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Michael Hulse, from The Secret History

The Shadow of Death

In the beginning was love. Love as Christ
in the house of Martha and Mary, love
as Schiele's fever of the flesh, and love
as Stefan Lochner's virgin of the roses.

And then, with funding fingered from the wallet at Time's back:
the Vatican of the spirit and the Hermitage of the heart,
the Alexandrian library of tenderness and care,
the V & A of loss and consolation —

the Museum of Love. We became each other's keepers.
Curators of our retrospectives. Our custodians.
A time came when I thought that I'd become
the man with the memories in Helen's story —

one day they'd take me away in a clinical shift
to do something terrible to my head with knives
and you'd be left to wonder if
you wanted me to come back out alive.

- How did it feel, my love, as you ran from the ward
where the very air was labouring for breath?
- My face is foul with weeping,
and on my eyelids is the shadow of death.