Taking The Waters

taking the waters

Ilkley 1859
He lies corpse blue in cold
spring water, not yet dawn when towelled
in the dark, hissing teeth chatter as cold water compress
pythons middle aged belly. Hard penance
for the swollen eye, too much in seeing; pristine
forests, foaming seas and blasted
deserts. Dressed a gentleman for morning stroll, two sticks support
the booted sprain and carpet slippered elephantine
leg with swollen foot. Boils discharge, slow
about his boy, laval red as some primeval
inwardly pulsating force finds vent. Wind northeast, makings of a wild
horse gallop, lifts thatch and chimney pots, scours
Rombalds Moor edge, where he staggers
out of pasture into sphagnum habitat, acid
as his bilious stomach, into half frozen algaeic
essences, a minute synthesis under the sun
grandfather Erasmus rhymed as homage to Aristotle’s
science. All thought Greek before hard driven sleet, globular
gossamers fall, fill nostrils, swollen eyes and open
mouth at each gasp. Returning a white wraith, coat
shaken, fire banked, lamp lit against dull
December day; sometimes he called that light
fate, or just deserts, or writing on the back
of calling cards, rapprochement of the damned.. ‘Forgive
me’, ‘Please try to understand’, ‘I hope
we may remain friends’. Each book folded
like a fatality with care in brown paper. Rumour
said, Madame Tussaud was in residence below, having
waxed upon the fate of headless
kings; would this face become progenitorial, mask
with brow sloped, jaw thrust, hair thickened, gait
bent, the symbolic bird about the malefactor’s neck-
would she make a monkey of him yet?

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