History’s Footnote: the fly – a poem by Roger Elkin

History’s Footnote: the fly 

for Elliot Gittings


For much of the time goes unnoticed

even when, after his zigzag tantivying,

he draws near and lands four squarely

almost in your face, to stand silently, legs angled

and straddled like a riderless horse

but littler than miniature.


So no wonder folk dismiss him

as insignificant, this irritant marauder

clad in his oil-skin blackness with glintings

picked out in slices of light from the dullest

shudders of under-colours verging on

Prussian blue and indigo.


Watch him rinsing his hands

this Uriah Heep of the dunghill,

then sleeking them down his old man cheeks,

grooming his moustache, slicking whiskers,

and brushing back the sides of his head

as if mussing his hair,

all the time holding the rest of himself still,

his bobbled eyes not letting on

his history owns catalogues

of blood, of open wounds, of sores.


He doesn’t even begin to list

the piles of detritus he’s visited.

Or acknowledge that his CV

registers it was his milling siblings

that hosted the ceremonies 

when Cromwell was resurrected

and his severed head hoisted

above pikestaff at Tyburn Hill

and the air was bizzingly-filled

with wars and rumours of wars …


© Roger Elkin