The cloud moves, low, across the landscape,
leaving a slick of rainwater on the backs of cows.
It passes through the mind of a priest
and into the eyes of a fourteen year old girl.
It is a pestilence. A curse upon the territory.
In the villages they are rasping for bread.
No chickens hobble through the shit-strewn lanes.
Damp is a curse which slowly infiltrates
clothes, rafters, firewood, children’s skin.
The crops are sunk. The sheep are full of worms.
You dole out sermons on disintegration.
An aged woman is driven from her home
and burnt to cinders on a makeshift pyre.
The chancel windows cast brightness inward,
towards the stunted candles of the choir.
THE RAM IN THE THICKET
It was a boutique hotel in the Dolomiti
and each door could be locked from inside by a golden key
and each key was hung with a sculpted animal.
Hummingbird, hedgehog, fox or snake.
The hotel offered a view across the lake.
My room was cramped. Pushed up against the table
was a bookcase which was nearly waist high.
In it stood a copy of Fear and Trembling.
The pale lettering along the spine reminded me
of the ubiquity of schizoid features.
I took it with me to the loo.
Outside the rain was spitting.
The lake surface was thatched with miniature waves.
As I read about Isaac being tied down by his dad,
I heard an angel bellowing from heaven,
“Abraham, ease off, untie the boy.”
There was a denouement, there on the mountain.
The angel came down. The angel flew.
A sharpness in my intestines.
PLAN FOR THE FUTURE
I’ve worked it out and we’re going to be just fine.
Your job will pay for mango and mine for baby wipes.
My heart throbs dyspeptically when I think of our son.
Where is he now? Does he wear leather and carry a scar?
I’m less than a man. I don’t even know how to drive.
On the other hand I’ve worked out how to arrive on time.
I was sobbing all morning as my heart went out –
unlike the flames on Grenfell, which raged until lunch.
Inside the staircases, lift shafts, flats, nothing withstood.
Tears became gas. Screams caught fire and burned.
Everything that wasn’t blame became ersatz.
It’s hard to stay focused. Our dreams are so grotty.
And the housekeeper creaks on the upstairs floor.
I picture her stroking her long Hispanic body,
which opens, closes, then empties itself completely.
My arm across your body.
These fingers ending in a brush.
How the light falls on my shirtsleeve,
causing the outline to crackle.
In the background a green overcoat
hangs from a glass
partly obscuring your neck and shoulder.
It’s mine. I’m clothing you.
You turn steadily toward me,
like a satellite dish
by enemy agents.
What, I wonder, do you withhold?
And how do I prise you open?
Death coiled in one lung.
Like a tilted ampersand
in a bed of alveoli.
A skull beside an inkwell.
Not quite an ‘objet’,
but artfully positioned.
We look back.
Primo goes to it.
Mounts the handrail.
96.5cm. For a short man,
To fall he has to climb.