In the last days, after all he said
and didn’t say, his iron tongue
resting in the open bell of his mouth,
the belfry of his face asleep,
I climbed the spiral steps of the tower –
up the steep steps of the bell cage, to the bourdon,
the great bumblebee, Emmanuel.
I stared at that bronze weight, the voice of Paris,
as if it was my father’s voice
and I had climbed up his spine,
all thirteen tons of copper and tin,
the clapper half a ton of exorcised iron.
I washed the outside with holy oil for the sick,
the inside with chrism. Let all badness
be banished when he rings. Let the powers of the air
tremble – the hail and lightning
that fell from his tongue on our last days together.
I made the sign of the cross. His note
was F sharp, the hum
deep enough to reverberate through the rest of my life.
I stood upright in him.
I placed myrrh inside his mouth, incense
smoking like a last cigarette.
I praised him. I assembled the priests.
I mourned his death.
Storm clouds dispersed. Thunderbolts scattered.
I tolled in Sabbaths. I raised
my father’s life to its hoists and rang him until I was deaf.
I proclaimed peace after bloodshed.
from (forthcoming) Fauverie (Seren, 2014), © Pascale Petit 2014, used by permission of the author and the publisher