Tom French



And even if the story never went, the story goes –
when Einstein was on the road
explaining Relativity to the academy,

his chauffeur caught the gist of it so quick
and Einstein got so bored, they settled
on a quick change act and changed clothes;

(not unlike the time my dead brother came back
for the hammer on the back seat to beat the catch
on the gate to the house we never lived in closed,

and my father, hearing that car door close, put two
and two together, indicated, checked his mirrors,
slipped the car into gear, and struck out for home).


So, night after night, in one auditorium after another,
Einstein’s driver recited the nuts and bolts of it,
going on what he’d gleaned, and Einstein,

decked out at the back in tunic and peaked cap –
chipping in with the occasional helpful question –
kept their deception up by driving his driver home

and grew to appreciate, in his rear view mirror,
his driver in the back seat, sound to the world
or gazing out at his reflection gazing in, whispering

equations, as one more object closer than
he appeared, and the two of them as men granted
time out of their lives by living each other’s;

(unlike my father who, if he chanced to glance into his,
it was to check the road was clear, not for a child,
because – Lord knows – he had heard the door close;

and – now that it dawns – what was it he drove that night
if not my brother’s ghost, and what was this for the child
with no way of knowing, if not a fore glimpse of his own

afterlife as he stood out on the road, watching his flesh
and blood, in disbelief, recede, tail lights burning
and shrinking into the growing dark like coals);


And all went fine until the night the Chair invited
questions from the floor, and the feared question arose,
threatening to stop the driver in his tracks

and make him hope for a hole to open up
and swallow him, (the hole that opened when
we got home and my father turned to ask me

where my brother was – because – it dawns again –
I too was there – and – mirabile dictu – I had to relate
the yarn of the-hammer-the-catch-and-the-twice-closed-door.


Except – here being where you’d think myth kicks in –
O Gleaming Myth,
unhampered by Memory or Truth –

instead of coming clean without a scene
and reassuming, without further ado, the life
he’d grown accustomed to of hovering

on the periphery of event to ferry stars
through silence and in darkness,
to swop pleasantries and look pristine,

despite spotlights blinding him,
(like the odd headlight blinding
my father on the road back to collect

his offspring, or whoever it was standing
wherever it was whoever had set out from
however long ago – the fruit of his loins

freezing on the road, or an old stager biding
his time for the earth to turn, nursing, like
a grievance in his palm, the hammer’s weight –


across the vast expanse of that auditorium,
the chauffeur sought the shine
of his own peak in the hall, that shock of white

beneath, (the white of my brother’s face in our
headlights, silenced by the glimpse he has
been granted of this life going on without him),

those points of light beneath; and, feeling
the world curve at his wheel, hearing
the music of the spheres on long wave

and medium wave, seeing air and smoke meet
at fly window and windscreen and, seeing
in that instant, his road clear to the horizon,

flicked, into the dark, a hot thought, brushed
Gold Bond ash from his sleeve, assumed
his feet and, into that thronged dark, spoke –


“Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed colleagues,

(brother, son, for whom we perform
a three-point turn a stone’s throw from home

and drive the road just travelled back
to open a door again to you to this – your life –
because we could never enter the lit house without you) –

so akin are the search for an answer and
the search a man performs for the gleam
of the peak of his own hat where he stands,

blinded by light in a dark hall, it behooves unto me
to take – as it were – a back seat,
and stand aside
to allow my driver answer.”


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