Sport 2: Autumn 1989
Les A. Murray
Tiles are mostly abstract:
tiles come from Islam:
tiles have been through fire:
tiles are a sacred charm:
After the unbearable parallel
trajectories of lit blank tile,
figure-tiles restore the plural,
figuring resumes its true vein.
Harm fades from the spirit as tiles
repeat time beyond time their riddle,
neat stanzas that rhyme from the middle
styles with florets with tendrils of balm.
Henna and mulberry mos-
aics controvert space:
lattice on lattice recedes
through itself into Paradise
or parrot starbursts framing themes
of stars bursting, until they salaam
the Holy Name in sprigged consonants
crosslaced as Welsh metrical schemes.
Conjunct, the infinite doorways
of the mansions of mansions amaze
underfoot in a cool court, with sun-blaze
afloat on the hard water of glaze.
Or shapes under old liquor
ziggurats of endless incline;
cruciform on maiolica
flourishes the true vine.
Tulip tiles on the grate of Humoresque
Villa join, by a great arabesque
cream boudoirs of Vienna, then by left-
handed rhyme, the blue pubs of Delft
and prominence stands in a circle
falling to the centre of climb:
O miming is defeated by mime:
circles circle the PR of ominence.
Cool Mesach in fused Rorschach,
old from beyond Islam,
tiles have been to Paradise,
clinkers of ghostly calm.
Chinning the bar or Thirties concrete rim
of this ocean baths as the surf flings velleities of spray
brimming the bright screen
I am in not the sea but the sea's television.
As the one starfish below me quivers up
through a fictive kelp of diffraction, I'm thinking of workers
who made pool-cementing last, neap tide by neap,
right through the Depression
then went to the war, the one that fathered the Bomb
which relegated war to the lurid antique new nations
of emerging television. All those appalling horizontals
to be made vertical and kept the size of a screen —
I duck out of focus
down chill slub walls in this loud kinking room
that still echoes Fung blunger the swearwords Orh you Kongs
of men on relief for years, trapping ocean in oblongs,
and check out four hard roads tamed to a numinous
joke on it all, through being stood up side-on
and joined at their stone ends by bumper-smokers who could,
just by looking up, see out of relegation —
here the sky, the size of a mirror, the size of a fix
becomes imperative: I explode up through it beneath
a whole flowering height of villas and chlorine tiled pools
where some men still swear hard
to keep faith with their fathers the poor, obsolete and sacred.