As we drove from Moraira to Alicante, we found a path
that somehow we could all follow, one that filled gaps
and steered away from ellipses. Only a low engine hum,
the soft murmur of clipped voices heard and unheard,
sounded as I sank into cream leather, still, silent, uncalled
upon for comment, a lone witness of this panorama.
The bare Spanish mountains shifted about us, elusive as
women's shoulders, as though wishing both to be seen,
and not seen. They offered down their sheer rusted rock,
the soil stung to orange from a sun hot and domineering.
Only emaciated trees, gnarled under the great ether,
withstood the weight, their olives black and embittered.
What a curiosity, this dusty, barren land, my hungry eyes
studying the sheer slopes that are Spain's own character.
But I rebounded against rock, as though it could not stand
to be looked at, could not accept this droplet in its history,
merely tolerated my passage at its feet, a slow ant crawl.
It was indifferent, as though nothing could be learnt from it.
I sought counsel in the pale, silent sky, who in a sudden
scraping away of cloud, offered a revelation, a stoicism
of unending blue, magenta, crimson. Sudden the view
of the sun from behind a great peak of rock, one half of
a Sanguinello, the suppurated goring of the sky. Only I
could know this blood mouth of truth when I next saw it.
THE FAMILIAR WOUND
How slowly they all die, as each year warms;
a stubborn reluctance to acknowledge winter.
An almost November sun crudely melts in the
crucible of the iron sky, forging the brutal cold
they fear, that comes with the early night fall.
How they stagger, quite unwilling to meet their
graves, bobbing absentmindedly as though
whisky-drunk. Their doubts cause no blind rage
as in drunkenness, only a pitiful, maudlin stupor,
as befits one keeping a complicated secret.
It is a wasp's lot to find one last lover to marry
its poison to blood. At least then there is a
purpose to the drone's existence. It fixes me
with its ocelli, so that the many fragments
are a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
But it waits far too long to do it Ð its limp stinger
would break on impact with my white ankle,
with this newly acquired fortitude to deaden it.
Oh, the greatest betrayal could not even hurt,
knowing now that a clean frost will kill, kill, kill.
THE RAT CATCHER
It is quite regal in its calm, nursing its stub of tail,
knowing that it has been caught,
the grim reality of it all.
It nibbles on the morsel that made it a fool -
there is that to be thankful for -
and licks a paw, basks under the shed's cool.
A lifetime might be spent on gallows,
watching the oily sun on the concrete yard
from the thick of the shadows.
Quiet then, until the sound of the back door;
the key turn, the metal clasp yawning,
the keen of wood Ð it knows what he comes for.
The rat squeals, a chorus of pigs for the slaughter,
a clatter of metal as the cage
hops about, and the old barrel splutters with water.
It wages a war on the steel mesh, tooth and nail,
leaps and panics, its thoughts like fumes,
tries to get out, get out, to no avail.
The blackboard-scrape of metal on concrete,
then sunlight chokes the black of the rat's eyes.
It tries for the knucklebone of the persecutor.
The lip of the barrel offers the surplus
to the ground,
the plop sounds, and the screaming is silenced.
Its amiable down turns seal-black,
as it uses pink-paw, tail, and snout to stay afloat,
but its metal boat will surely drag.
At first serene, in its toddler-paddle, its lungs
summer-full of air, it is suspended in the dark -
until blind panic comes, and brings
The mind to its cusp.
Paddle-pawed it races, speeds towards the man's
face, a god. It is air that is the final lust.
For once it was my turn to carry him,
this six-foot Gulliver, not
fettered by string, nor pegged in Ð
but held down by an oak coffin lid Ð
blonde wood bleached in the sun.
In celebration of his green fingers,
a spray rested atop his stomach Ð
carnation, and rose Ð bright yellows
and oranges within verdant foliage.
Six of us stood at the black mouth
of the hearse, in three pairs,
one man for every foot.
My father's coffin was slid out,
the heavy burden of his body.
Each took a brass-plated hook,
and when instructed, held him aloft,
dovetailed the wood to the nook
of neck and shoulder,
his left foot by my cheek.
I remember how he once carried me Ð
having cut the soles of my feet
on the bed of a stream, where
unbeknownst to me, glass, not yet
pebble-smoothed, filleted skin.
He bound my ankles tight in a pink
towel, and swung me up, as small
and light as a Lilliputian,
his long fingers woven in a cradle.
The memory paled in the hot sun.
I followed the vicar's surplice,
a white flag flapping in the breeze,
through the gate of St. Nicholas,
past headstones and those come
to pay their respects Ð
Entered another mouth, the holy
arch of the church door,
the cool air of god so indifferent
to the heat outside.
We slowly marched up the aisle,
To the organ's low, plaintive song -
Bridge Over Troubled Water Ð
to set him down before
the congregation, before the familiar
stained glass eye of god.
Days later, now finally a man made,
I felt the ache of muscle in shoulder,
arm, rib cage, and heart,
the ache of having carried a giant,
my forebear, my father.
This pale column was once a man, who is folded now within coffin,
hidden by blanched oak, by the ruche of a drawn, coral pink curtain,
given to the dull process of enzymes, the horror we cannot speak of.
All that is water, oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon, all the ancient stuff
of the earth that congeals in one human, microcosm of a universe,
is now ready for the great reunion, the dispersing of tired molecules.
The firmament yawns wide, mouthful of blue sky, waits to take him,
absorb him back into the pool of hard stars, of their ellipses that are
dark matter, the funnel of the only possible heaven, the black infinite.
The red brick crematorium is as efficient as Dachau or Belsen, issues
out black smoke from a chimney, the strained chug of the last breath,
man's acridity that swirls briefly against the oily gold of the May sun.
In one thousand degrees Celsius, his body is borne up, all in vapours
seeping out of the vent of the furnace, all water, all breath, all of his
memories packed within neurons, the heart's unwavering courage.
What is left is just bone, pulverised to ash, reduced back to carbon,
that airborne are particles that once organic made up a man,
whose great bulk of body now flattens to a photographic image.
© P Viktor 2009