No 17 - May 2002
Late For A Doctor's Appointment
“A 5,300 year old corpse, the world’s oldest known human-flesh remains, was found lying face-down in a slushy pocket of glacier in the Italian Alps.... New findings suggest that the man had not been in perfect health.” The New York Times
The heart of ice never pulses.
But crystalline flesh, packed ever denser
by glaciers that form like lava of freeze,
preserves so well what it cannot heal.
His lungs were as black from open hearth fires
as the star-inscribed sky under which he died.
Several ribs cracked, from battle, or transport,
or pressure of ice, no-one is able to say.
Fungus in the lungs, whipworm in the colon.
Creatures almost as old as molecules
which in their cold union had sparkled, shifted
around him for five millennia.
He’s slept as cozily as nothingness slept
before the Big Bang awoke it.
Ice too is asleep. Little happens
in its clear silence but the whirring
of particles too small to see or taste.
Unless it happens to melt, shift, crack,
expand, contract, reveal its corpses.
Then comes the moment for medical practice,
not quite in time but bright with learning.
Anatomist, archaeologist, microbiologist,
internist, discernist, immuno-radiologist,
they line up at a shrine of flesh and ice,
Ice-Man’s pocket filled with wheat particles
and his empty stomach spinning the plot
of an anthropological novel. Yet it seems almost enough
to conjure up one lonely night in the Alps,
wind spraying snow brighter than stars,
and be glad for our rattling of steam in the pipes.
The same old darkness still outside the door,
but now we’re rulers of measurement.
Each fact marries or divorces old truth.
Pulseless ice embalms, like love that lasts forever.
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- Floating Bear, The
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Grosseteste Review
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review, The
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Private Tutor
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Review, The
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The