Holmes in Florence
‘…a week later I found myself in Florence, with the certainty that no one in the world knew what had become of me.’ (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Empty House)
When I came to Florence it was morning.
I stumbled through the hills and lay down
on the hard bed in the pensione. Outside
the swallows fell past the window
again and again. I slept for three days
or what felt like it. And when I woke
I lay there like a polished stone.
It was a grey morning. In the window boxes
the red geraniums whispered through the rain.
Everything was there. The things that wouldn’t leave me.
The man I killed, the blur of hate and fear
in his eyes as the rope of air
sawed through his fingers. And Watson’s face.
That was when my frozen self felt pain.
He thought he’d failed me,
he didn’t know that I failed him again and again,
that I was here, a living liar.
I walked across the piazzas. Habit
flowed through me: that Englishwoman
has come looking for love. That man
is a spy, on the trail of another.
But nothing mattered. My feet
traced the streets to a dark courtyard,
the trickle of some Medici fountain.
Water, water. The sense of falling.
Who am I? How do I atone?
Where’s the clue to my life?
Sherlock Holmes in Antarctica
At Rothera I saw the moon,
at first impossible, then merely improbable.
Then the penguins, the little Adélies
who ask no questions. They have the answers
and aren’t talking. But Rothera
was just the threshold. It was the clock at Waterloo,
the restaurant where we smoked our cigars
then plunged into darkness. And then I went south
and plunged into lightness. I might as well
have been a blind man. I couldn’t read the angles
of the seracs, and what the killer whales wanted
was all too obvious. No locks to pick,
no one leaves the guilty ash on the snow,
the footprints run away on the wind.
A motiveless place. Guiltless. Without innocence.
The last thing left to me was God,
the last witness, the one I hadn’t called.
Clarissa Aykroyd grew up in Victoria, Canada and now lives in London, England. Her work has been published in journals including Shot Glass Journal, The Island Review, The Ofi Press, The Level Crossing and The Missing Slate. She was one of Eyewear Publishing’s Best New British and Irish Poets 2016 and she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her blog is www.thestoneandthestar.blogspot.co.uk. Twitter: @stoneandthestar