The dolls’ house on the street in my mind.
Its tiny curtains drawn, the rooms dark and dusty.
The finger-sized furniture tipped over,
after what might have been a drunken rage,
with no sign of its doll-faced occupants,
the little back door kicked in, or nudged by a mouse,
the fourth wall gone in this theatre-of-play,
revealing a family’s unspeakable secrets.
And in its homey plastic kitchen, a bit of smoke.
A fire coming. A cleansing fire.
Monday Is Hanging Day
The procession taking Robert Hubert
to his death paused at Resurrection Gate.
The bellman of St Sepulchre’s tolled the bell twelve times.
Carrying on, the brickbats flew, and horsepats too.
An effigy of the pope, containing live trussed cats,
was set alight, the screams delighting the baying crowds.
Hubert was offered a spring of rosemary and draught of ale
on his way to ‘espouse Mrs. Tyburn’.
All the while he faced his executioner,
the stony-eyed Jack Ketch, who’d sent many
a sinner to their repose in the great hereafter.
He’d receive eleven quid for dispatching Hubert.
For an extra tip he’d add his weight to the condemned,
a number of the hanged not so willing to die quickly.
Ketch sold their shoes and clothes as well, such as they were.
He’d cut off the hands of the condemned,
selling them on for up to ten guineas a pair.
It was thought they held the ‘death sweat’, a cure-all.
Mothers held their children up to be stroked by them.
Jack Ketch, the bringer of death,
worked twenty-three years in a very singular occupation.
He was feared and despised in equal measure.
Hubert, accused wrongly of starting the Great Fire,
dispensed with etiquette and refused to make a last speech.
He took a while to die too, dancing in the air as he did;
no tip, apparently, had been forthcoming.
Taken down, his body was torn to pieces
by a drunken howling mob, and the rope, sometimes
referred to as gallowsgrass or neckweed, was then sold
by the executioner in one foot increments.
As souvenirs go, it fetched a handsome bounty.
Dolorous heat and summery torpor,
the cat under the verandah
clinging to the pre-dawn chill,
insect life in a loosened bumbly swarm,
flotsam in the humid wake,
the months of twinned Caesars fecund,
with a hint of autumn as days abbreviate
sayings, saws, anecdotes, abstracted texts,
the ant and the grasshopper at odds in their art
karma and dharma settled in the dune grass,
tourists cavorting like barbarous infidels
intent on stealing our last wine and women.
Not sure if the day is getting longer
or the nights grow still,
protracted evenings letting out the line
so the fish may tire, salmon planning
their sure return, the geese charged
on electromagnetic waves, bobbing in ferry wash,
tides moving out and so forth, an inexorable measure
of the moon’s allure, casting itself
upon the open waters of the Captain’s Passage,
stars ringing in the heady atmosphere –
so many bells and all’s well.
A Race Between Science And Disaster
I believe some eternities are longer than others.
I believe in the face of life and the face of death.
That evil transforms itself into a many-flowered head.
The night is rich, immaculate, starbound,
Mr. and Mrs. Infinite sleeping in their smoky den,
the monsters of Dreamworld hungry for sleep,
famished by the laws of time, by the outraged heart,
the heart a cliché pounding on its little red drum;
a new music in the old slaughter.