The Night before Battle
He needed the wisdom of ancestors
and knew the past is very close if you
approach it in the right way
with him the young druid with hair shaved and
gilded headwear inhabited both the male and female
burned sage and advice
he held a round polished surface up, reflective
though not as a still pond, but a blurred soft passage
behind the boundary to kin
he could see his face in a softness of his grandfather’s
war braids and greys. All around, the fire light and fire dog
in a language he tried to interpret, patient, stoic and still
in a trance of charcoal, aware of the moment
and breath of life.
The druid’s chant, sweet voice of a robin
at once delicate and powerful
tells him he is the tutelary,
his champion sword of metal, horn and bright enamel
imbued with the strength of earth, stag and rock
is sharpened with a heart shaped whetstone
his blade flashes red and gold by the hearth
in readiness for the conflict
death always in the moving shadows.
The submerged bones were found
at the back of the cave
narrow, anxious, tunnels of heft
opening to Cathedral heights.
The cold of the dead permeates
water drips, to the city of stalactites
and stalagmite reflections, that glisten
in candlewax splendour.
Flowstone cascades the cavern end
into a deep pool, of clear water
of the coldest unfrozen clarity
that greens the way, to deeper paths.
Will the Ferryman ask for payment
to cross and unlock this mirrored portal
to the reverse, where souls are stored
and our universe held
or will a madman, in an oil slick skin
with a cyclops miner’s lamp
plunge, into history's depression
to discover extinct giant elk antlers.
Lisa Lopresti is a working- class poet from Banksy’s Bristol, regularly broadcast on local BBC Radio, widely published including Mono, Ink, Sweat & Tears and Acumen who described her slim-line pamphlet ‘Birdsong and Nectar in the Silences’ as ‘slightly uproarious’: