Sagehood: A Return
You never went as you have come:
The salvo and the reverb that stole
The thunder’s loud axe and came back–
We will tell you what! – with a dove’s coo.
Yes, Dreaded son, First-in-Line-of-Iron-Forgers!
Whose skull crushed rock like pottery
Whose bone cracked bone like bamboo,
One in whose hands iron became dry wood!
We fearfully awaited your harvest of death
When we had awaited the god of iron,
Awaited the days of volcanicity and fire:
The furnace we feared will forge the metal,
The blood we dreaded will knead the mud,
Matter for the temple of your return!
But you surprised us with your innocuousness.
For here we are tonight, concerting by simple hearth,
Massaging the old and taming rheumatisms,
Nursing the very wise diseases of age,
And living an unexpected peace!
Yes, those soils of distant lands and years
Long settled on your retired feet –
Pacific accretions – harvests of peregrinations
That tamed the thunder of your sensitivities.
Isn’t it the very soil where we sowed wise seeds
Gleaned from the growth of your wintry locks?
Isn’t it the same earth of time and pilgrimage,
Same from which your now pious hand’s midwifery
Teaches us at this dawn to unravel sagacious scriptures,
Symbols stitched to the patterns of the Apocryphal braids
Of your pilgrim hair?
Cult Hymns for Men
Distance rolls, closing in, with late night drums,
Sacred instruments that gong restricted pockets
Of nocturnal societies awake
While the village sleeps within
And that male trance without–
The ceremony of death wisped
In the smoke of this nightsong.
Rain has just faded out –
Its own music seeped down wet;
While dry skins over hollowed wood
Roll clearer with peremptory beat now:
They call in the potent night –
A tall patch of sacred forest
In a low and open savannah
Brushed in nocturne motif.
Bowels of concealed crafts,
Shards of glass and razor for meal,
Tongues of fire for thirst quenchers!
The cult breathes a patriarchal soul;
Womankind lies within roused
By the stridulation of forbidden song –
And indeed heed –
Interdiction and malediction admonished:
Lunacy looms without!
She who squats to ease the vessels
Dares not traverse that threshold,
The dark world without, mysterious and male:
Sacred night club of the circumcised phalluses –
The occult philharmonic plays tonight:
O Mother of children
Your womb is no sacrifice tonight!
Session men in the keg rattle dancers in the gourd
And spirits breathe wind and bleed keen music
Out of bladed violins…
The tongues of birds are heard only by catchers:
Let the initiated unravel their own riddle, now!
O woman beware: apocryphal orchestrations!
Stick to your harem,
The curse sings around your eaves tonight.
Convolute smoke of early dawn
Curled in the clasp of your hands,
Tantalizing cloud of whorled dusts
That has fogged twenty-four suns:
Baffling beginnings of dreams
Sourcing the eternal river of myth;
And every cosmic sense, everything else,
Is faded, blurred, to faithful speculation.
Flawed integuments of fossilized argument-
Peals of emptied shells that soothsay doubt.
The shell of my canoe bobs down the river–
Down into the jaws of a shrouded and hungry sea.
But I’m not afraid; not afraid of Nothing.
The sky is an infinite substitute
For the emptiness of no return.
The sky that reflects the sea,
The sea that refracts the sky.
Death of Faith
I wake up every Sabbath
In a wilderness of shrines-
Throngs lost in hysteria of tongues and songs,
A frenetic idolatry of pantheons of pandemonium.
I wake up searching for a congregation of flowers
Whose buds are still fresh with the virginity of dew
Distilled from the innocence of natural dawn, true.
But each dusk before the volatility of the rising moon,
I’m lulled to sleep with cusps of atheistic potions
As the lunar hours
Pull high tides of fanatical and hysterical seas
That will settle earth’s trembling leaf
With the scarlet dew of bad salt by sunrise.
I wake up every Sabbath
In synagogues of lusty crusaders
And long for love in the breasts of the heathen.
I wake up every Sabbath
Blinded by the blades of the believers
And I grope for primitive peace of animistic caves.
Because I die a breed of death in the dawn of every Sabbath.
Why am I always afraid of day
Reduced, flattened, to furtive shapes
Forever stalking from smoke to smoke,
Cowled in shades of night on streets of the sleepless?
I’m still sitting under invented lights,
Sitting on high stools swilling seas of poison
Packaged in beautiful casks irresistible to the moribund.
I’m waiting for skeletal supermodels parading in swinging coffins,
As you paint me, posing, calling out my name thru loud music.
I’m snuffing out my life afraid of the sun–
Irrigating my shriveled veins and shrunken vessels
With hemlock in search of blood long needled out;
Rocking with hallucinating trajectories, this hammock,
I’m waiting for angels too, I’m waiting for you.
Let’s make love tonight, shug!
But how long am I going to wait in this rain
Dancing, wading in its toxic pools unshod?
Have I not with forbidden foods fed this flesh long enough?
Have I not with illicit substances drugged this soul nights enough?
Is this love gonna last till day, babe?
The dying of the sound machine scares.
The emptying of the hot halls scares.
The dying of feet on vacant floors scares.
The fading of night to light really scares.
But I must stand up and leave.
Sweepers are ready with brooms,
Cleaners with buckets and rags.
They tell me I must go home.
How will I creep home?
How will I crawl, what reptile?
What will they call me, shadow of the iguana?
Stranger from the night, phantom against walls?
The cobwebs on my front door
Interprete ghost days of my death,
I live in the moist graves of the night;
I pay gravediggers faithfully; they know me.
Warm tombs, permanent addictions,
Permanent afflictions, torn wombs –
Fibers persistently torn from my flesh,
Fires I’ll never quell, cusps I’ll never fill.
A thousand nights, a thousand jugs,
Crowds of bodies, bands of songs –
My refuge is a thin and fading veil
Trembling at the handshake of dawn.
(Or She Used to Be One I knew)
You burgled my chest
And stole my heart. Then left my rest.
It happened like a cyclone, fast and loud,
As you kicked up the dust-cloud
And left me blind
Without my mind.
You had possessed me only that long,
Then the saturnalian season stormed along
With its own rage and dream-chasers;
You jumped on the train for free,
Taking my stolen heart along with you
And leaving me behind with an empty rib-cage.
Tell me, what town have you gone to?
Tell me, who did you sell my heart to?
What market, what price and what currency?
When are you coming back this way?
Since you’ve been gone, I’ve been living
Borrowed beats; tell me when you’ll be back,
Because I’ve got real need for those ventricles.
Concupiscence of Eclipses
There is a cosmic hunger in the sky
As bodies of discs rise fevered by
Seasons of interplanetary desire.
There is a pious astrologer,
The porn priestess who divines
Through her horoscopic prism:
The objects lie snuggled up close,
The rings and the coins and the cowries,
The bodies will lie intertwined tonight!
And it became gospel, what the priestess said,
For we witnessed rising bodies,
Then the steady copulation of cosmic discs
Till the spasmic embrace of night against light
Spelled orgasmic totality with sudden twilight,
When we witnessed full lid attained.
But superimposed planets beget hallowed instants,
As the corona casts a ring of celestial silver
On the heart of a trembling, feverish firmament…
The sky suddenly becomes a vast bed of possibilities…
And what if an alchemist, lured by the flaming aura,
Plants in the heart of that ring in the middle of this hymn?
Poems © Wirndzerem G. Barfee