Crabbed fingers on the gate;
snouting at the door, he calls
early or late in his stealthy
boots; he would hear the heart
of this town to please his own.
This rage for talk; sends he then
out into sound, flocks of words
trapped on his rounds; snatched
from behind the palings of green
lanes where young girls lie long
the warm nights to try their age.
We would savage him with praise;
make fall about his shoulders
a companionable silence; trip
him into new and quiet ways, but
no. A solitary at the end of talk,
he is older than regret; this
bone he lives on, off him feeds.
On cold nights at the edge of town,
you can hear him: howling for a life
that’s sticking in his throat.
From Vlaminck’s Tie (Auckland/Oxford UP, 1985)
© Michael Harlow