The Book of M, Chapter II



Summer drought, ploughed deep
with labor
and sorrow. How heavy the road

behind, and the pony
had its full day’s work before it.
The shame, the hot color

mounted. M had fallen sick.


If there were dregs in
his cup, he was
draining them. And the people

stared at him covered with
dust. The governor smelt
his position. Adam

shoved him off the pavement.


M was tingling as the gate
came down, and
though his voice threatened

to break, he said, “What
ill wind blows you
here?” “Ill wind indeed,”

Adam answered. “The wind of God.”


“This is not my home!” cried
M. And Adam said,
“There is one thing that

has slipped through my fingers
like sand, and
that is you. But this house

is tight as wax can make it.”


He gripped the ticking clock
of his heart:
“I’ll not make you a horse

to rove the country round. I’ll
never come on my knees
to you and say give me charity.

I’ll repent nothing I have said.”


At that instant, with the smell
of the furze-rick upon
him, he cursed, “God in heaven,

if I am your father, I am
poor! Your bargain is
a rue bargain. Have you never had

the scribe turn his back on you?”


“Pitiful badger. Wasted man,”
said M. “You wagtail!”
cried Adam. “You jackanape!

Where’s the difference
in selfishness and duty? You
will not stand by,

pretending nothing is nothing.”


“Nothing is no place for
you. A brazen little bird
you know is away

on the mountains. But when I
am done with you, you shall
give up all control, all thought.

I have certain plans for you.”


“God, punish this cold heart,”
M said. “Take the bread
out of my mouth. The twisted

world in his eyes is no
shelter. We have no covering
but the skies above.

I have forsaken his seed.”


“I cast you out
of my mind. I give you up
to one who is not flesh of man.”

At the gate, in the brightness
of the midday sun, Adam
turned pony and, grunting

hoarsely, stepped up to him.


Even out of a den of lions,
the world is hard.
A door was thrown open to M,

and when he was gone, Adam
had his meaning as well,
the silent walk through

the slough of his own necessities.


Did it matter how his
struggle should
end? He thought of M and

the schemes that would bring
them together. But his
poor, bewildered head went

not far past a meal and the weather.


His strength left him.
His face twitched.
Was there a way to

give his life’s
blood so he could speak
and question, tongue loose

like a beast? No. Never.


Continue to Book II, Chapter III

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