Photo by John Williams (2009)














































An old-timer
grizzled as a Cripple Creek pan-handler
tugs me to one side
as I’m heading for the bank.

I fumble for a coin
and test the edge with a thumb-nail
so as not to inflate
the going rate
for schnorring in these parts.

But I’m premature.
He blanks the twenty pence
and points instead
to where they’re gentrifying
the old market stalls.

Look at that
he whines
through stalagmited tubes.

I look
and see a fresh-dug hole
and shiny rows
of crisply-minted bricks.

So what, I shrug
but again he tugs,
leaving a grubby indent
in my immaculate sleeve.

Then the air shimmers
and out of the hole
steps a rabbit-skinner.

He turns,
extends a hand,
pulls Cast Iron Billy
up into the light.

A second later
there’s an ancient archiator
his face pocked with craters
like the surface of the moon.

A back’us boy climbs out
his whistle pierces
and out of the ground
flies a shrieking eagle.

Four black horses
come out of the hole
and glide a silent hearse
across the cobblestones.

Out they pour
from the old market stalls.
Mush-fakers and beer-makers.
Glee singers and balladeers.
Swine-herds and hogs.
A prancing monkey and a dancing dog.

A severed head impaled upon a pike,
eyes gouged by a scavenging kite.
Saxon pirates and legionnaires.
Like a million flies.
‘Til the air is thick
and their swelling numbers
line the ancient route
to the slope of Hogs Back hill.

All the way back
to when god was a boy.