All the wrong turnings
that have brought me here –
debts, divorce, a court trial, and now
a forced exile in this city and this drinking cell,
Zum Schwarzen Ferkel, The Black Pidglet:
neither home nor hiding-place, just
just a different make of hell.
Outside, a world of people queuing
to stand in my light, and that sound
far in the distance, of my life
labouring to catch up.
I’ve now pulled out
every good tooth
in search of the one that was making me mad.
I squint at the flasks and alembics,
head like a wasps’s nest,
and pour myself three fingers and a fresh start.
A glass of acqua vitae, a straightener,
stiffener, a universal tincture – same again –
the great purifier, clarifier,
a steadying hand on the dancing hand,
– one more, if you wouldn’t mind –
bringer of spirit and the spirit of love;
the cleansing fire, turning lead
to gold, the dead back into life.
The Pole at the piano, of course;
Munch opposite me, his face
like a shirt done up wrong.
My fiancée in one corner, my lover in another,
merging, turning, as all women turn,
back into my daughters,
and I am swimming naked at night,
off the island, in the witch-fire of mareld light,
listening to the silence of the stars,
with my children beside me,
my beautiful lost children, in the swell
of the night, swimming beside me. (…)