TELMAH (IN THE MIRE)
Her eyes were ashen and wide
the shoulders bent and distant
her waist was ringed, hard to define
from what I recall and what I lived through.
And it was that day of summer
that you wouldn't know it was summer at all
in that year that writhed
and ran day by day down in the sewer
beside the underground trains and the mice.
And that whole year was a lake from a different time
– in fact I think I first met her there –
in the moist refuge
in the haunted room
in the room with the uttermost rust.
And a long time has since gone by
and the snow melted
and the marbles turned into mirrors
and the tiles glinted
and like a vast and soulful light the sky's blue
descented from the clouds
and the room took on the cold deathly colours
that only she
– perhaps not even she – would have heard of.
And that place was a mausoleum
only, of course, to those who recognised it
and those who passed it by
– thinking it a dream –
were swallowed up
because the strength was such and such the waiting
that the space flashed with tension and with every form
that the walls seemed to burn to the touch, yet...
How when I entered and took heart
and decided to look with a candle I lit
a candle that shone and writhed and I could see
scratches on every door
and I tried to read
– for it was a letter –
it wasn't a fit nor the result of disquiet
that engraved those symbols
and I thought there was a recording from the false roof
but I was proven wrong
there was a real ceiling with a mural, nonetheless,
that showed Achilles and Patroclus and some
and there was an expanse like swampland
and there was the word in Greek for “mire”: “ΤΕΛΜΑ”
– “TELMAH” –
reflected in the water
and so I read it backwards
and saw him fleshed out before me
– as he himself once saw his father's ghost –
and he was holding in his hands your face.
And I took further heart and wanted to
in vain however
as they were nail marks
and you were long since gone.