Plain and Ugly Terms: Tenth German Spy

Posted by ractrose on 10 Jun 2020 in Art, Poems

Oil painting of spectators watching laboratory burn




The Folly

The German Spy





Plain and Ugly Terms


Now I never smile

That, Fiona, brings the flicker of one your own

(I saw)


But in plain and ugly terms…in simplicity, of course, why lie?

We are measuring ourselves as we are

Those mortal remains of mine stretch wide

Flesh devoured or dried, my allegory’s grin…

I apologize

I must tell you where they are, these bones

Half mummified

Among the favours I will ask…


You remember when Atherleigh surprised you

and me

Just there in the hall, letting it slip

You’d been fighting with Simon

Wennie was six, you hadn’t met him,

and you’d asked if the salmon was all right

With, as he said (afterwards) admirable aplomb

You spoke to me more kindly, I think, than you felt

Because you would not speak to him

What did we talk about?


Oh, my dear…I likely harped on the theme

of Tattersby failings, bred in the bone.

I said so. Nasty cat. I doubt it’s ever really true.

No, the cold mechanics

of decomposition won’t trouble me, to hear of

Very little does.


You want to know how he managed it.

Some chemical they kept that could explode

If touched by water

He had rigged a balloon inside another

And timed the acid’s work without the horrid third

Fifteen minutes, he’d gathered all the papers

To not be seen as Atherleigh leaving, dressed

in a groundsman’s gear

And the shock that they had found a body

I can now account for

The men who’d brought on Falco

Merely falsified the story




Plain and Ugly Terms

Ink drawing of miserable and mask-like facesOlder in Their Wisdom













(2018, Stephanie Foster)




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