We behold the earth like gods now, or like one mortal
gazing at another who is naked – lush, road-scarred,
flawed by dry patches, rippled with fat-folds and wrinkles
and silvery rivulets of desire. Today this earth
is pocked and marked by graves: piled-up mounds of the new,
sunken hollows of the old, tabs in rows like a plant nursery,
little, oh little. Tumuli of the ancient and whole cities
squashed close, our marble shanty-towns – necropolis,
mausoleum, sepulchre, vault … No such ceremony
in forest or desert, unmarked sites visible if at all
only from above, that may or may not ever be
exhumed. Or in the field-patch of an island graveyard,
a plot just out of the sea’s reach to be rocked, rocked
forever by the waves. All this because yesterday
I visited yours. The higher I go, the fewer
burials can be seen, the more imagined from where I sit
in the middle of life, necessarily blind to anything
beyond the walls and the window’s nearest horizon.
You’d never climb the worn stone
spirals up the tower of a church
or castle. You used to say
it was your bungalow childhood
and your dad making you
climb the Glenfinnan Monument,
black and vertiginous inside.
You hated the old staircase
in the hotel at Wirksworth
that wound, unsupported,
round the edge of a deep well
across which our laughter echoed
while I went up by the slender
iron banisters and you
almost clung to the wall.
As for the towers, I’d climb up
on my own. Sometimes
you’d go off to do something else,
other times you’d wait for me
to wave at you from the top.
Once in France a church tower was so
high, and you so far away
in the square under plane trees,
standing among wavy green
shadows not like water but some
unknown element, that I
was afraid of losing you
until I climbed down, found you
and gave you a kiss
to prove myself wrong.
In late November
Time stopped, a crevasse opened at your feet
and you fell headlong. I found you climbing
upward against gravity, masked, learning
to breathe. Drips snaked your limbs, and your shoulder
twisting from the sheet was pale as marble.
When you tried to break through I called your name,
called you back from somewhere I’d never been,
back to astonishment in a cold factory.
This happened to you in the wrong season.
The last leaves have been downed by wind and rain.
It’s dark and no traces survive of growth
or green or blue to float the dread off my heart.
The Cell at Plötzensee
Hitler the vegetarian had the conspirators
hanged from meathooks. A photo survives: pale bodies
in a row, hanging … Unless only the hooks are shown
and I’ve strung the bodies from a slaughterhouse image
of carcasses clad in fat and flesh, or human corpses –
Belsen, chemical weapon victims, the naked hells of Bosch.
The stench at one end of a foreign meat market
once made me nearly throw up. I have never knowingly
smelt the smell of the dead but years ago I worked
in a small palace in Warsaw whose basement had been used,
it was said, as a prison by the Gestapo:
a damp corridor lined with cells of blackened brick
where crates of beer and Coke were stacked, and cardboard boxes
of tinned mince and stew. I had to go down there at night
for security checks but never truly sensed a ghost
nor, upstairs, did I ever see the pale-gowned lady
who was supposed to walk the ballroom floor’s scarred wood:
only my own reflection in the tall windows.
The Führer’s order was for them to be hanged like cattle.
Hanging from hooks was meant to last longer. Their deaths
may have been filmed, though no film survives unless in some
hidden cabinet of secrets or dark net. The meathooks
could be slid along the flange of the high iron beam
from where five still dangle in a line, narrow and bare.
Fiona Moore lives in Greenwich. Her poems have appeared in various magazines including The Poetry Review and Poetry London. Her pamphlet The Only Reason for Time (HappenStance, 2013) was chosen as one of The Guardian’s poetry books of the year. A short pamphlet, Night Letter, came out in 2015 also from HappenStance. She blogs at Displacement, reviews for various publications (winning the Saboteur Best Reviewer Award in 2014) and is assistant editor of The Rialto.