Never saw it coming, the peregrine out of the deep blue sky, outstretched legs, talons glint, the young snakes oblivious. This is the order of things, how the pyramid works, the chain of command, a glass ceiling of Linnaean exactitude. Look back, through the door with the chipped paint and the broken lock.
Once, it opened onto an ordered field, an orchard, rows of apple trees, cookers, granny smiths, beauty of baths, day-old snail silver tracked here and there. Under pressure, the bank tightened its grip, the trees wildened, tall grass sprang up where before order ruled. In the Carmelite convent the nuns sang Terce and the bishop let out his belt a notch, the dried egg yolk yellowed in his whiskers.
In the field, unseen by most, the stoat licked first the left, then the right paw, fastidious, aware of every small movement. Soft underbelly, the hairs stiffened by its saliva, both eyes black beads, the writing snake caused the stoat no sense of loss, or dismay. Instead, ablutions over, it turned around and chose a path through long grass to where an earthen burrow opened in the shade of a wall. Gone, not forgotten, much in the manner of a late-morning dream, one of those that remains in the memory for fleet moments, before the mind awakens fully and the dream recedes like dew on the stalk.
Over the tabernacle, the masochism of perpetual motion, fingers to forehead, to breastbone, to heart, to rib-cage, all the missing children running around playing hide-and-go-seek in the church grounds. Plainsong, The apple of a mother’s eye, straining to count to thirty. Possible that the house next-door is full of ghosts, hand-wringing, whispering, colluding specters of motes, transmigrating from rotting flesh to fleeting view in a window. The finial should have told the story, but the ivy grew around it and spoiled the clue. Tallow lamps lit the rooms at night, the shiver of curtain, the flicker of white, empty steps on broken boards.
Arabesques turned in air, midnight show-time, no attendees, save the broken chairs, the dusty tables, a lone rat hugging the wainscoting, the dancers unwatched, uncared for. If the peregrine flew at night between the apple trees, wing-whispers and trained eyes, no creature would avoid the scrutiny of the sleepless hawk. Percussive angels, feasting on moted souls pass one another by and nod politely, the hidden meaning clear to all but the soulless. In a corner, an abandoned violin slumps against the wall, its strings frayed and unfingered.