kentish hymn / keremet
by Fran Lock
wuton wuldrian weorada dryhten hálgan hlióðorcwidum... god is native to a numb tongue, heard as cleave or queerdom, we are crossing in fog where the chalk path forks. hips and haws. to the barrow, to the drear bower over the berm, to etching hill, to cherry hill, to tumulus and stūpa. stupor. where the laden ditch gives up its ragstone dead. and the dog has a tumour. and the wind folds form back on itself with a coarse consistent music. and i think of the cláirseach, the curve of a cutting tool, clear and sage. and i misheard this as a levelling harp. where god is an architect, harping his level. and an englishman asks us: what’s in a name? they had hanged up their harps, said the scholar. by which harps were they hanged? by a psaltery’s straightened guts. by kithara, by lyre. all my sultry kith are liars. born to it, our harps are archers’ bows, our arched backs strung for anxious pleasure, elbows out. simensa, a man with a metal detector tells me i believe in magic. i’ve walked my boots to repertoires of ruined sued. do i cast the lots? do i read the tea? or tell him how his hand has heirs; it is a siring palm? seared flesh. he wants a smooth fate sealed with a sterling heat where i touched him. the pentagram, the witch’s mark. oh, i will not live by coffee’s caustic horoscope, the partial eclipse of a proffered coin. we are not these small town childhoods, sum of all our noons. tell him what? i do not believe in magic anymore than i believe in northern ireland. tell him the denial of reality is the refusal of work, motherfucker. if not, what is your magic for? and fuck the police be my werewolf prayer. and pikey the brand, be the bane, be the blessing. wuton wuldrian, but what’s all this we business? god and i are playing hare and tortoise. contessa and chauffeur. i face the icons every morning, the prevailing vacuum of his stare. he mentally undresses me, the dog, unzips the middle-distance with his teeth. i never called myself a christian, as such. they used to say that we were tree-worshippers, stump-fuckers, hedge-humpers, head-shrinkers, devil-antennae. when we receive a sign, we signal back. in the old time we fled the knout and gallows, illiterate and literal. we feared their lechery, their frenzy, khlysty-christ-cum-whipping-boy who drives out sin with sin with spinning. we fled to the tundra, to the thicket, to the steppe. call us magyar or márya, mari, tsarmis, cheremisa. call us people of the volga, vulgar people. and the volga is the jul. our tongue a vulgar jewel. i have covered my hair and are we not harpies? hounds and ministers, to thunder and to spite. once, we were surpassing swoop and lovely. they made our hands a labour of talons, haggard with grasping. the man said black, altogether disgusting. they tore off our wings and dressed us in the sinking of ships. we were sparrows with the faces of women until we were women with the tails of fish. and my bruised thighs fused: a gauntlet sized in silver, a single sexual mitten. are we not sirens? vulgate jackals, a pique of heathen owls? lufian liofwendum lifes agend... fiendish and aloof. a leaf again, an agony. there was the common prayer, the solemn prayer, and we pick out the path on the shit-shingled hills with the border patrol boat moving below. ah, if we were harpies. ah, if we were sirens. the sea is not cruel. cruelty requires a chromosome. little kiss, little why? and how the skinhead on the beach turns an irrigated smile toward dover, is herald of a swilling doom. and i have remembered the mermaid wrong. not a mermaid at all, but a slack-breasted sitter-of-vigils. like me. robust but worn. the way she shoves a pared bronze face toward the sea, as if to ward off danger. how a woman is an amulet: medallion, a figurine, a tooth, a claw. and all the crowned falcons of the upper kingdom will never make me whole again, she says. these blue glass beads have an eye, an intention to power. menat: horus hanging counterpoise. these similars, these stelai. ankh and udjat. pillar, scarab, sa. a child with a stick, a sun with three rays. that's an aspect of ra. that's aten. to illuminate and wound. how the light of the world in a pained vowel stretched between curving horns, is a note you blow. there was something to do with a jackal: you who are in the everlasting air. and the jackal has a double that she carries on her back like a parachute. there's a compass on the hill. a cippus. it marks the limit and the distance and the way. they called us counterfeit egyptians. our grain was our coin. his mulo at my shoulder. i have bread in my pocket for appeasement or reward. he will follow me, always. hang horseshoes for my epuletts. hang horseshoes from my earlobes. hang a horse like a harp. how a woman is an amulet. worn with sweat. your leaking acids eat her. here, there are icons and charms. here, there are hoards and corpora, the hoary taxa of textbooks, tell us something we already knew. gumena gehwilcum goodes willan... good will, god willing, welcome, good welcome. i could crouch here, wear summer to sickness in a high lace collar. i could pluck the finches from the gorse like fat brown berries. sing to me, this chalk chanteuse is a toothsome whore. there'll be bluebirds all right, and a great white vulture. the bluebirds are over. where england is the cabaret's jaundiced maw. what i already knew: invoke your enemies, summon them with stew. and language is the theophoric knot you can't undo. cursed for kicking the cooking pot. cursed for refusing alms. cursed for securing funding, for the straightness of your spine when i walk through the world like a bagging hook. keremet, from out the unbidden and enlarging dark, local spirits of the violent dead: shades, bogeys, henchmen, wideboys. i am foul-mouthed, a mouth folded on foulness, grann brigitte, spitting peppers and obscenities beneath the clootie tree. keremet, half ghost, half household god. i am pressing a gold token to a flat snout for protection. their curse is a binding spell and it goes: where are you from?englan' you're a drug stepped on so many times you are a ladder and a bridge and a dancer's mark. i have oaths. i have hymns, a morbid grace ingrained like dirt. and i see london, i see france, and all my dreams and all my limbs and all the sea were filled with swimming.
Fran Lock Ph.D. is a some-time dog whisperer, activist, and the author of seven poetry collections and numerous chapbooks, most recently 'Raptures and Captures', published by Culture Matters, the last in a trilogy of works with collage artist Steev Burgess.