Here between the tumbled stones was the door:
Tired men passed seeking warmth, hot broth or a spade
Woman with a sickly baby in hope
The occasional visitor for a dram and stories.
Now the tourist wanders inside
The wet wind flails without a whimper.
They eat a little slowly, staring a short way ahead
To the battle they will lose tomorrow.
Each man prepares to do his job
The hidden guest at the meal is hungry.
The Beast was last here eighty years ago
That is the print of its foot in the crushed house
It has returned a hundred times, they say;
Your office is to be prepared and wait.
These drawings ought to help:
This one is by the man who saw it last
This reproduction of a temple frieze
Is thought to be the oldest: all the others
Are in between. I’m sure you’ll notice
Nothing is common to them but the size
And a certain presence. Maybe you’ll spend your life
Waiting for an enemy that never comes
And maybe for an enemy that comes.
I saw her turn a corner from the alley
At that old inn she left a note on the board
I thought I heard her when the rainstorm rattled
The window sashes and the wood outside
Chattered and sang to the rhythm of the rain.
The man I think you know took us into the room
I happened to pass a mirror, turned and looked
And saw an old man with a bloodstained baby
But when I wanted to show it to someone else
Instead a woman was singing very quietly.
The doors when opened led to other doors
The drawers pulled out to infinite other drawers
You sought an explanation but the man had gone
And then we couldn’t agree his height, his age,
If he was bald, the colour of his jacket
And if he ever was there at all
And then you did not know me any more
And I did not know you except as a light
I had seen seeping under a door on a dark night.
I am alive in the stone field
We are the rising of the moss
On fallen stones that lie like the last army;
Hint of salt in the wind over sandpaper desert
Light in the dark, dark in the light will nestle
Something in the fallen leaves rustle
Though they begin to rot; in the black lake
Stars are revealed; the star-warm sky
Rises to meet us, to repair the break.
copyright Simon Banks 2012
This poem seems to contain several figures that reappear in different poems – the ignorant, dutiful soldier; the guardian waiting for something that may never happen; the mysterious female figure just out of sight. You could call them archetypes, though I’m not sure they’re real archetypes in that they may not be common to other people and cultures.