by David Calcutt

Deep cleft cut
Through the head’s green world

Exposing roots, ancient tracks
The petrified, migratory
Flightpaths of birds

And a slow, hidden breathing
The secret word cradled
In cupped hands

Kept close, as a fire in its hearth
A blade in its sheath

The eye, ever watchful
In its hidden chamber.

We came first to the high place
Where creatures of rock
Straddled their kingdom

Cumbersome, reptilian
Wreathed in their own smoky breath.
Their roar was the wind

That took the skin from our faces.
Then we travelled the spiny ridge-back
Happy explorers of that early world

With our sandwiches and teaflasks
Armour against the strangeness
And the big wings of brightness

And the hollow ground
That echoed beneath our feet
And the voice that spoke from far off

Calling us down.

The knight kneeling in his armour
A lonely stone on the hill slope.

The lord feasting in his castle
A fox snuffling at the bones of a sheep.

The lady sewing in her chamber
A hawk hanging to the threads of the wind.

And, deep within the folds
Of the labyrinth rock
Humped like a crow over its carrion

The storyteller makes this tale
Sharp as the moon’s edge
Bloody as a sunset

From the breath of his god
That gives each word its bite.

Man of mossy stone

Frayed trousers
Mildewed, muddy jacket
And feet grown down

Into the ground

After long wandering you’ve found your resting place

At home with the woodlice
And in the earthworm’s gut

Where the lizard peers
From its crevice lookout

Happy to ease yourself
Out of your bones
Let wind and weather pick you apart

Become mush of earth, log-mash
Root-drip, frond-glimmer
And this slow, soft breathing
Among the silky, green draperies

As she lays you down
For a last kiss

Her true love

The one we’ve come looking for.


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