" /> Cadaver Dog Canto

Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide;
They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.
- Milton

And so they cross the bridge and enter the alley –
A scarlet thoroughfare – where from the steady press
Of the crowd there is one plucked who barters a brief entry

To a rented room and a girl behind glass.
Velvet curtains are drawn; she sits on the bed and sucks
His cock, never has he witnessed such a black beauty; but as

The moment of culmination comes, he is unable to fuck
The Origin of the World. She reclines upon the bed, her
Fake fingers ply her labia wide, while he wanks

Himself off above her, coming like a closing door
To find himself once more upon the street, soiled by the reek
Of cheap perfume and powder, his eyes hard and bitter.

And then the crowd catches him and sweeps
Him further – on to the Achterburgwal – where
The canal’s black water writhes beneath

Fairy lights like a river of bile. There
He sees one in the fosse
Of a doorway, crouched and intent amid old paper

And excrement, a face black above a scrap of foil that suddenly
Lights and then shrivels to nothing. High above,
In the mouth of the strip bar, in the place where he

Will die, Benno is crying: ‘live fucking, live
Fucking’; so we sweep inside, beneath the glance
Of the primate at the door who bellows to the stranger below to ‘leave

Him be’, as he hands him the entrance
Of thirteen coins to the Christian Hostel
Where the dormitory beds are filled with the mad and the penance

Of the night is the force-feeding of the bible.
On the stage inside a lobotomized Salome is puffing like a censer.
She purses out a cigarette and mounts a candle.

The crowd leers and brays. Exeunt. From the Torenzicht Hotel to Excalibur
The crowd is like a seething blanket of maggots
Slithering over the money-loving cadaver

Of an industrious whore. He applauds the honesty of their appetite and mounts
The steps of the house of the Angels. Inside he sees a bartender
Who is practising his pentameter. He taps

On the bar and orders a beer. Then moves over
To the spy-out over the alley, leans against the lintel,
And follows the stream, which runs from the old nunnery near

The Chinese massage parlour as far as this derelict hotel.
And suddenly like a stone skimmed
Across a dying lake, the terrible

Voices of Asian whores are fired into the world, and
Like Erinyes encircle one who is blinded by the sun
Of their fiery indignation. And pointing at the damned

Man they cry – ‘he come, he come,
But he no pay’ – imploring all the world
To bear witness to his tiny stain,

And to help to set their world to rights. He turns
Aside – surveying the interior of the hourglass room.
There is Barry and there Titus, the smuggler Chris who spurns

His bitter wife. The dead and the dying – united by one who
Like a gathering storm, will fall upon them all
And turn their lives to dust. The murdering Englishman John and his fool

Of a brother who have come to uncover the secret of this furtive circle
Of smugglers. Chris – his wrists cuffed and his throat slit, left
To stiffen on his couch for a week – now cranes over the bar, a trifle

Green at the gills, as he has to confess that all his money’s lost. His malevolent wife
Whirls like a thresher, how he always neglects her, even
Now with all eternity in his hands. And suddenly, as though in life

The ghost of Titus swims from the shadows: ‘Oh father, why did you leave
Me there to that dismal lot, to be beaten black and burned
And left for the birds on a sodden mattress in a desolate loading yard.’ For Barry

Had stashed his money in a warehouse and left poor Titus the ignorant guard,
To be taken and martyred at John’s hand, crying out in vain
For his torturer to relent. Now he stares uncomprehending into Barry’s face, but

Barry had to have his comfortable middle age – with his hand on his glass, he looks away,
Out through the doors of this transitory café, where he sees
The oblivious procession of life file by

To its gibbet in the distance, and in his face he feels the brief sun blaze
With shame over the unmarked grave of Titus,
For no angel could save the son that this Abraham would betray.

He leaves the café, perhaps brushes a last understandable tear away.
The whole world lies before him – fine restaurants, brothels, massage parlours, bars –
Where to make a home? Over the hard-hearted cobbles he goes on his now solitary way.