Best of the Net 2010  

The Student Assistant

Across the street from Southwark Cathedral
after reaching nine centuries back to touch a wall
still standing through the London Blitz where the sign
says, Please do not touch. This was constructed
in 1136 A.D.
, I walk the path a certain medical student
might have taken to Guy's Hospital in 1812 when
he was buying cadavers from the grave-digger
at four in the morning as the heavy South Bank fog
settled upon the shoulders of the Thames,
and having made his purchase in the surreptitious
thick night, dragging the corpse across cobbles
the way Hamlet lugged the guts of Polonius from
sudden vengeance into the murky halls of guilt.

This student assistant, a promising young man
with a brittle future and quick wit trudging through
the dingy film of the London night also wrote poems
about melancholy and the sweet, throbbing agony
of desire and beauty, but there he trod, pulling
his burlap sack over stone and muck and stair
with Southwark looming overhead like some dark god
of history, pulling death into the purgatorial rooms,
the terrifying, lye-washed, stinking, candle-lit rooms
of Guy's Hospital. Little Keats. On his death-trip.

- B.H. Fairchild (from Gulf Stream Magazine)