The Alchemist Next Door
What he does, you wonder, hearing
him clatter quietly to his wheelie bin
on dark mornings, fumbling with black bags
when the sky is pure frozen sleep.
All night his house lights burn and you
picture him at a table etching crystals
from dull stone, their brilliance ringing
his eyes with amethyst.
Or when the bags squelch see him
butchering body parts, hands bloody,
his bedroom an abattoir, his fridge a
skull-house, backlit and grinning.
On cold days his starter-motor rasps
abraded splines, starts at the third try
when he drives off to some kind of work,
wiping the windscreen with a rag.
Or never works, but parks to watch
the windows of a certain house where
a woman drowns her face in silvered glass
and hums the cadence in his head.
You couldn’t draw his face from memory
yet at weekends greet him, amiably
scooping the sundae of a frozen rose bed,
astonished by the paleness of his hands.
He watches you watching him alone,
the way your eyes absent themselves,
searching his soil for sharp serifs,
its sanskrit of fallen petals or of bone.