The Negative (commended poem: 2015 competition)

It is true that she does not appear in the photograph. But who, then, was holding the camera?
                                                                                      A.L.PRIME The Thirteenth General

You lost her in Hong Kong.

Between sleeplessness and dawn, between

the shutter and the flash, or in

the sluice of bodies on the overpass –

you turned, and she was gone.

The lights on Lockhart Road were gold and green

and red and black.      OH WOW, they said,

LOOK HERE

and CHECK THIS OUT –

you’ll never get her back.

 

You had her when you walked the Dragon’s Back.

Now check the photographs. Now check again –

you thought you’d pressed her here, that blue-black smudge –

a guilty ghost, windblown and hurrying

towards the edge. You thought you’d pressed her,

blurred, within the frame

but she’s slipped off again, the drop of albumen

that slides clean off,

gets clean away,

and thins, and forms a skin.

 

You missed her when the tide came sneaking in.

Glass and heat-haze, smoke and banknotes,

orchids, fraudsters, burning paper.

The city wasn’t real. Perhaps, perhaps

you should’ve thought before you brought her here.

Now try and find one drop of salty water

in the harbour.

Now try and find one counter muddled in

with all the others.      Ten million eyes,

and no one saw her go.

 

She split between the impulse and the blow.

See to it: nothing’s missing. They’re all here –

twelve hours in the day,

twelve spokes within a wheel.

A rainbow scrolls its banner on the sky.

Twelve generals keep their watches, shrug their shoulders:

not one of them has seen her come this way.

They say they haven’t heard of her,

and you don’t have a picture. Silly boy –

you never even told them she was here.