All this was years ago, but how could I forget
the first thing I did when you finally left me
was grow distinctly unlike myself—so distinctly unlike
that when help was offered I took it. Those kind hosts

my Canadian cousins—if cousins they were, and at what
distant remove from me I no longer remember—
invited me out for a slice of their black sheep life
which had come to the good: ten luxy days in Vancouver

and ten so absurd I Was Wondering: am I myself
or what? This one’s the big surprise, they told me,
This one’II really leave every trouble behind—
and I found I was thousands of feet up the Rockies

expected to horse-trek. Horses! I’d sooner be called
a coward. So every morning, while they would be
tinkling and giggling and shouting goodbye in the distance
I would be left as I wanted, free to wander alone.

The mountains were everything everyone said,
but the village . . . Looked down on, it seemed that a flock
of herring gulls had landed and suddenly atrophied:
rough slate roofs like wings stuck out, white clapboard walls

mottled with green, and all deserted but ours
ours had stayed as a holiday home for anyone
thinking they ought to refresh themselves with the sight
of a world run to seed, and a scruffy mine

which was famous, exhausted, and left to decay. The mine
itself was a ship with its side stoved in —a huge hull
criss-crossed with ladders and platforms running
wherever I chose to look, but mostly drawing me down

to a plug of dirty cement where the shaft began.
I never went close, but my morning walk to the pines,
which began where the village stopped, would show me
as much as I wanted to see. for days I imagined this

was the view that I would remember: this I decided
would float through my head when I thought of the time
I was telling myself to forget you. It seemed enough.
But just as my visit was ending, and I was up there

under the pines of a morning as ever, brooding,
someone appeared at my side who made me believe
I was wrong. He emerged from the trees with no more
than the prickly crack of needles and Well . . . 
    Good day . . .

— a figure who when I was squinting up to him
into the sun, and glimpsing tangled hair, a tartan shirt,
I thought might be insane, or a beached hippy—
someone who might be expected to sell me a ring

from a tray of bent-nail jewelry. All he wanted,
in fact, was to reveal what he called Our treasure.
I guess you ’re a visitor here., he said. Don’t ever you go
without seeing this. That would be foolish. It was an ark—

though more like a shed which might float than an ark,
a peeling, twenty foot hulk built God knows when
by God knows who, with a red roofed cabin on top
and room, I should have imagined, to sail no more

than a dozen normal-sized creatures away from the flood
which would or would not be coming. (Unless if was spoken
that only diminutive insects could go, in which case
thousands could live.) My friend just showed me over

and vanished, politely, running his hand in silence
over the salty prow, so I thought he was probably
mad after all. And late through that last afternoon
I lounged in the sun with my back to the cooling hull

amazed, when I wasn’t just staring down at the mine
and the misting folds of valley on valley beyond,
at what people will do to make sure they escape,
or make sure there’s a chance of escaping, and live

at whatever the cost for an evening like that one
I watched coming on, with spiky grass beneath me
and pine cones thumping into their circles of brown —
still thinking if any of these things mattered at all

it was only because I would one day describe them
to you, although you had told me already you thought
you were too far away to care—which, I should say,
I understood at the time, and have known, come to that, ever since.