White Peace

The attractive European doctor
was a woman of substance.

She was also a cannibal.

Whereas our anti-hero had perversions
we could only guess at.

The movie was subtitled.

In all other respects
it was a conventional love-story.

By the end we had seen her
nibbling on the neck flesh
of her research subjects’
severed heads

and performing contortions
which could only have been realised
using camera trickery.

Unless she really was able to
cut herself in half,
her face appearing between
her thighs.

His bad habits,
apart from a bout of womanising,
seemed to amount to no more
than some secretive shuffling
and brooding in the plush interiors
of all-night bars
in a city that might have been Budapest.

You’d have been excused for thinking
not only will it never work but if it did
he’d be worse off for the bargain.

You are a difficult man,’ she said, ‘to love,’
when the would-be couple reached the peace
hinted at in the difficult title.

And having tied the knot quite literally,
given her particular skills,
in a for once deeply shadowed scene,
she soon resumed her research.

And while she sucked on the leather-like skin
of heads she’d placed in jars,
he took up what else
but secretive shuffling
and brooding in all-night bars
in a city resembling Budapest.

It was dark when we left the cinema.
The streets were full of traffic
of a vintage sheen,
as if there was a car rally in progress
down on the promenade.

I crossed to a bookstall.
And in among the paperbacks
I found a knife.

I flipped it up,
concealing it in my cuff.

And crossing back,
I walked quickly away.

From up on the rise
two figures approached.
They were unmistakably policemen.

The taller one had seen us.
He pointed.

Stop being stupid,’ you said, ‘just get in!’
The interior light showed a 1950s dashboard.

I slammed the door.
And you swung the car
out into traffic.

There were carhorns and shouting
as the two policemen ran out
into the street behind us.

You wouldn’t speak to me
the rest of the drive.

I dropped the knife into the seat-well.
It made a soft clunk.
You didn’t hear it over the noise
of the engine.

We sped out of town.
It was raining in the country.

Nothing to look at
but the flick of the wipers
in the white tunnel
made by the headlamps.

Eventually you said,
How could you do that to me?’

The boy’s eyes shone.
They were watching us in the dark.

I got up later that night.
I walked for miles to find a hiding-place
for that knife.

All the way there and all the way back
Am I really such a difficult man,’
I asked myself, ‘to love?’