Size / / /

In a car-park in Leicester

You have never believed in this degree of nakedness
being anything akin to purity,
although it stands to reason, now, that it must.

In dust-masks and coveralls, rustling, crouched
in your white forensic tent, you can't be the only one
worrying over smallpox, over plague,
wondering at a kind of improbable persistence
at dark miracles uncovered
at musty spores
at revenge.

Consider the thickness of soil 
think smothering, think Vesuvian
scattered at first, layered with words,
then shovelled, frantic.
Again, silent.
Left to silt and slide between his ribs
and settle about the small round bones of his spine.

Think thin smoke,
burned books and something aflame
just over the distance, over the castle walls.

Air that's the same as the air that drifts
(or drifted) up a spiral staircase 
it echoes the same, or almost, now,
mechanical and tinny, like the mythic radio ping
shuttling back and forth in its atmospheric layers,
an echoed legend, a sleepless, soft-footed troubadour,
the looped love song of lost pilots,

distinct, carrying like the voices of boys,
voices young enough to sound like bells and curls,
like slippers and bowled hoops,
running steps and stopped steps, laughter
and the total absence of a concept of time, a real one,
one beyond boredom and the sure inkling
of when a game should naturally end.

Imagine the sharp hum of halberds, gleaming and fantastical,
fit to twist a man from a horse and to slice a skull like 
well, like nothing you've seena perfect circle,
edge smooth and clean as polished marble, new
and shocked by air, by everything,
by the leaking out and spilling in,
the cold unroofing air.

Air with a weight to it that isn't just microbial,
mist-dark, chain-mail and mud.
Tart to the tongue, now, weightless
and strange with nothing he'd know as scent,
a distant magnetism that doesn't come from metallic hills,
from soil made coppery with blood,
with swords and hammered icons.

Time meets part-way.
This was death, always has been death,
so long hidden and now rushed, undone.
This muddled, flooding time
running down like small steps on stairs
it is not death,
not any more, at all.

The tent roofs him, flaps a little, covers all your bent heads
and gloved hands, the small, utilitarian hooks and vanished heart.
Think how much it might take to have a man from then stop praying
Because a brush, however fine, is not pity
not tenderness
not reproach
but simply a brush.




Jude Alford is a poet and writer from Sydney, Australia.
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13 Jan 2020

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