when I came to believe that everyone
was mortal, I found a spot at the back of my leg,
jagged and dark, that held on like a tick.
I waited for it to grow into a cancer.
First blemish, I thought, in a spoiling fruit.
So small, and yet a mark, a certainty.
I’d been in Egypt, studying the past.
One day, a colossus lay before me in sand
as if it had just fallen across my path.
A cart driver was taking me along the desert
to a buttery or a pottery, he might even
have been saying, leprosy. He couldn’t
be stopped. We came at last to a Coptic church
where he showed me astrological signs
drawn in an old copy book, a blue-tiled emptiness.
I became aware of the spot as I climbed
up to my place in a vast arena.
I was looking down behind me at small,
scattering figures. The performance,
a circus or spectacle, just about to begin.