Cruelty, Cadalfach, to be at this hour
hatched into the too-late world.
Your new blue eyes look out
from your mother’s spent sleeping breast.
You protest. You complain to the silent nursery
in cooed incredulity
as if the news has already reached you.
He’s already here, already thirteen,
his pen already a prosthesis,
tracking narrative in lizard skin,
rhythm in nest-weave,
in runaway handfuls of honey and spawn.
He’s contemplating flock-flight
for decades when he’s lost for hours
where his brothers’ blows can’t find him,
tracing in the movement of starlings a billowy machine;
a sketchbook in every feathery arrowhead.
And yet you’ll believe.
You’ll credit the envious whispers,
in the lecture-hall, in the apprentice yard,
assigning you and he to the same dispensation.
You’ll believe the sycophants and spoofers
when your first commissions come in,
who attribute to your palaces and his
a comparable panache
and backhandedly praise your restraint.
And when every slut and cutpurse drinks to your facility,
in the dive bars of the China quarter
amid the accordions,
amid the absinthe and the harlequins,
you’ll believe them too,
heeding the opinionated whores who dub
your Casa Serra the finest in the city.
Though when he pulls off La Pedrera
you’ll shun cava and brandy,
jealousy’s clear stinging gin
enough to bust the capillairies
at your cheekbones and under your eyes.
You’ll continue to ogle floor-plans,
your mind twitching and inverting itself
to engender proportion,
to wince at the bromides and imbecilities of clients
when you take tea at their summerhouses,
to micromanage polishing
of balustrades and hinges.
Until you know your works for can-trips,
for doodles, mere bagatelles,
when his holy folly rises up in the New Town extension.
From under the awning of Bar del Codicia,
daily between noon and two
you’ll study that accumulating reef,
that foolhardy upsurge,
until, on an afternoon when starched winter sunlight
polishes the dust-mist
and damps the yammering construction sounds,
you feel the cathedral enter you.
Your two arms, unbidden, stretch and extend,
as a transept’s length passes through them
and you step forward, staggering,
all heedless of the trams,
of the children shunted away from your flailing topcoat
as you feel your own flesh coagulate,
boil and settle into impasto,
into curdling, agitated stone
while your backbone’s ratcheted, elongated upward
to let chameleon chapels evolve,
ripple and recombine,
re-engineer your cartilage
into spines their skin will climb on.
And all the while you’re looked down on
by that terrible emergence
by its sapling-spires straining
for the light above the boulevard,
for the inviolate, for the world’s fresh attic,
their peaks, their swarming nativities