Friday, 1 April 2016


I have been fascinated by St Anthony's Fire since I was a teenager and read about stories of whole villages hallucinating. The modern term is Ergotism. It is produced by a mould infecting wheat, usually rye [as it is harder to see]. Those infected have visions and ultimately die.
I was thinking from the perspective of two people who have been infected and the visions they might experience.

St. Anthony's Fire

Michael's flaming sword drove us from the street,
through mud and water to the forest.
There the trees talked,
with voices of metal knives and faces that flickered,
as if lit by that burning blade.
It will be painful,
It will all pass.
There will be wonders.
Four hundred years from now,
you would be named walking ghosts.

I run back to the street,
towards what things I know.
There can be no redemption

The solitary eye of the Jack weeps mould.
It trickles down the pasteboard card
to pool in my fingerprints.
Blue black corals on my wrist.

The floor is furred,
the oldest miner cries,
the room is a flame,
it crackles like the best music.

The cards pulse,
reflect the tongues of fire.
Smoke wraiths surround me,
I await their touch.
I wanted an anachronistic aspect to the trees. Walking ghosts refers the the stage of acute radiation poisoning when the victim appears totally healthy. It also hints that the poem is set in the 1600's.
If the first section concerns Nature then the second part is about the human world. 
I am not sure if the poem would benefit from more explanation. Usually the rule of thumb is to show rather than tell but I suspect a little telling may be of use in this case.
We shall see.
Here's vintage Neil Young with Old Man. 

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