And now I decode the mystery of Saint Jerome:
Hermit, Priest, and Doctor of the Church
In the whiteness of his robe he signifies running out of time.
In his hat, with its beehive shape, he reminds us of bees
which are quite literally worrying themselves to death.
In the presence of the collie dog, imaginary as it may be,
we see the hope of dogs which rise from the ocean bearing sticks
and this is why it faces an outcrop that resembles the head of a sperm whale:
that all mammals may be known as somehow out of their element.
The figures on the bridge: that every person needs at least two heads.
The church and the cottage: that you must eat as well as sing.
The dark and the smudgy woods: that from time to time comets
will take their trails across everything you thought was just getting organised.
And the lion: that we might wish for a god as golden-black
with clubby feet and sweet, careful eyes
that when we read, with our slippers kicked off
and our hands barely sketched in a few careless lines
that he would keep watch for us
though what would stop him turning from his post
and taking Jerome in his mouth like a joint of meat
may need to be the subject of further research.