The cheese had an exact savour
releasing the sharpness of goats
gorged on the sparse grass beyond the city’s gates.
You tore bread, poured spiced wine, offered olives
whose stones we spat into a bowl.
Ripe figs were brought,
bursting from their velvet purses
their many seeds catching at cracks in our teeth,
distorting chatter as our nails probed each cavity.
Then fish. Landed but an hour since and laid on a bare board,
scales rainbowed against the rough table.
Eat, you said, this is your feast.
And so we fell to. Sliced again and again
from the glistening side
yet restrained our appetite to allow, being a feast,
for the meat to come.
Though we’d not smelt the cooking of it
we felt the flesh melting in our mouths.
You waited, watched, offered torn bread.
Only the sound beyond the ear’s reach
beyond silence, soothes.
Washed by constant waters
remembered, later, in the touch of wind on skin
in that first exhalation, first greeting
first knowledge of lying
outside the silence
the voice is heard, an instrument
whose sharps and flats desire interpretation
the rough bark startling
– as it still does –
indicates love or its faithful companion betrayal:
a kiss sword-sharp given in a midnight garden
a sop of vinegar-wine
– not a malicious act –
a rock rolled back, an empty cloth where hope also lies.
We had heard the dove’s three notes and seen
the curve of light against a naive sky, smelt
unguent from crushed palms beneath our feet
and were caught between hosanna and crucifixion.
Knowing what was written we were afraid
of what might be demanded, wary of that we might discover
beyond birth. So, yes, we did travel slowly, each decision
an indecision, each suggestion once, twice, questioned
but at the first snow-melt we began our journey,
followed rivers in full flood from the abundance that ice
had borne through winter’s keep, had, at the hint
of a reluctant spring, chosen, if choice were possible,
release. Of course, dying framed the silence.
There was the call of one reaching out for the comforting
cry of another, the hand held, a touch,
though all were beyond the reach of language, beyond
those small hypocrisies of death. The first true birth.
The knot cut close.
For what is the past but the scar of other centuries, a spike
of time to beat against locked doors? And who will dare
to open to the stranger whose words are differently chosen,
whose promise is exemption? Yet, unhope,
framing the silence, clings tight as a caul and krumholz*
smothers abandoned gardens
where those who have sown thought falter. Perhaps,
only the blind man, he who rocks at the edge of the known,
his world a long cane’s length, may pierce those dark tangles,
may witness what is written.
But who would believe in the word of the unseeing?
Or know in the unseen is the silence unheard?
Though when the bleed of shadow behind the sun
darkened the sky
we held fast to the charred end of that day,
knew the cry was the pith reluctant to release the flesh.
And still we failed, unprepared
for linen unwound, the re-composition, sheltered by stone.
*krumholz – dark tangles of dwarf hemlock
– leather/slashed –
one would expect to be worn wide
open with a raked beret but you were
close buttoned yet so thin you moved
inside its movable room, close connected
hotel, lobby, bar, a stranger’s suite, bus
station, setting hope down in smaller
corners, splaying on narrow beds, grey
nylon sheets. A button went first, lost
in the basement of a bed and breakfast
whose landlady disinfected daily the one
toilet on the second floor landing. The buckle
broke in the amusement arcade, playing with
pennies until the hostel opened. A tear
unnoticed left the faded lining showing, a thread
of grime hidden in its seams led to the rip
which crazed a pattern on the back down to the
sagging hem, the belt dragging the river bed.