I came upon a stinking field of muck
and saw, within its depths, a golden cup.
Nothing for it. I hitched my trousers up
and waded in, heartsick when my feet stuck.
It took three hours for me to pull them out.
By then I'd learned to coast upon the slime.
That day must have been two years in real time.
I grasped the cup. My helpless, piercing shout
was animal, a keen of joy and fear
with no words. Watching crows might have perceived
regret, the malice of one self-deceived
by pride and lust. But I won't leave it here,
not me. I put my ordeals out of mind.
Perhaps I won't miss what I'll leave behind.
I sobbed. I calmed my gasping breaths, looked down:
the vast swamp was a rolling moor of peat
with half an inch of black oil at my feet,
beside a road, just at the edge of town.
The cup, bright in the palm of my left hand
was clean, round, perfect, seamless, edgeless, blank.
I followed sheep. I found the trough and drank
the thimble sips. Nothing. The scruffy land,
the slate sky, running lambs, odd drops of rain.
And suddenly, I saw. The filth was gone.
My wrecked feet, whole, stood on the battered lawn,
my bloody calves clean, and the throbbing pain
in every muscle gone. Cup tucked inside
my coat, I stood, to find a place to hide.
I can't say I felt well, only perhaps
the hurts were somewhere else, not my concern.
I'd swallowed gallons of black stuff. It burned
my lungs, somewhere. I pulled hard on my hat
and stumbled into Costa, where I saw
the lovely, round, magnificent visage
of she, long lost. I thought her a mirage
until she stood and yelped, husky and raw,
waved, smiled and called my name. Reader, I ran
up to her till, and mumbled out some drink,
rasped a trembling hello. What would she think
of me, an eerie rake, half blessed, half damned?
I'd thought myself unchanged, but now I knew
the muck had more than claimed its earthly due.