Thursday, April 9, 2009

the barbecue

i was walking back last midnight
and cold
when on a distant valley slope, i saw
curling up from the trees
as though from a solitary fire.

i left the road and headed for the smoke.

i stumbled over stones
and fell into ditches as i ran
blind and mad and
and as the first rays of dawn spread in the east
i reached
the cave.

i stopped a few feet away
and saw
sitting by the fire
his back to me.

his matted hair was long
and filthy
and tufts were missing
from his bleeding scalp
his gnarled fingers were spread over the fire
seeking warmth.

there was something strange
and i stood rooted to the ground.

the fire began to ebb
and soon
there was but a wisp of flame
rising from the embers
he raised his withered hands to his head
plucked a tuft of hair
and fed it to the fire.
it blazed again.
i gasped.
and he turned.
and the shock of recognition
was like a universe
for there beneath the blood and filth i saw
my face
my eyes
my lips.

for a long moment
his blood red eyes were fixed to mine
then they filled
and boiling tears streamed down his cheeks.

he spoke.
“its you”
a statement.
sit by the fire”
a command.

we sat for a while
he spoke again,
i raised my eyes in query,

he looked at me
then smiling slowly
wrenched a handful of flesh
from his thigh
roasted it over the fire
and gave me to eat.

i ate.
it tasted delicious.
this flavour
of death.

we ate.
and as we ate i saw
my hair was getting matted too
my skin wrinkled
and my fingers

the fire was dying again.
he looked at me from under his bloody eyebrows
his eyes like hot, gleaming coals, and said,
“the fire
is dying”

i nodded.
plucked a tuft of hair from my head
and fed it
to the fire.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . paul mathew

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