Planning Permission

The structure looks too tentative:
a temporary edifice which may
topple at any instant. Building
Control refuse to touch it;
won't get planning permission.

A wolf-whistle could settle it;
and let's hope the rain stays off,
because we're lifting twigs,
reeds, spindly strands of web,
and the spines of feather,

resting each like sacrifices
upon precedent. No-one observed
the way we dug foundations,
we did it the hard way,
in whispers. Took us years.

Every level requires a firm
nerve. It has the shivers,
will scarcely support itself.
They think we are cowboys;
that we've copied from the wrong

manuals. You take this leaf,
touch it, let it rest gently
on the bobbin of cotton.
I've just perched a wafer
on a blade of blue grass.

We are building in silence:
the world is incommunicado,
suns us. Although accidental
visitors have stumbled on us
intently raising the stakes, they've

shaken their heads. Won't last.
This can't hold together, the glue
is insubstantial, and you cannot
bank on strong breezes not
blowing the whole thing away.


Our fingers dance, shamans,
over the structure. You press
a finger to your lips, smiling.
We seem to have invented
new principles: the text-books

will be dim print after this,
and there'll patently be patents.
Somewhere we'll scrawl signatures,
but illegible, they'll have to call
such structures what they please.

Interstices, lattices. This system
was perfected by architects
of absolute discretion. Observe
how delicate its balance:
in the old days, no-one thought

to build like this. We grin,
diffident witnesses to the wild
spasms of their disbelief.
They can't even ask questions,
gawping in awe at the strength.

We melt here into a mist
of amazement. On the gravel
there sounds an inspector's boot;
he's checking for depths, tapping
his pencil. He chucks rough

measurements about like toffees.
Skips, rubble, lines, the plans
folded in his pocket. He struts
his lecture, tramping the site.
This, that, the other. That.

But we did it. We own
the rights to this, we give
all the orders round here,
scribble them furiously down
and countersign the designs.

In long evenings, we talk,
remember the inspirations
of the early days, how strange
and barely credible it seemed.
We dust off the blueprints.

Sometimes we wander the site,
laughing with the daft abandon
of prospectors who hit seam
upon seam. And the nights
grip the days; in the dusk

words blur, edges vanish like
sky. We will test it, yes,
but in strictest confidence.
Through branches, the blue moon
is marked with our ampersand.

From the book Love Poems