Peter J. King

Peter J. King

Peter J. King was born and brought up in Boston, Lincolnshire. Active on the London poetry scene in the 1970s as writer, performer, publisher, and editor, he returned to poetry in 2013 after a long absence, and has since been widely published in magazines and anthologies. He also translates poetry, mainly from modern Greek (with Andrea Christofidou) and German, writes short prose, and paints. His currently available collections are Adding Colours to the Chameleon (Wisdom’s Bottom Press) and All What Larkin (Albion Beatnik Press).

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Listening for Nektarios

A shabby stone sarcophagus,
one long side cracked, inscriptions
blurred but not yet indecipherable,
nonetheless intact — it squatted
at the centre of the room.

Seated round it, half a dozen
widow-clad old women sewed
(a younger woman read
a small black book), and chatted.

Suddenly they paused, cocked heads
alert – ears hard against the tomb’s
stone lid – then flew up in a chorus,
wails and shrieks not mournful
but exultant, eerie, dying down
in moments, till they eased from frenzy
to a sewing circle once again.

This was repeated several times
while we stood there, ignored.
After the first I listened too, and strained
to catch what they could hear.
Once I thought there was the faintest
sound: a rustling, as claws upon the stone.
I wanted to say something about rats,
but you were quick to hustle me away.

Nektarios (1846–1920) is a Greek Orthodox saint, buried on the island of Aegina. Pilgrims claim to hear him blessing them if they put their ear to the tomb where he was originally buried. His remains, removed in 1953, are in fact kept in a silver box elsewhere in the convent.

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Poetry in this post: © Peter J. King
Published with the permission of Peter J. King