On Having Made No Difference

(for Harry McMahon)

I was dreaming
it was night
I was on a beach
yet the sea made no sound
and as I walked
I found myself walking backwards
I knew time was present
I knew that time was all about me
surrounding me, yet also inside my head
in the way that the sound of the sea and the wind surrounds
one’s being and yet is inside
a part of the mind
a part of the body
there was sand
there was water
there was time
and I knew that time was going backwards
its numbers were names running
on a clock I could not see
but knew was present
twenty-o-four, nineteen-sixty-nine
my feet were well shod
my hands were well gloved
(though it was neither hot nor cold)
one foot was in the water
one foot was on the sand
and to the left of me and to the right of me
was sand and sea
the sand was a desert
the sea was an ocean
and above me the heavens
lay somewhere behind a tented sky
that was without moon or star or cloud or colour
across the dark water black shadows sped towards me
against the sky sped bird shapes lured by the shadows
they travelled backwards, head following tail
movement without sound
action without purpose
the shadows ran through the gloved cage of my cupping hands
I made each hand into a fist
I buried my fists in salt water and sand
what could I do

Sam Burnside

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