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Dog Mercury

by Paul Holman


I

so Canidia drew on

a spell of fog (dry cloud)

the moulting cage

cat shit in the wickerwork

II

My devilish friend,
I heard of
one who settled
upon the flood
plain as comrade
to a grandson
of the siren -
all hedges stiff
with dried mud
from the river:
this great princess
rejected the gospel -
a shrine to
the dog star,
a cat ruled
the star mice -
her throat encircled
by amber, by
jet. She laughed
to find a
thread of my
sperm upon the
garment of nettles:
her grave ornaments
of chalk beside
the shepherd’s crown.

III

1. Hawk moth fetched a rumour of the sensuous external world: the path of Diana climbed from Tiphareth into the abyss.

2. In December we kept each other company through the hermetic wilderness, kissed while the moon stood at the pillar of mercy.

3. Myself a half-apparent man, I found her pronouncements clouded: it had become habitual for her to gaze through a net.

4. I forgot those who knew me best, spent too much thought upon a ghost I had embraced among blossoms of salt and sulphur.

5. The blackberry stain inside my hat, its brim twisted into a figure of eight for the sake of contrast to her curious star-pointed halo.

6. Morgan le Fay gathered strength through the Bronze Age: no longer bound to the sky, her genius settled deep within spring and pool.

7. Under the cloud barrier, we passed black sheds of the giants, the paddock in which fairground equipment stood dismantled.

8. My conceit outlasted art, trade and mystery: the damaged launch in drydock upon a wooded peninsula, bridge knotted into the fist of some freshwater god.

9. How foolish of me to hold that I stood back from one who might well not have been taken, more keen to enact an old refusal than to become subject to happiness.

10. The demands and menaces of poets had ceased to impress me long ago: I wished only to sit down and put my back to a tree.

11. I made nothing of the secret breathed to me in syllables, still Marxist, still Marxist under the rose.

12. Do not forget that many gods are buried within this island: our dead go elsewhere, in a boat steered by the thought of Mercury.

IV
 
Though I stepped
once again between
those wyvern-guarded
gates, to follow each
path mown through a
delicate large meadow
where the bee orchid
grew, it was not
to encounter some-
body I had loved more
than any other, become
an omen of herself alone.

V

Headless, I had been
defined as the most powerful
creature, no longer subject to
the witch flight of thought.
I knew myself to
be a sentence uttered by
the god, become ironic, spiteful
enough to consume all that
nature offered.

VI

By the law of threefold
return, I committed myself
to a sidelong life,
my beard now white
at the chin. Isabel took
bone to dowse,
her cardigan fixed by a
safety pin across her breasts:
she might have stood with
the horned crown and sword at
her feet.

VII

In the backyard
I make a comical enough
figure of the hermit,
storm lantern raised
between the washing
line and the rose on its
trellis.

My life defined by
adoption, each demon
that migraine generated,
my infatuation with
the motley-sandalled girl.