II Poet appointed dare not decline to walk among the bogus, nothing to authenticate the mission imposed, despised by toadies, confidence men, kept boys, shopped and jailed, cleaned out by whores, touching acquaintance for food and tobacco. Secret, solitary, a spy, he gauges lines of a Flemish horse hauling beer, the angle, obtuse, a slut’s blouse draws on her chest, counts beat against beat, bus conductor against engine against wheels against the pedal, Tottenham Court Road, decodes thunder, scans porridge bubbling, pipes clanking, feels Buddha’s basalt cheek but cannot name the ratio of its curves to the half-pint left breast of a girl who bared it in Kleinfeldt’s. He lies with one to long for another, sick, self-maimed, self-hating, obstinate, mating beauty with squalor to beget lines still-born. You who can calculate the course of a biased bowl, shall I come near the jack? What twist can counter the force that holds back woods I roll? You who elucidate the disk hubbed by the sun, shall I see autumn out or the fifty years at risk be lost, doubt end what’s begun? Under his right oxter the loom of his sweep the pilot turns from the wake. Thole-pins shred where the oar leans, grommets renewed, tallowed; halliards frapped to the shrouds. Crew grunt and gasp. Nothing he sees they see, but hate and serve. Unscarred ocean, day’s swerve, swell’s poise, pursuit, he blends, balances, drawing leagues under the keel to raise cold cliffs where tides knot fringes of weed. No tilled acre, gold scarce, walrus tusk, whalebone, white bear’s liver. Scurvy gnaws, steading smell, hearth’s crackle. Crabs, shingle, seracs on the icefall. Summer is bergs and fogs, lichen on rocks. Who cares to remember a name cut in ice or be remembered? Wind writes in foam on the sea: Who sang, sea takes, brawn brine, bone grit. Keener the kittiwake. Fells forget him. Fathoms dull the dale, gulfweed voices … About ship! Sweat in the south. Go bare because the soil is adorned, sunset the colour of a boiled louse. Steep sluice or level, parts of the sewer ferment faster. Days jerk, dawdle, fidget towards the cesspit. Love is a vapour, we’re soon through it. Flying fish follow the boat, delicate wings blue, grace on flick of a tissue tail, the water’s surface between appetite and attainment. Flexible, unrepetitive line to sing, not paint; sing, sing, laying the tune on the air, nimble and easy as a lizard, still and sudden as a gecko, to humiliate love, remember nothing. It tastes good, garlic and salt in it, with the half-sweet white wine of Orvieto on scanty grass under great trees where the ramparts cuddle Lucca. It sounds right, spoken on the ridge between marine olives and hillside blue figs, under the breeze fresh with pollen of Apennine sage. It feels soft, weed thick in the cave and the smooth wet riddance of Antonietta’s bathing suit, mouth ajar for submarine Amalfitan kisses. It looks well on the page, but never well enough. Something is lost when wind, sun, sea upbraid justly an unconvinced deserter. White marble stained like a urinal cleft in Apuan Alps, always trickling, apt to the saw. Ice and wedge split it or well-measured cordite shots, while paraffin pistons rap, saws, rip and clamour is clad in stillness: clouds echo marble middens, sugar-white, that cumber the road stones travel to list the names of the dead. There is a lot of Italy in churchyards, sea on the left, the Garfagnana over the wall, la Cisa flaking to hillside fiddlers above Parma, melancholy, swift, with light bow blanching the dance. Grease mingles with sweat on the threshing floor. Frogs, grasshoppers drape the rice in sound. Tortoise deep in dust or muzzled bear capering punctuate a text whose initial, lost in Lindisfarne plaited lines, stands for discarded love. Win from rock flame and ore. Crucibles pour sanded ingots. Heat and hammer draw out a bar. Wheel and water grind an edge. No worn tool whittles stone; but a reproached uneasy mason shaping evasive ornament litters his yard with flawed fragments. Loaded with mail of linked lies, what weapon can the king lift to fight when chance-met enemies employ sly sword and shoulder-piercing pike, pressed into the mire, trampled and hewn till a knife —in whose hand?—severs tight neck cords? Axe rusts. Spine picked bare by ravens, agile maggots devour the slack side and inert brain, never wise. What witnesses he had life, ravelled and worn past splice, yarns falling to staple? Rime on the bent, the beck ice, there will be nothing on Stainmore to hide void, no sable to disguise what he wore under the lies, king of Orkney, king of Dublin, twice king of York, where the tide stopped till long flight from who knows what smile, scowl, disgust or delight ended in bale on the fellside. Starfish, poinsettia on a half-tide crag, a galliard by Byrd. Anemones spite cullers of ornament but design the pool to their grouping. The hermit crab is no grotesque in such company. Asian vultures riding on a spiral column of dust or swift desert ass startled by the camels’ dogged saunter figures sudden flight of the descant on a madrigal by Monteverdi. But who will entune a bogged orchard, its blossom gone, fruit unformed, where hunger and damp hush the hive? A disappointed July full of codling moth and ragged lettuces? Yet roe are there, rise to the fence, insolent; a scared vixen cringes red against privet stems as a mazurka; and rat, grey, rummaging behind the compost heap has daring to thread, lithe and alert, Schoenberg’s maze. Riding silk, adrift on noon, a spider gleams like a berry less black than cannibal slug but no less pat under elders where shadows themselves are a web. So is summer held to its contract and the year solvent;but men driven by storm fret, reminded of sweltering Crete and Pasiphae’s pungent sweat, who heard the god-bull’s feet scattering sand, breathed byre stink, yet stood with expectant hand to guide his seed to its soil; nor did flesh flinch distended by the brute nor loaded spirit sink till it had gloried in unlike creation.