A man was snatched from the roadside
by four men in a black car.
Blindfolded and gagged, he was driven
through city streets. There were sounds
beyond his captors’ breathing: the buses’
knackered hydraulics, the gloat of sirens,
cathedral bells.


Pulled from the car, he was marched
over concrete, then up steep
Piranesian staircases. Eventually, his blindfold
and gag were removed and he was asked,
Where are you?

I am here, he thought, then looked around the room:
no furniture, no windows, walls painted brown,
scruffy floorboards. One scientist
had a gold watch and a front tooth to match.

I’m in the vault of a bank, he said.


He is home now, sitting in his garden,
smoking. Above the elm, the sky
is an open atlas, revealing
the chartered nooks of far-flung galaxies.
He thinks back to the brown room – a back room
of an opera house (as it turned out to be).

When released, he had caught
the opening notes of the Dies Irae
and the scientists’ whispers: conclusion, it’s impossible
to comprehend place until the external
has been viewed in its entirety

universe could be packed
into a tree’s trunk

latter’s markings are certainly similar
to a planet’s concentric rings, of course
just a hunch, but still

what do you fancy for lunch?...

His stomach rumbles; the sound
is reassuring. He grinds his cigarette
into an old wormhole. At least, he hopes
it’s old. Too late now. Drilling starts up
in the neighbourhood: an electric work-tool
or a woodpecker’s illiterate Morse.

Janette Stowell

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