Steve Harris


Walking with the Black Man
(Salem, September, 1692)

The Old Boy tells me
I'm the ninth mark in his book.
Beneath his black hat he has white hair,
a white face. I can remember
nothing else. Not the shape of his lips,
nor the color of his eyes. Only white.

One night we met in the forest.
Beside a dark stream, among yellow leaves,
he fucked me. My tongue grew long
as it pushed into the earth, found
the body of a twisting worm.

(Goodman Clarke)

The child had been dead a week,
and I had spent the morning stacking stones
at the west wall. Sarah lay upstairs,
eyes, tongue, all drawn to one side, legs
locked, and for the third day. At noon
I saw two women dressed in winding sheets,
with napkins on their heads, crossing
the fields hand in hand, as if floating.
Behind them trailed a black dog or pig.
At the forest's edge the creature stopped,
stood then like a man, looked back.
Its ears pricked up.

Crusading Among the Wends

My cut thumb smears, then rubs
across a pilgrim's palm frond, stamped
on the King's coin-die this last month
in Copenhagen. The north wind blows
in from the sea; above flaps a white cross
and red sword. Near shore, cropped heads
of the heathen bob in their eel pens, crying
out in a rough chorus. On the high hill
their four-headed god is brought down,
first by ropes, then by fire.