1. The Beast
Knowing how you loved the birds
I fixed them to the trees
so they wouldn’t fly away.
So you would stay.
And you remained silent
and never questioned my bloody palms
or reproached me the birds
because they didn’t sing.
It couldn’t last, of course.
No new birds came and those crucified
were taken by small animals or simply
disappeared from the nails.
I was sure then that you would leave me.
Finally I confessed.
Trembling, I brought you the hammer
and showed my broken fingers.
Leaves and branches in my hair,
the diagrams of Autumn
on the sky.
And you smiled and said it didn’t matter
about the birds
and drank at my tears
like a rare and fragile wine
that they too would not be wasted.
I came to you so carelessly
there were those who thought I had not been warned.
I could only point to the false lovers who carried marks
where you had pressed coins into their palms
and admit I was impatient for your scars.
The rumours followed us as easily
as if you murdered me every night;
hemlock in my evening wine,
a loosened bannister on the stair.
The dull villagers and daft princes
waited still and at distances
for grave news and relentless
until I could only point again
at their jealous eyes and whisper
I had discovered why you handled me
as though I were made of glass.
I know they want to know about our bodies.
Our virginity confuses them
and they are reduced to words and silences.
What shall we allow them to believe?
We are a thousand years old, no histories
and nothing to confess.