Mulling over the usual defeats, I’m mooching
past the Oxo Tower when strains of Die Moldau
spill over the Thames with lights from the dining car:
grand piano, cello, violins … Welcome,
my friends who sail the waterways, wie geht es Ihnen?
White tables, cups in zwiebelmuster, jewellery
and smart frocks. Ah, how quickly I’m losing my few
words of German – I’ve never even seen the Elbe
or the Brandenburger Tor, chariots flying.
Now chairs scrape, people moving to the dance-floor
as a waltz strikes up, building to a seamless glide
behind glass. And there’s Herr Mullemann, his coat
tails flying! Dancing like a man in good health:
Eleonore, listening closely to the music and Dieter,
half-way through a Marlborough …
wonder if he still listens to Tom Waits?
Even my Ex is here; his gaze drifts over and
he’s smiling; off the booze he’s found new love.
The whole room is filling with faces of passengers
and in their midst I can see me, lit with the genius
of language; laughing, speaking fluent German
in a life I’ve abandoned. This woman turns to me
and waves and now the orchestra’s starting up, trailing
a slow lead-in on violins. I navigate the half-
crossed, half-dismantled borders and it comes to me
as the boat’s passing: how nothing is ever really lost:
no hope, no effort of love, left off or broken,
which can’t be rescued in the secret currents; party
streamers, lights flaring, or just a gentle piece of music.
We continue to arrive.