IN THE LOW COUNTRY the men of the field made good their labour for fragile kings. There’s were bodies to thrive on lawful violence, the tumult of words, and they drew strength from the rule. Make the tongue go dark they said with the language of the north, and white suns to snap in the cold each day in the valleys of the winter god. Dense and numb as the scriptures were of hill and stone, spent and crushed as things will be that run to ground from black rivers, the bird lay an egg unerring in their skulls, with glaire to run like sulphur in the frail and winter body.
In those days the temper had ascended only so far as their cups and votives, the crowns of their idols. Their hearts were clean for the gods had themselves sanctioned their custom; gods divined in the wood and water, raised from the soil in their own mongrel image. All things found home in them: the ash and the fruit that came first, the wheel in the corn and the grasses; creatures stole into them and from the owl and the serpent, the moth and the crow, they shifted their gaze ever inwards to the sex that spirals in the hearts of men.