Near Hampstead Heath or Of Origins and Old Friends (Capparis Spinosa)
13 June 2020

  1. When I eat a caper
    some atavistic remembrance
    buried deep in my DNA stirs,
    and the back of my skull fizzes
    like an Alka-Seltzer
    dropped in a glass of water.
    I think of my forebears,
    Ashkenazi’s and Arabs,
    and their long journey
    around the Mediterranean
    hundreds of years ago.
    Perhaps they plucked
    those same small buds
    from a desert bush
    to marinate in brine
    and later eat.
    And as they were shaking sand
    from their tunics
    beneath a merciless sun,
    my other lot
    were up in Scotland
    crushing skulls with claymores
    on green glens slick
    with dew and blood.

  1. This past weekend,
    visiting friends
    on the Dorset coast,
    I ran eastwards along
    a stretch of beach
    to Hengistbury Head.
    As a storm rose
    I danced along
    that fringe of foamy water
    in the damp sand
    while the waves heightened and crashed
    and the wind wildened
    and the marram grass
    was laid flat on the dunes.
    Running back into that strong blow
    was the hardest work,
    but going; going was such a blast.
    In the evening at my friends’
    we ate curry as their children played
    and we talked of old times
    and laughed and laughed.
    Monisha told a story of a man in Bombay,
    who made dosas
    with a burner mounted
    on the back of his bicycle
    and when he rang his bell
    the local kids would swarm
    and gleefully flock to the sound.

  1. And then I ran
    on Hampstead Heath
    in mud and rain
    along paths furrowed
    by a million feet and paws.
    Past old colonies of crows
    and ancient oaks
    and intrepid runners
    and swimmers in black ponds
    that steamed in the cold
    while I slipped and slid my way
    up to Kenwood House.
    In the afternoon I looked
    down on London’s sprawl
    and saw the words of Blake
    graven in stone
    ‘I have conversed with the Spiritual Sun.
    I saw him on Primrose Hill.’

  1. In another friend’s kitchen
    near Hampstead Heath
    I eat a caper.
    Its meat is pulpy
    between my teeth
    and it tastes of the sea
    and the ‘wizard sun’
    and I’m happy
    because old friends,
    like capers,
    wring old joy,
    no matter
    how dried
    the husk.