One village has farms down the main street! Another, a duck pond the size
of Leicester Square. Advent is the yellow glow of windows in the year’s
midnight – curtains are paranoid. Twilight is the hour when salesmen
wander abroad, peeking in – for example, the harmonium merchant,
since music from a hill village carries far, its hymns already in the clouds.
1st – The Cave Village
Tourists are enticed to fervent flamencos at twilight – flame-haired
señoritas in clouds of sandstone dust. A goat’s-skull flagon is proffered
as memento of the show, admission priced accordingly. On Mozarabic
ramparts the Guardia check for torch flashes at half-hour intervals.
2nd – The Village of Prying Eyes
Telephonists listened in – remember them? Courtship was public, a
connection between distant but familiar eccentricities. The postman knew
the catalogue from the envelope, having checked the coded brand name
online. You wanted to but daren’t, and that too is in the public domain.
3rd – The Village of Sun and Shade
There are colonnades and tempietti. Memorabilia abound in the piazza –
as do the franchise police handing out copyright signs to photographers.
The captive stares accusingly, up through the leas of every teacup. Feed a
pound into the telescope: trace the estuary’s tide climbing a heron’s legs.
4th – The Swiss Village
This replica, built in Tennessee by a railroad magnate, was first a farm,
then a rehab centre. Now it stores embryos and semen to preserve the
genetic diversity of livestock. Meet the Poitou donkey, known for its
strength, named Peter; and the myotonic, ‘fainting’ goat named Heidi.
5th – The Hopeful Village
Their diet is fried rats, salads of unfashionable weeds, frogs from a lake
of sewage. A brothel owner who diversified found goats even more
troublesome. Horses painted like zebras were rented out for parties.
Today we toast the slum’s first female graduate, in university champagne.
6th – The Drowned Village
Volts of anger: redundant wiring severed from its grid. There were fish
in the belfry, a scow cheating in a race fathoms above the old village playground.
Now summer drought force-feeds the drowned spire – useful for
divers, the archaeological beacon. The swallows’ empire shrinks.
All six – The Plague Village
Do pathogens travel faster through woodland? That depends on the carrier,
the nature of meetings in clearings, and the wind’s intentions. Here in
the bare uplands the villagers migrated from their own graveyard, though
living still within the bell’s clangorous ambit, with frequent visits home.