David Calcutt

 

 

 

Further extracts from

The Old Man in the House of Bone

Outside the house of bone, beyond the tangled wood
there are storms, winds howling, people being born
rain pours and lashes in slant-sheets of downpour
these people meet other people, fall in love
lightning strikes, whumps of white flame shutter the sky
they grapple with each other, eat each other
abandon each other, are turned out alone into the boiling world
to go fugitive through tempests and shipwrecks
pursued by devils screeching, causing mayhem
disrupting the party, destroying all the birthday gifts
as cars collide, trains go off the rails, everything smashes
into everything else, everyone dies and gets born again
the world floods and sinks beneath the waves
and comes back shining, everything starts over
but nothing like that happens in the house of bone.

*

Let the house of bone be a book
in which all the words are written backwards

*

Inside the house of bone there are many rooms
each one its own kind of creature, in its burrow
or its nest, or snuggled down deep inside its den
and each of these creatures guards a precious object
such as the soft skin of the hands, the bright blood
the neatly combed hairline, the wrinkled corner of a smile
and they keep them well-hidden, put away for safe keeping
wrapped in tissue paper, tied up with ribbons
where they remain a long time, too long, they are forgotten
they shrivel, dry up, turn into sand that the old man lets fall
between his fingers, the dust of all his days
collecting in a little heap on the carpet
and there is no sea to wash them away
only the house of bone with its flotsam and fossils
its footprints in rock, its empty, hollow caves.

*

Let the house of bone be a star
at the edge of your eye-pupil, too distant to glitter

*

In one of the rooms in the house of bone, the old man
is working a magic, he’s taking all the silences
from every part of the house, from all the corners
and the cubby holes, from the small hidden space
tucked under the stairs, and he’s weaving them together
strand by delicate strand, and making a music of them
a slow music that hurts in its making, like the hurt
of every morning, of wind in the letterbox, the hurt
of the dull ticking of evening, and it trickles
through the cracks and chinks in his body
it undoes the bandages, it unwraps him mercilessly
and he lets it, he listens to the word it brings
from that other world, the one he left on the bus
with his passport and his wallet, he lets it empty him out
and leaves it playing behind the firmly closed door
like a madwoman in the attic, like a photo in its locket.

*

Let the house of bone be a hawk
nailed to the sky at the back of your skull

 

 

David Calcutt is the author of Crowboy, Shadow Bringer and The Map of Marvels: Oxford University Press, and Robin Hood: Barefoot Books http://davidcalcutt.com/about/

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