My rhetoric and that which dies. There is still a city, and there grows
grass, buildings rise and instruments play: where the bow-
string twangs the dear death. You ran like hunted fawns in burning Troy,
insensate gabblings in the Greek fire; begone. That love,
my love. I passed, or perhaps it came to pass,
in the drawing-together of ties, and the feast mews up
its flames in rooves. Flames - rooves - no, there is nothing,
noone, that woman is not my wife, and does not burn.
The falling stars persuade to sleep. Still, move the pieces
on the black square of here and the green boughs of then:
they lil' 'orsie takes the proud castle on Ilion's height.
Ants. Men. I run from the house and kill,
my voice and my companions sink into the flame's smile.
The rooves are falling. The flames are rising. My Creusa -
gone. I would have embraced you, love, but you
were air, and breathing you in, sobbing you
I return to the valley that shelters my people, and we
take ship. There are those who were drowned, and those also
under the tamarisk. Sometimes we put into port. Always
I would pause at the propiatory fires; sometimes in my ragged cloak
I would speak with kings. I am the king of nothing. "No," she said.
I negate, but she is beautifully like the one I lost:
what can I do or say? I have gone mad. I loved
a baby doll, whom fire ate; I travel now among islands,
ports, seeking a home and people; a roof of burnished bronze,
firey in the sun; and cry the cry again. I should not have gone.
Poisoned, she breaks and stinks. Cursing me with her cracked
voice, she fell upon the pyre. Oh, Anna, Anna, did you light the torch?
"And so, my lord?" Duty commanded that I leave. The flames
house her now, safe in a bosom warmer and more chill
than mine. But dear, o my dear, how many deaths
pound there? I loved you...

           So this is an end. Lean Duty
has eaten two poppets. I have not been fed, not even by
these madnesses. The city ground under my heel. I alone
am a city; and my walls are falling. I am becoming the sea.
Crash of waves. Our frail pods are leaved by this green blackness;
to be a farmer again: wheat rolling over bland hills
and the occasional sacrifice. This doe I give to thee, great Jove:
the gutted corpse thumps into the fire. My companions, my beloved wife,
dear Dido, on an altar I shall draw your blood. I am outcast, I drown
in your red sea. For my stiff father we box and run:
for a certain love we bore him. I bore him on my shoulders.
There is another under the waves now. I bore them
up to land, the sybil, who spoke. A scraggy branch in hand, I tread
amongst shades. Father, what do you show me? A certain spirit,
husbanded by the unrecognisable, turns away and will not speak to me.
Dido, I did not mean to love you...

           A procession of those
to follow me, and there are many. None burn. One burns, in hell...
Flame is about me, without the cold heat of hell.
I have made my house in it. My clothes are flame,
and I think - oh, if you must speak, speak now, idiot!
I think that I may walk the recesses of my head.
Green-sickness carrion, the char-black flesh of battle.
These have been killed by us and are made a part of us.
Provision for the loved. There is one more rapt
troublesome doll, a key. Some would ignore true prophecy,
but die. The fires again, as nests catch and burn
beneath our bloodstained bronze. Breathe - there is nothing to
breathe, only the smoke and the butcher's scent. I hurt - it
hurts. What shows me this mist? My head pains me. The armies
march in my skull. And all for the hand of a woman, no Helen
or Aphrodite; still, I fight, as one must in these matters.
I have been given a shield by my mother. Look on it, oval
and bronze, the sun's disc, but embossed with the battles of the world.
See here, the bloodstained Hercules (and still I cannot
scrape it from the ruts) strangles, as a baby, serpents.
Or my own final victory, the bloody sword hanging,
a horror, above the hero's corpse. The shield will die,
rusting green in the foul runnels of Alba's black armoury;
and I shall be preserved, embalmed by the glib Gaul's verse.

Nicolas Spicer

Back to Snakeskin contents