Man of the storm

APRIL 20 05

He came out of a storm,

this man to whom all things would later be granted.

His beauty was perfect,

he knew of countries that no-one had ever heard of.

He talked of days before the earth trembled.

He knew, I am told by those who should know,

things that were engraved upon a stone

kept locked in the vault of the king.

He knew where the river ran before it changed its course,

which the elders confirmed.

He knew that previously there was a wall

where market stalls now stood.

He knew of a war even the palace historian

found hard to remember.

He claimed he had watered horses in the town

when men in hooded black cloaks were the only people here,

which no-one remembered.


'What is your name, stranger?'

they had asked him when he first arrived,

to which he replied, 'Give me the name of your mangiest dog.'

They refused.

All the same they called him 'Copperpot' out of earshot,

the name of that mongrel.


'Have you been on a long journey?'


'By day and by night I have walked,

in search of the lover of silence,

strong as a savage in the wastes,

who places alms in clay pots

and sweats out the lust of virgins

and takes no daughter of the soil to wife

but only cries in lamentation at the crevasse

opening up in the houses

and takes the storm as an ally,

yet is quiet taking a pinch of snuff

or washing hands in the stream.'


They looked at him,

'Rest, you are weary from your journey,

lay down your head on this straw,

we will talk in the morning.'


They left him to sleep and convened a meeting in the hall.

'He has come from the wilderness,' said one,

'His mind is beset by the flies

of ghosts that come down from the hills.

He is a rough fellow from the long world,

his hair is the tangled matting of stinking beasts.'


Another spoke: 'We should tell our children

to stay away from him and not dare go near him.'


A woman spoke: 'He brings news, I am sure,

of the wild horses that roam the plains,

he has caught wild boar with his bare hands,

he has warmed his palms around fireballs

fallen out of the sky.'


'He is a trapper,' said another, 'who has buried

his traps and come here to steal our wine

and turn our daughters to wanton whores.'


An elder spoke up.

'He could dig pits for the dead in exchange for corn.

He could guard the pastures from the leopards that live in the mist.'