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The Use of KneesAlistair Elliot
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Vol. 14 No. 3 · 13 February 1992
Poem

The Use of Knees

Alistair Elliot

190 words

Everyone calls it Arthuritis. He
has lost the power of bending, the old king
father of gods and men,
and sits on a low throne
by the window, apparently meditating
in profile, a memorial coin
of sadness as we come carrying our seats.

To me he has never before been Arthur:
I saw him through his unused name,
so fitting for a father
born in a Scottish Eden: Adam.
Caught in the unfamiliar foetal posture
of a bronze age burial,
he tries to uncurl and honour us with a smile.

Of course he is ‘not so dusty’; so he says
when asked, but still his legs,
locked at a regal angle under the gown,
or under sheets, abruptly evoke a coffin
humped in the middle like this eiderdown,
or a succession of little hammer breaks
flattening the folded sediments of those knees.

He will have thought of that. He will
already know how undertakers solve
mortal geometry, keeping calm themselves.
And maybe such a man has ever seen
himself finally dusty, and me on the hill
kneeling, releasing the native dust between
Corriekinloch and the sand of Loch an Eircill.

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