THE CHIMES OF NEVERWHERE
How many times did the Church prevent war?
Who knows? Those wars did not occur.
The neither state of Neverwhere
is hard to place as near or far
since all things that didn’t take place are there
and things that have lost the place they took:
Herr Hitler’s buildings, King James’ cigar,
the happiness of Armenia,
the Abelard children, the Manchus’ return
are there with the Pictish Grammar Book.
The girl who returned your dazzled look
and the mornings you might have woke to her
are your waterbed in Neverwhere.
There shine the dukes of Australia
and all the great poems that never were
quite written, and every balked invention.
There too are the Third AIF and its war
in which I and boys my age were killed
more pointlessly with each passing year,
but there too half the works of sainthood are,
the enslavements, tortures, rapes, despair
deflected by them from the actual
to rain on the human-sacrifice drum
which millions never have to hear
beating for them in Neverwhere.
I discovered an earlier version of the poem online which speaks overtly of the Devil and of Christ’s love, but this is the one the poet chose to include in Selected Poems.