THE BELLMAN OF ARCA
(© Words by Paul F. Cowlan)
Through morning's fresh palette
the Bellman's boots scuff round the campanile,
up to the turret and the four mute bells.
Six days and the priest chimes vespers,
pinging the harp-strings for his murmuring widows,
but that's workaday.
The Bellman's out now;
doggéd, and dressed for the Lord's dawn.
Shouldering the trap he rises
and breathes down silence to the snuggling roofs
- the village, folded inward under a flawless dome -
then, crucified, he straddles
and draws breath.
Beginning with a steady swing
and accelerating slowly.
Ringing in the stubborn sunlight;
fingers tightened, features hidden,
sending startled swallows skimming
through the fractured, blue cupola;
sweet, enraptured souls
abandoned to the hectic, trembling clamour.
He bends and sways, and stirs the sky.
Strange and primal,
half-seen in the tower,
pale fists flailing among dark uvulae,
he tosses his hunger to the light,
tranced in a swoon of sound.
Eulalia's damned are naked,
adrift in their cherished flame,
and jaggéd sunbeams tear the sky across:
but the Bellman in his humming cocoon
Clashes his metal fists
and warns the faithful from him;
coaxing foundations up into a clangorous dome.
Doors yield and shutters open,
swallows regain the porch,
but he remains;
a silhouette against the sun,
hammering dimples in the taut sky.
Intent upon his absolution,
racked in a plangent sheath,
he vaunts his suppliant claims to sin;
bound to bell-clapper,
swinging to come kingdom.