And on the ground, which is my moodre's gate,
I knokke with my staf, bothe erly and late.
And seye, "Leeve mooder, leet me in!
Lo how I vanysshe, flesh and blood, and skyn..."
Chaucer, The Pardoner's Tale, 729-32


Since the bare bone, and since
the glistening sinew, press
naked together, wince
at mutual nakedness
- for flesh and skin but gloss
the rails they're stretched across:

men must conceal their love
with glamour about the bone,
prank and patch and glove
that sensual skeleton,
till only their desires,
and not themselves, are liars.


So the desire that cannot live
is given features and a voice;
that echo from the limbs of love
answers anarchy with vice
- an outward ecstasy compressed
in the unwilling masochist.

Then what remains to lose or vaunt
- beauty, wit, or words of skill?
What angel amnesties prevent
the scraping death around the skull?
- then what creation stripped of fear
hungering turns conqueror?


So I was driven forth
out of my discontent:
by narrow paths I went
homewards and into death.

I journeyed night and day,
sunrise to moon's set;
but never once I met
a fellow on the way.

Till at my mother's gate
I paused, and heard the mouse
cry kingship of the house
- and knew I was too late.