Interior of a Passage

                            I

Irma shows me how it works here.
We slouch behind the ramparts,
bored sentries daring the horizon
to send us its barbarians.

Just after sunrise, the mist
begins to rise from their encampment,
reluctant as a new lover.
We catch a stab of bacon.

Spearheads flicker and twist
in the sunbeams piercing the valley.
We hear no horses yet or chanting
above the wind whisking its leaves.

Irma points out the priestesses.
Hoisting their hems to their chests,
they whisper their little white lives
into the wind.

                            II

Irma has forgotten the rituals.
‘The kyrie, eleison no longer
had a form we could preserve.’
She looks no-one in the eye.

A blue whip of wren plucks
a mayfly from the breeze. Clouds
thicken in the east. Irma swaps
her weight from heel to heel.

Her eyes drop. ‘My son rejected this
hours of boredom, seconds of terror
casting of dynastic lots
in favour of bordellos and surf.’

                            III

Irma is reminding me that Justinian
conquered the one remaining Vandal
on his deathbed when thunder drags
our eyes back towards the valley.

Under my breastplate, sweat. A pulse.
I wonder if I left my home unlocked
and did I feed the greyhounds.
Irma has forgotten me. And I her.

I’m haunted by forest air I never
breathed, breaking waves I never
swam, lips I never kissed
enough. Irma falls. I hear a crow.

6 comments

  1. On a quick read,
    there are some lines I like much:

    ‘they whisper their little white lives
    into the wind.’

    “Irma has forgotten the rituals.
    ‘The kyrie, eleison no longer
    had a form we could preserve.’
    She looks no-one in the eye.”

    The Kyrie made me think of the Lutheran church.

    “Irma swaps
    her weight from heel to heel.”

    Made me think of someone standing too long,
    but also someone shifting the weight of all
    they are thinking about and carrying in their mind
    and body back and forth.

    The hours of boredom and seconds of terror
    brought to mind what soldiers in the military
    during times of war have spoken about.

    In the last stanza, there is the
    longing for the forest air, the breaking waves,
    the lips, the kiss,
    but only the sound of the crow.

    Enjoyed reading.
    Take care.
    Kerri

    Like

  2. This poem haunts me as Irma falls and you are left with only the sound of crow. I am left wanting to interview the one who says “I wonder if I left my home unlocked
    and did I feed the greyhounds.” The “blue whip of wren…” made me rethink my experiences with wrens I think are mostly brown. You have told a provocative tale. I enjoyed it, several times.
    ptc

    Like

  3. Hi Mark

    Fascinating and beautifully written, this poem haunts me with its possibilities and nuances. I sense in the title, “The Interior Of A Passage” this might also extend to the inner self, the interior of a spirit waiting, in transition from one place and mindset in life to another. what caught my attention in this poem are the unique phrasing of language and attention to detail. I particularly something like this passage for its vividness and also its subtle sense of foreshadowing

    A blue whip of wren plucks
    a mayfly from the breeze. Clouds
    thicken in the east. Irma swaps
    her weight from heel to heel.

    You allow the reader to feel something is about to shift and a darker occurrence is brewing on the horizon. Even Irma feels it in her restlessness “shifting her weight from heel to heel” And that ending, it startles and haunts the reader. “Irma Falls and the narrator is left hearing a crow. The crow a messenger of something, of a passing perhaps or even within the narrator, a fall from confidence into fear, into a sense of confronting his own mortality.

    Beautifully Done!
    Wendy

    Like

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