Saturday, May 16, 2009
At Burton Constable Hall
If I stand on the garden chessboard,
what piece am I? Only the king
is more at a loss. The thrusting pawns
jostle and sneer, the queen wants my head.
You turn leisurely cartwheels
in between moves on the orangery lawn.
A gas lamp in the turret again:
His Lordship has advertised for a hermit,
non-applicants only. I start tomorrow,
though I alone know it. Ignored
my non-fame will spread,
dissolve and so conquer all.
The board before games is not
at rest but a sticking-plaster
on slaughter and the memory
of slaughter. Bluff, double bluff.
Pin me now. J’adoube,
I adjust, I capsize.
Another shriek from the stables.
The master’s experiments
with crossbreeding rabbits and hens
are an unexpected success.
The beast crows hourly and lopes
off over the field on its hocks
but there is blood on the turrets and crosiers.
The sheep have grouped at the ha-ha
and low with something like menace.
Alone among his powers my king’s
impotence will remain with him
to the end. Checkmate.
Anything I can
believe now but my own eyes.
The donkey-wheel donkey stops,
goes into reverse, and sucks
the water backwards
out of the fountain.
Genial victor, already
rearranging our carnage
pick me up by the neck,
turn me over and stub
my head into the ground.