LANSQUENET AND DEATH, 1510
Death – How do you do? –
offers an hour glass to the mercenary.
The mercenary doesn’t want one
– Not today; not today, thanks all the same –
but he’s been caught off guard and has to hear him out.
Death speaks in an impenetrable dialect.
He raves of the past and future.
The mercenary suspects he’s addled with drugs.
Where – aimlessly – did a guy like this
get hold of a thing like that, the mercenary wonders, though.
(A lovely piece: true vintage, if it’s a day.)
And Death is speechless, his long jaw drags
as the damned soul fumbles in a jacket pocket.
Here – buy yourself a burger or something. Don’t let me catch you here again.
It’s their simplicity we love –
their tendency to clean up
but also the limits on our baggage:
what will fit on five hangers and a couple of shelves;
our sudden transformation into this.
Like loving was a first kiss,
the calm-limbed body minus its head,
we put our things in order
(eyes avoiding the wall art)
and shove the emptied bag under the bed.
If only there were more channels,
and less of a clinical whiff to the air,
and maybe real milk,
we’re certain we could make a start.
Instead, a telephone call
and if there’s a dilemma, all the better.
We know that. We can play that part.
MIRIAM GAMBLE is a poet and critic from Belfast. Her first collection, The Squirrels Are Dead, was published by Bloodaxe in 2010 and won a Somerset Maugham Award in 2011; she has also won the Eric Gregory Award, the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary Award and the Vincent Buckley Poetry Prize. She lectures in Creative Writing by Online Learning at the University of Edinburgh.