What can the women say about the pails
of beer the sexton’s ordered me to place
at intervals around the cemetery?
As little, I imagine, as they said
about the naked lodger at the parson’s.
They as a rule are not that much for words.
They keep their counsel, keep their clothes on till
Dionysus commands nocturnal presence
and suddenly at the bottom of the hill
there’s only sexton, pastor, churchyard, me.

Their music, scarcely audible down here
to humans, makes the dogs crawl under beds
and beer that had gone flat among the headstones
gains body and a modicum of froth.
What tourists think are fairy lights ignite
the ridges, and another young man’s missing.
Returning women rinse their faces clear
and walk unseeing past us to their beds
and dogs come out and stretch and sniff the breeze.
The one I throw a stick for bites the sexton.

The sexton tells me I can have the pails,
says there was no naked lodger. I go home
and smell the day-old beer, avoid the bed.
Dionysus has weathered leaner times.
A garland and a heavy, pointed stick
and pieces of a cat lie on the hearth.
I can’t abide the smell of fires gone out.
I hear the parson outside, softly crying
and saying were the candles here on time
there would be no women sleeping in today.

The sexton’s answer’s mumbled and I miss
what held delivery up; a washed-out road
was blamed the last time. We don’t have police.
One woman does the laundry. One pours tea.
The one who never would return my gaze
stares at me till I blink. She takes my hand
and leads me to the parsonage where mead
and meat and biscuits and a ruby wine
are given to me, and a splendid room.
She asks for and I give her all my clothes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s