Go, Litel Bok
Ladies and Gentlemen, members of the jury.
Those of my trade, we are like the badger or the mole.
We work alone in darkness, guided by tiny candles which we do not share, sweating to give birth to replacement planets where things happen which don't.
And sometimes the hard jigsaw becomes a picture and not a car accident. More rarely we place our fingers adroitly on the frets or keyboard and multitudes plummet through the small white trapdoor which bears our hieroglyphs. Then we are taken up into the blaze and shout of the conurbations to make words in the air and strike the strange pose from the clothing catalogue. But sometimes we see a swallow in wintertime. And the talking horse and the sad girl and the village under the sea descend like stars into a land of long evenings and radically different vegetables and a flex is run from our hearts into the hearts of those who do not know the meaning of the words cardigan or sleet. And there is no finer pudding.
Now I am like that cow in the nursery rhyme.
The fire I have felt beneath your shirts. These cloisters.
Red mullet with honey. This surprisingly large slab of Perspex. Your hands are on me. But this man is another man. The clock chimes, my pumpkin waits and the frog drums his gloved fingers on the dashboard.
May the god whose thoughts are like a tent of white light above the laundry and the pigeons of this town walk always by your side. My burrow calls. Good night.
A Rough Guide
Be polite at the reception desk.
Not all the knives are in the museum.
The waitresses know that a nice boy is formed in the same way as a deckchair.
Pay for the beer and send flowers.
Introduce yourself as Richard.
Do not refer to what somebody did at a particular time in the past.
Remember, every Friday we used to go for a walk. I walked. You walked.
Everything in the past is irregular.
This steak is very good. Sit down.
There is no wine, but there is ice cream.
Eat slowly. I have many matches.
After a Beheading
When you have jumped the logging trains across the Hendersons and eaten
stray dog roasted on a brazier,
when you think that you can feel
the rasp of a freshly laundered pillow on your face and hear
the little song of halyards below your window at "The Limes"
but come round to the smell of petrol and the sherry-hollowed faces
of your dubious companions,
when you want to lie down in the soiled,
grey snow and never move again,
you will come to a five-gabled house
in the suburbs of a cutlery-making city and be embraced by a bearded man
with the build of a former athlete who smokes "El Corazon" cigars.
His wife will have perfect breasts and make the noise of a leopard sleeping.
Neither of them will ask you for your name.
You will be offered the use of a bathroom
where the towel-glare hurts your eyes,
the soap is labeled in Italian
and the cream suit on the warmed rail fits with sinister precision.
You will then be led into the dining room.
There will be beef Wellington and firm pears
and a jazz trio playing Monk on guitar and vibes.
There will be many fingerbowls.
Your host will say, "Eat . . . Drink . . ."
and as your hand hangs like a hawk above the confusion of forks
you will realize that this is where your journey starts.
Cabin Doors to Automatic
We take off in a lightning storm.
The big jets kick in and we climb through blue explosions;
below the fuselage, moonlight on the Solway Firth, the fields of Cumbria, our litel spot of erthe
that with the see embracéd is.
This is how we leave the world,
with the heart weeping,
and the hope that distance brings the solving wonder of one last clear view before that long sleep above the weather's changes.
Horace Odes 1:4
Spring and warm winds unlock the fist of winter.
Winches haul dry hulls down the beach.
The ploughman and his animals no longer love the stable and the fire.
The frost no longer paints the fields white.
The moon is overhead. Cytherean Venus dances with her girls. The Graces and the spirits of the trees and rivers stamp the earth while flaming Vulcan tours the massive thunder-forges of the Cyclops.
It's time to decorate your oiled hair with green myrtle or with flowers growing from the soft earth. It's time to find a shady spot and sacrifice a young goat to the woodland god.
Or kill a lamb if that is what he wants.
Death's sickly face appears at the doors of shacks and palaces. Rich Sestius,
this short life makes a joke of long hopes.
Pluto's shadow hall, those ghosts you read about in stories, and that final night
will soon be snapping at your heels.
And then you won't be throwing knuckle-bones to win the job of drinking-master,
or ogling pretty Lycidas, who'll drive men wild until he's big enough for girls.