
when we arrived and were disgorged
we took the subway and the stair
to find ourselves just here,
before the blank house-fronts,
half-awake and shrunk smaller than life.

The Borough Engineer’s
measure of light
barely sustains the video camera’s sken.
‘This place is nowhere,’ you say,
striking out for a break in the roofline;
and it’s no-one’s idyll of orchards
and stooked hay.

All that plumbing on the back
of the moonlight,
gates on the look-out,
the canal slowly emptying its pockets.
And although he shouts, there’s no harm
in the pissed stroller steadying at the corner
to walk off tangentially.

We make an arc to home in
on the one window alight
in the row of closed shops:
Rotis-o-mat chickens turn for us,
melting like candle-birds
to Atlantic-dreaming essence.

Where the streetlights give out
for the blind start of the arterial,
here’s the hotel of urban-pastoral coincidence.
Its ply and veneer make us circumspect.
Each trusts neither’s skin or whisper.

We rehearse the agenda –
earlobe, lip, instep, palm – my watch
face-down on the tallboy.
Tired delegates from nowhere,
at noon we’ll get up – too late
for the Conference of Cycles,
and both wearing the thought of return.

(Note: This poem was prompted by the memory of a momentary misreading
of a British Rail poster that used to adorn the railway stations:
the poster offered advice on the ‘conveyance of cycles’.)