Like a vast army of gentle tri­bes­men,
I feel lit­tle pins and needles
Dance up the pole of my forearm
From the long fin­gers to the crank­ly
Elbow to the hume­rus and the
Right up to my neck and to the nape
Of it, where my hair ends in lit­tle
Prehistoric pedicles of ungroo­med growth,
More akin to pri­mates,
Down my back this hair,
This love­ly down, this crest of
Awesome fur to ter­ro­rize the ene­mies
Of the pack
And crest­fal­len I watch,
If at all pos­sible, I watch
The out­come of my ances­try crawl
Up and down my back
Like a jes­ter of times past,
When you had to fight for the day
And the night,
You had to fight for ano­ther few weeks
Of bon­dage in the hands of nature,
O we are such a fear­some race
And all our remai­ning hairs are
Scarce memo­ry,
Faint memo­ry of all that has gone
Of all the feral car­nage,
The blood­bath, the ter­ri­fic embraces,
The blunt ins­tru­ments and the eyes,
Always the eyes mean­de­ring
Across the for­ti­fi­ca­tions of count­less
Spelling out doom,
Eyeing the bat­tle­ments,
Sizing up the task at hand, when
The liquid fire would be unlea­shed –
Death had advan­ced now to catch
Up with our sava­ge­ry,
No lon­ger in the cave with the
No lon­ger an ideal death among
Ideal death-fel­lows wal­king down
The aisle,
But now a death alto­ge­ther more
No less sinis­ter but more concrete,
More opaque
Less yiel­ding to the eye,
No lon­ger in the cave
But out in the open, in broad day­light
Blocking out the sun,
Silhouetting against it, plot­ting,
Unraveling, conspi­ring to seize the
Days off this sun and to give
O give so many lit­tle tra­ge­dies
To all that would care to fol­low its
Otherwise heart­less,
Not inter­es­ted in real num­bers
Not inter­es­ted in their roots or
Imaginary coun­ter­parts
Only pro­cee­ding by rote
In a list­less sort of lul­ling
Great nar­co­tic this death by
Great paci­fier, to count the skulls
And bless your ances­tral gods,
Laugh off the unin­ha­bi­table fear
And the cold­ness,
Look up to the fenes­tel­la,
To the stars cree­ping towards you
You were no savage
You were king and feof­for,
Patron of the arts,
Formidable war­rior in fine bro­cade,
You had foun­ded banks and
Erected Davids
And chi­se­led out an impe­rial
Profile and a rus­ti­ca­ted exis­tence
Of refi­ned valour and urbane cruel­ty,
You were the foun­der of cities,
The foun­dry of base metal,
The chief­tain of unre­qui­ted
You the prime vas­sal,
The assai­ler of beau­teous pageants
And the ruler of unru­ly pas­sions,
So many women at your feet and
Between them
So many times four-leg­ged
But not of the caves
But of the cavi­ties of one’s
Lusty appe­tites,
Cavitating inwards
Towards the mer­ril,
Feeling the loins of your
Pulse thrus­ting for­ward,
To sting and sting again
Kill all and then
Perform the ulti­mate act of
Make love to earn love
Earn love and put it aside,
Set up a cur­rent account or
To pro­fit from all the love,
All the pilla­ged love that was
Given first-hand,
Unyielding admi­ra­tion and
Zest, to par­take of the conquest,
How bar­ba­ric can this be,
How tri­bal,
How many men can eschew it,
Men who grow a fine mane of hair
And put on their hel­mets and
Ride into the storm­cloud,
Commanding the opa­ci­ties of the sky,
The com­pass and the gyro­scope at
Their dis­po­sal,
This is no sava­ge­ry
This is dis­co­ve­ry and explo­ra­tion
And lea­der­ship
Men are there to per­form it,
To give it flesh and bones,
To give it thrust
To majes­tize it,
O and to sing it at the top of
Their chest-voices
Like a dense choir of
Fallen angels
At day­break.

I get up
By reflex action.
I put the ket­tle on.
Nothing feels bet­ter
Than a clean shave in
The mor­ning.
I shave.