Round Table: Perceval

This is part of a sequence of five vignettes of Arthurian characters and dilemmas placed into historical contexts, written on commission from Bedtime Stories for the End of the World (link). For the full sequence of poems, click here (link)

For an audio file of my reading of the full sequence click here (link – note, it may autoplay)

For a podcast of myself and Momtaza Mehri discussing our poems click here (link), and for a transcript of the podcast click here (link)


Perceval – Eyam – 1665

I knew that I was fleeing something gruesome
London pestilent and I had a mission shaped
of fear. And after me the chains of people flood
but sucking at the blood of all the stragglers.
Pustulous. Pustules all black and bloated and
after them came death. Not slick and slender
swish, dark cloak and scythe but the scrim of
filthy oil on water, plague sucking at the light.
And with me a severed head, wrapped
in layers of cloth. A lance, blood-shocked,
blood-tipped and wet with fleas, floating
carrying its deathly self as if I were not
quite real. So I crossed the peaks alone,
great shining hills and the world spread
out below. I looked back at that scrim of
oily water coating empty fields behind me,
seeping through. I settled down towards Eyam,
my severed head, my lance, my trail of death,
my tiny village, my people – awaiting my
arrival, unknowing, so self-sacrificing and small.

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