HOMETOWN MYSTERY CYCLE

Rating: 5.0

For Claire Messud and James Wood
But I was one of the children told
they play the Creation on Applecroft Road
while Abel is battered on Barleycroft Lane
and if I go with him he'll cop it again

at the top of Old Drive. If I stay with the Ark
I'll have seen a good twenty-one Floods before dark,
but I know the place well as the front of my hand
so I watch it in zigzag and still understand.

The dawn's coming up over Handside Green
As Hell's being harrowed by Christ in sunscreen,
But another one rising by pulley-and-rope
At the corner of Mannicotts isn't the bloke

who Thomas is gaping at over his eggs
on a little white trestle on wobbly legs
by the scout hut on Guessens. The stone's rolled away
as slowly as you can roll papier-mâché,

and Judas is keeping his anorak zipped
as he checks on his lines in a ragged old script.
Pilate is bicycling by. If we're quick
we can leg it to Lazarus, set up our picnic,

still be in time for the beauty they've got to
assault with tomatoes till Jesus says not to.
Over the chimneys we hear as we hurry
the loudspeaker crackle the usual story

about a lost child, and we chuckle and say
You'll be late to an angel we pass on the way.
We hop all the hedges of Attimore Street,
where a girl who got rid of me rinses His feet,

and it's too much to take so I plod to the pool,
for the Slaughter of half my old nursery school,
but they lie there and giggle, they're clearly okay,
to the fury of someone who's Herod today

and gone tomorrow I joke to my mates
but they've spotted the Virgin in wraparound shades,
and we pass the Three Wise Men, muddled by props
in the shade of an alleyway down by the shops.

Afternoon tires of us, everyone tires;
I hang around people who hand around fires;
three mothers attempt to look vaguely surprised
he is striding already up Mandeville Rise;

but the little girl chosen Star-Girl for the day -
Has anyone seen her? - the drunken PA
is trying to be serious and nobody has.
The imbecile doing Balaam and his Ass

is playing for laughs so he's not getting any.
Judgment is here, they've unloaded already.
Satan is making a meal of a yawn.
We rush up to God hey we saw you at dawn!

So how's the day been? And to illustrate how,
He ploughs an old finger across an old brow
and puffs out His cheeks like we might blow away
but we don't understand so we nod and we stay;

we are gravely observing the fools in their cart,
them they go and it's quiet and he says Can we start?
to nobody really. Just one more to go,
but we've ticked every box so we've seen every show

and it's chaos again as it is every year
with the carts in a ditch and Whose bloody idea
was this in the first place? Somebody bawls
in the queue for the luminous-necklace stalls,

but he can't really mean it he has paper wings
that his daughters deface with embarrassing things;
he's played about every last role in the Cycle
(he'd never been Michael but now he's been Michael)

and someone is holding a ladder that trembles
and someone has wound a great zero of cables
around his strong arm, and he stares in my eyes
as I say Weren't you Peter? which yes he denies

and someone is binding the Cross to a Jeep
and someone I bearing a burden asleep
with a garland of foil and cellophane star,
who, in other versions, is found in a bar

and in at least one is found stabbed in a pit.
You know your own villages: write your own shit.
I've never done much and I didn't do this,
But you asked where I come from and that's where it is.

READ THIS POEM IN OTHER LANGUAGES
COMMENTS OF THE POEM