I stare from the tower
one last time, then descend
the spiralling ring of stones
into Jericho. No marauders
for months now. The city is arrogant,
loud with wine and animal fat.
Day is summering, turning dark
in the people. Builders are out,
houses, walls, more walls being built,
skirts swirl, dust dries on scattered
lines of wash. Animals bellow,
spilling their tightened summer dung.
Gossip in alleyways.

I am afraid
under the steep arch of the heat.
Wheat shimmers like clear spirits
fermented from straw. The air
wobbles like a drunkard.
Soon the jagged sickle,
white teeth set into black
demonic gums of pitch
will tear the stalking season.
Only then will they come. Horsemen,
the sun spinning on their swords,
terrifying and free.


I am restless, stray too much
at night. Crowded by this city,
sickened by habit, I circle again
on my footsteps. Seized by a robe of fear:
to jerk back at a sudden turn
would see myself following behind.
I gather the distance in,
vacant beast I dread to meet.
Woke tonight in dream: at the granary,
staring at a man drowned in the grain
dark nostrils filled with wheat,
his throat blocked from swallowing,
begging for air.


Moon’s white fire on the walls,
white hair on bald stones:
my years, one against the other,
breathless under and under these
layers of the city, my lives buried
in the breeding dirt.
I am my witness. Night passes
through me, life passes through me. I touch the clay bricks,
still wet, thumped onto the earth today,
thumbprints pressed in, like sunken ribs.

It is not the invasion I fear
but the too few battles I have set my fear against.
In my soul. My dark God speaks.
Who is the cause of this darkness
but myself? I have a strange love.

It is the purple time, not quite dawn.
Calm upon the terror. Calm.
Oh, I ache for the skitting birds’
spontaneous cries, before the light
preens among their feathers, like a waking.
I hear lovers, hidden where the street ends,
a flash of skin in the light.
I hear day knocking, a hinge
squeal. Milk squirts and froths
in a bowl: a man working day with his fingers,
his head against a warm flank.
A mallet slaps.

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