David Hume believed that natural benevolence was a basic human trait - a walk round the city centre usually confirms this. People like us, the understudies for no known part in no known play, have only got each for support against those who seem determined to tell us how to live our lives.
The Circle Dante Wasn’t Shown
Having reached this stretch of unrecorded ground,
this level stillness of relentless day, we’ve found
we are alone. Those raising up their hands are branded
by the sun, those falling on their knees in prayer
are kept there. The rest of us trudge forwards – heat
and searing light force us on . . .
Meanwhile: You’re waiting for the phone to ring,
waiting for a letter, email, fax, any bloody thing
hinting at reprieve. Each day’s a stay of execution:
the stop-and-go of traffic at the lights, the green man, red,
Facebook, Twitter, what the checkout woman said
about the bonus points redemption scheme . . .
You still believe no-one’s to blame?
When your turn comes / your card gets swiped / you sign your name.
We are the circle Dante wasn’t shown:
the understudies for no known part in no known play
– we’re waiting to come on
and never will.
Meanwhile: Unpack the Tesco bag-for-life.
Unwrap the pre-cooked chicken, the no fuss
prewashed, farmfresh mussels-in-their-shell.
Nearby, in hell, another evening falters to a standstill.
Meanwhile: Fade out the city streets, the sky, the background music of the spheres –
We’ll wait with you till everything around you disappears:
wait upon this stretch of unrecorded –
this level stillness of –
this heat and
from Without A Backward Glance (Barzan Publishing, 2005), © Ron Butlin 2005, used by permission of the author