(© Words by Paul F. Cowlan)
This noduled, syphilitic shank,
strap-scarred and bulbous
among the ossuary’s scorbutic jaws,
punched skulls and ricket bows,
points, as bones will, widdershins
to sea-swell, heat-stroke and Conquistadores.
A new blight,
gifted via the Treasure Fleets,
with sun-sweat figurines and whiplash orisons.
Passed touch for touch under the skin,
almost in innocence,
until its rank fire kindled.
A seaport maybe;
streets, a house in a mean alley.
And this bone,
hale, thrusting, lapped in flesh;
the shuddering interchange unmarked.
But every road leads somewhere.
One day, in whatever season,
a dry, wrench-welded fragment of what once was lust
came limping down this lakeshore,
goaded on by pain, hope, hearsay;
in search of cure, compassion,
or a poor few dregs of calm.
The cloister is a ruin now;
bake-house, hearth, infirmary,
sketched shells in the grass.
The halt, the maimed, the holy,
labelled and laid out,
each with their looted speech.
And this bone-compass swivelling its warped club
under the air-conditioned glass.
South, north, west, east.
But the sun is stubborn and refuses to turn back.