SJ Fowler


{the suicide note of John Downham}




O nanny, how I have witnessed The Christian Warfare against the Devil
against the World, and Death, since arriving in London .
I rest between two columns; above a gutter.
I sleep within an arch, at the feet of a jug, a plate, & a Christian soldier,
called Livia. Called life-giver. Called dress & carry & fetch & worry.
How I am at home, carrying sword & shield - a cross upon it,
your forhead, being tempted by the Devil, with the State in my pocket,
with a coloured cartoon slate, that reads “vigilate et orate”
I am no racist nigurd, representing the Word,
wearing drosscoats with one breast bared, mangling a sceptre,
chalice, & money-bag. My globes shine brassic, I am an erotic funeral
& a sack of coins. You knew me as a sackful! Well now, I pinch.
“Mundus Adulans” & “Omnia haec tibi dabo”
A crowd forms, I wink the priest. I hip grieving relatives.
Och the Devil, with horns & wings, breathing fire, firing darts,
& a lion at his feet, claiming ancestry from vapour. No apes!
With the inscription “Resistite diabolo et fugiet” tattooed & readied.
I am centre left in Hell, a man, holding a sword, breathing fire,
& walking past a gibbet & flames, I inscribe “Mundus saeviens”
“Saltem vi, si non dolo”. The tail is an old man, holding a short staff,
with green devils around his feet, weeping “Vetus homo.”
A cartouche is the Christian soldier, with the Devil bound as his captive,
trampling the figure of the World again with blue & ripe boots,
the old man in attendance along with numerous devii claps & is rewarded.
The hand of god extending from a cloud with a crown,
pebbledashing buildings & hills in the foreground,
& there the final inscription reads “Certamen praeclarum decertavi”
At the summit, I ape the tetragrammaton, belick’d dry & bone colour’d.



{the seven deathly Sins / Desidia}




The allegorical figure of sloth lies asleep over the back of an ass while a devil adjusts her pillow; around her other figures sleep at a table or in a bed drawn along by a strange duck-billed creature; slugs & snails, representatives of sloth, are scattered through the foreground; an enormous half-submerged clock in the left background with an arm pointing out the eleventh hour. A boy is nearly nude, his penis half-hacked off, a roman copy of Polycrites nearly finished, a Dutch landmine submerged about his thighs. A girl who appears as a boy, slapped for the offence, wearing three piece suit missing a piece, all white, one cuff of Latin verse & one cuff of Flemish in the lower margin. She spies in her periperhal vision a halfmast looking upon her and wheels toward it, slowly approached by an infant androgyne, with the softest brown & blond hair, so thin it might appear it were not present but for the high bowl outline of her hallowedhead. Painfully thin, she is sick. She carefully holds an ankle high railing placed around a bust of Gisla, Abbess of the monastery of Bitterfield, but cannot make a fist. The Abbess, in white stone, her helmet rested on her forehead, delved with two appaling eyeholes & a penetrative nosepiece, yawns, knights the girl. She pushes the plinth as hard as she can but the bust will not fall. Marble breasts lactate red but it isn’t blood. Stains are cleaned. Water will not boil. Weight is three times over. The Sabbath followes. Tiny children run their free hands along the wet rail which runs into a pond of red liquid, below the knee. Their eyes are height to belt & meat. Hands watch, strangely clear in artificial light, they are going to finish the rail & no more rain. The Abbess reaches her hand out to my leg, my knee and up my inseam and then perhaps a halfgrab, like the scrumping of a crabapple & a pull. I want her to do so but have not the energy to ask.