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This poem is taken from PN Review 107, Volume 22 Number 3, January - February 1996.

Borderlands Matthew Hollis

I: Fisherman's Tale
Someone must have been taking pictures of you.
For half way out of Bluffer's Point
I was setting the nets for the nightly jaunt,
when one of the men mentioned proof.
A photograph, that was said to show
you clambering over the headland at dusk
toward the border, your lemon dress
pressed in the wind and a glow on your brow.
It seems the word on my wife, they tell,
is she's taken a lover from over the border
for the nights I'm trawling empty waters.
I simply suggest you go looking for shells:
for they no more know where you go than I.
And I don't wake you at dawn to ask otherwise.

II: Our Lighthousekeeper is Missing
Some kind of relief was felt in the town
when news got round it wasn't the motor
that wound the lighthouse down, but rather
its keeper had upped and gone.
On a chair carved into the shaft of the lamp
it is said he'd go round in circles all night -
a voyeur at the border, whose sweep of light
it's said could see into everyone's camp:
and keep better watch than the law or the vicar
(though the townsfolk were gradually learning to act
in the twenty-eight seconds it took to rotate).
And it's said his vision was such that from up there
he saw over the border, and was thought to pronounce
that he once caught a glimpse of another lighthouse.

III: Cat's Lives
'I'm just stepping out to get the cat in.'
She didn't in fact return for a week
spent on the back of someone-else's motorbike.
Suspicious, I admit, if only for the reason
that I don't have a cat - and strange how
I can always tell when she's going:
her lights fade like a battery lamp or a dynamo,
slowing at a junction. I realise now
I blunder her borders, the space I know
to be hers: and eventually she comes back to find me
in a cold bath, or in front of the tele
by the flowers that drooped a week ago.
And just in case you're in any doubt,
I have a cat now. It comes in, it goes out.

IV: What's Become of Captain Border?
Border lands his glider as though the runway
were a trampoline. You can see the gulls
trying to judge the angle
of his ricochet - though not for several days,
and no-one knows where he's gone this time.
He'd swoop low on the town for his favourite trick:
his left arm swinging down from the cockpit,
plucking clothes from washing lines.
But he really found fame the day he failed
to fasten his belt, dropped out at the peak
of a loop-the-loop and landed back in his seat.
The hanger mechanic is growing pale:
'He may have lost a breeze, but there's a theory
he was shot down at the border, taking pictures for the army.

V: The Boomerang's Fear of the Catch
Rain at the border, there's always that.
I'd forgotten: not coming here anymore
to the wind buffeting over the tor,
the tread of the heather bent back.
For I'm put in mind of a man who kissed
his wife and child while they lay sound
and wandered up on the moor, the town
gently blacking behind him. And listing
like a galleon, he got as far as the border
before turning for home; but would never know
if his wife had seen him go
or if she'd read the letter
he'd left at the foot of the stairs.
Holding his breath to hear hers.

VI: Fisherman's Tale From Over the Border
Someone must have been watching you.
For puttering out of the harbour at dawn,
came a murmuring current among the men
of a girl in a cherry dress soaked by dew
crossing the headland - But hold on, Reader,
you can't be told this; coming as you have from across
the border. As you might have guessed
there's a choice to be made here -
as anyone knows who lives on a frontier.
What is it that keeps us on one side and not the other?
You might ask the pilot or the lighthousekeeper,
if they 're here, though I don't say they are.
We 'll meet at the border tonight if you 're on.
First sign of dawn, and I'm gone.

This poem is taken from PN Review 107, Volume 22 Number 3, January - February 1996.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to
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