Every weekend he attends
to the sacrifice:
weeds, sticks, newspapers and leaves
hauled to the site.
Torn elbow above smudged knee,
wellyboot stirruped on garden fork,
he drags on a Player’s,
strides to the heap
and flicks a match.
She peers out and sighs.
He spits in his palm, grasps the haft
and forks debris to the pyre:
first a frown, then a lip
smoulders and cackles into flame.
At last, she’s ablaze.
Collapsed on my bunk,
coarse straw pinches up through greasy cloth.
Everything hurts. Head, guts,
skin hanging from aching bones:
is it really me?
Scabby potato peelings
and water for weeks now.
Be still. Don’t think about food.
After three years, you can hold
on a little longer.
hooves and heartbeats ...
Hemmed in by thick forest,
barbed wire and machine-gun towers;
secret radio in hut twelve
‘the American advance is near’.
Gravel, heather ...
haunches, leather ...
Conscript guards are frightened,
mostly old men and boys:
two caught creeping away last night.
The Kommandant made us dig the graves this morning.
bony hands clasped,
gaunt arms wrapped under the covers:
he’s laid out like a mediaeval knight,
pale and sunken cheeks scarred
from the nurse’s clumsy shaves.
In the clutch of the bacterium,
pumped and emptied by machines.
But the eyes still flicker.
My Dad keeps going:
Picked up and let go,
not even a wave,
I’m left in the shadows again.
You trust we’ll be reunited
but I’ll bob down the path,
under the radar and away—
standby or red-eye, further the better for me:
with stroller, holdall and drinks
beneath wispy coconut fronds,
a week without your sweaty palm,
My animal of power appeared
on the day I returned to the mountain
(the inquest was to open nearby).
At the pass I limped from my car
and shuffled with a stick
to the start of the stony ascent
My damaged leg throbbed
as I traced out the craggy ridge of Crib Goch;
serene, smiling to the lens,
you’d forged ahead on the climb.
I laid flowers on a boulder beside the path,
an insignificant blaze of yellow and red
amidst bleak millennia of glacial erosion
the wind spearing my core.
Unable to keep on
and join you, afraid to return:
I slump to the broken ground
Swooping down from the mountain
the great dark bird heads for me:
gliding effortless beyond.
The raven’s throaty cry booms out from the pass.
I hear the call.