This is a revised version of a poem I’ve posted before. My first visit to the US was last summer-to Salt Lake City, Utah. I was presenting at a conference at the University of Utah and staying in University accommodation in its very lavish grounds. The conference was jointly run by that University and Brigham Young University, a wholly Mormon institution; the Latter Day Saints. This poem reflects on that history and draws on Bruce Springsteen’s song of the same name.
The Promised Land
We’ve all listened to a dream-song on the radio before a working day,
wanted to explode, tear the whole damn world apart.
Chased the mirage down a howling freeway .
Or we’ve just waited for something big to start.
They believed in a promised land:
the white U on the mountains; the grey temple in the town.
One man found the Word, took charge
of its translation in New York, then passed it on
to many. It made sense, down in the valley.
It made sense. Well, kind of, in the valley
where the skinny dogs yowled; where they
up in the morning and went to work each day.
Did it make their eyes go blind?
Did it make their blood run cold?
We travelled all night but we never found it.
We didn’t want to find it, we made up our own.
Listened to the dream-songs, let them tear our world apart,
chased the mirage through the park, the pub, the office, let it settle,
then walked right through it, kept it yowling like a siren, made it start.
I am over you at last in Salt Lake City
on a walkway, between buildings
where sprinklers turn their low mists
in this green space, below
the Wasatch mountains
with their unmelting shawls of snow.
I’m panting because the air is thin;
ran the bridge that spans the freeway,
near the guest-house, the Mormon church
a man was painting when I left,
the morning haloing around him.
It’s ninety. There’s little shade
A sprinkler roams, cooling the lawns,
the borders of the pitch. I think of you.
The Trax has stopped. A student feeds
a slot with dollar-bills, plucks out his ticket.
I didn’t think of you at breakfast
just that the yoghurt reminded me of hand-cream,
smelt of peach. Which women sitting here
would you pour coffee for, peer into?
I could follow my feet downtown.
in sports’ socks and trainers. At times
like this, I catch myself talking to you,
surprised at the lack of anger in my words,
something like girlish devotion taking its place.