Simon Magus

Bridgewatcher & Other Poems, Psychiatry Research Trust Anthology, October 2013

I remember one time
when Billy Collins read
in the tenth-century
church of Santa Francesca Romana
he was flanked by The Martyrdom of St Lawrence
(Pietro da Cortona, 1646) and the spot
where the sorcerer Simon Magus died

We had several opportunities to speak
at the reception that followed and when I left
Billy backed away from me and barked
You talked my fucking ear off all night long
but which I still found quite poetic
and not lacking in a certain irony
given that his reading occupied
some of the night at least

and then there’s the painting
of an innocent man being roasted alive
and the fact that the magician
who could levitate at will
fell down from the apse
and never flew again