Macbeth’s Porter

Macbeth’s Porter.

Pissdrunk I was,
most of the time,
still am if I am honest.
I know, from the look of me,
from that flint in your eyes,
you deem me to be nothing more than…
a scurrilous wench? A foul
and pestilent whoreson?
No… do not fret or fancy,
it matters not, I’m long past caring,
they are words and words alone
and words I’ve learnt are nothing
when cut adrift,
the ability to weather scorn,
keeps my head intact
and fixed in place.
Now if you’ll permit me to
compose myself…
Landlord, another drink!

You’d think those times were strange
but they were much the same as now,
same as they ever were,
same as they will ever be.
He was no better or no worse than any other master.
I’ve seen them come and go. Kept to himself.
Spent too much time thinking I suspect,
a hazardous pasttime.
Now she…
she was another story.
Henpecked they’d say in the kitchens,
he was
comet-struck, cunt-struck.
A dangerous one she,
I dared not even meet her gaze.

We whispered,
we were unseen.
Ears to the oak doors,
eyes to the keyholes,
the stain on the wall,
the creak on the stair,
the sunlight through the barbican,
the shadow of guttering candle.
We were all of these.
We walked through the walls.
We slept under the floorboards.
We rose as smoke.
We settled as damp.
We were the breath in winter.
We were elements in the ether.
Everywhere and nowhere.

Dark murmurings took hold.
Noisy they were in love and hate
even before what was once
the King was found.
We gorged at the leftovers
from uneaten banquets
in our dim quarters.
You could feel even then,
a closing in, the shifting
of great celestial mechanics,
even the ghosts
took notice, that feeling,
one minute before a storm.
Some left without notice,
took their chances
out there,
better the hidden terrors in the glens,
marshlights and gallowglasses,
than what’s inside.

You do know that she did not die?
If there’s a God in the sky
then he is my witness.
She knew which way
the wind blew,
her fur coats, her laudanum,
her Swiss bank account.
They told him otherwise of course
but by then he too was gone,
beyond reach.
Not long after that most began to flee,
the sculleries were stripped.
Rats from a sinking ship.

I resolved to stay
not just out of loyalty but to watch
the drama play itself out
and take my chances in here,
where a man can hide from the elements,
in the spaces between rooms,
in the attics and keeps,
behind curtains of moth-spun silk,
another stooped shadow in night,
rainfall unseen in the black of the ocean.
I stayed for loyalty, duty
and the small matter
of now being free
to drink the winecellars dry.

I waited and watched,
the gates left open for history,
the kind bottles emptying.
Ours were the eyes behind the cellar-door,
we watched the theatrics
unfold in the courtyard,
we who swept up the aftermath,
we, the ones who remain.

You think ill of me,
a servant, a mere porter
what do I know, a useless old soak,
but I have learnt to keep
my head down,
to not get noticed,
and emerge hungover,
but throat unslit,
without question or complaint,
to serve my new master.

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