2007 Porter Prize winner: 'Sanctum' by Alex Skovron

So there he was in the library, crouched above the floor
       like a mousetrap, squinting into his rickety parallel edition
of the Satires. The paperback was from the late fifties;

its cover had long detached, released its burden, demoted itself
       to a floating flapless jacket, and some of the pages
were beginning to tip out – in short, the book required two hands

to be consulted, so his grip was intense but worshipful.
       He never journeyed anywhere without it, and he relished
the odd quotation over an ale: ‘Why is it, Maecenas,’

he would mutter, ‘that no one is ever quite happy …?’
       And there he was again, on the Persian rug, a prayermat mouse
Latining into his cups, mumbling mantras that he alone

could hear. We hated it when the demons repossessed him –
       the medicos would dismiss him as eccentric,
at best melancholic, in those days when the Sadness was just a ‘cloak’.

The house tonight shook to eluctable musics, the clustered roomfuls
       jangled and rowdied onward,
distressing damsels (spilt and semiclad) drifted the liquid corridors

strumming their thighs; but he had settled himself on the magical
carpet,
       Horace in hand, deaf to all temptation. A prism
of the Black Label sat beside him, the mystic flask an orange glow

on the mantel, yet his love of the elixir never placated him –
       it only made him vocal, and further classical.
Surely enough, as we broached his shadowy island he shouted: ‘Nemo!’

Published in March 2007 no. 289
Alex Skovron

Alex Skovron

Alex Skovron was born in Poland, lived briefly in Israel, and came to Australia aged nine. He is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Autographs (2008), and a prose novella, The Poet (2005). Awards for his poetry include the Wesley Michel Wright Prize, the John Shaw Neilson Award, the Australian Book Review Poetry Prize, and for his first book, The Rearrangement (1988), the Anne Elder and Mary Gilmore awards. His novella was joint winner of the FAW Christina Stead Award for fiction. Alex’s New & Selected Poems is in preparation. He lives in Melbourne and works as a freelance editor.

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