And as we trudged
My companion talked discursively
Of his days at the University.
He'd been, he told me, a mathematician,
Fighting the Cold War, breaking Czech
And Russian codes, until one day,
Stood at the window, gazing out
At a tub of jonquils across the quad,
He'd suddenly sickened at what he called
"My trade of killing men at a distance,"
And packing nothing, had gone that night
Like the scholar gypsy into the woods
And taken vows of knight errantry.
And while he spoke of these things, the trees
Slid past me like a projected backdrop,
Flat and unreal.
And then he stopped:
"They're here," he whispered, "Listen to them."
I halted behind him. Women's voices,
Confidential and gossipy,
Were wittering in the bushes round us,
"There's one," he breathed,
"Let's show her that we're not impressed."
He shouldered his stick like a rifle. "Boom!"
And long skirts scuttered behind an oak.
He lit his pipe and we sauntered on
In a haze of tobacco. The moon had risen;
The greys and greens were silver now,
The shadows velvet.
A naked girl
Stood in our path, with pendulous breasts
And thin, black scars cross‑hatching her torso.
Her hair was red and her eyes so wide
You could see the white all round the iris.
"Are you my love?" she moaned; her hands
Groped out towards us. "O, are you he?
His nature is cold and heavy as
A sack of malt. He pleasures me
As none else can."
I felt such pity
I moved towards her, but as I did,
Pellinore barged in front and winking
Over his shoulder walked right through her
And where she'd teetered was empty space.