There was little to say at his christening. We said it again.
He breathed. He was noisy. His minders hoped he would have friends.
‘Or not,’ we whispered as his minders took him back home.
There was little to say at his weddings. We said it again.
His brides mostly smiled. His best men were maybe his friends.
Or not, we had noticed. It was eventually just he who went home.
There was little to say at his burial. We added it up:
his occasional successes, how he had longed to have friends.
None were there that we witnessed. This time he did not go home.
We dance the Green Chihuahua. Walls fall down.
‘It’s like Jericho,’ you whisper. Irish snakes
scamper. Can you believe that? Badgers frown.
Singing ‘hi-de-ho’ the god of cupcakes bakes
meringues in a marimba he’s converted
into an oven best for pizzas. Icing runs
out as letters spelling lyrics the god blurted
while we danced the Mambo with a squad of nuns.
‘Enough!’ you shout and shouting makes it so.
The snakes and nuns and badgers exit right.
They do the Mashed Potato as they go.
We applaud and douse the lights. A splendid night.
‘Try to relax,’ says Guide Number 1. We watch the entire world ending.
‘Not all of the world,’ says Guide Number 2. ‘Just all the life that is on it.’
‘Not even all life,’ says Guide Number 3. ‘Only the species depending
on plants for food or for their food’s food.’ To us it is way past ironic
to sit stock still and watch Earth burn. There must be a way we can fix…
‘What you broke,’ say all three Guides in chorus, too-easily reading our thoughts.
‘You began small like birds, building modest nests with found bright stones and sticks
but progressed, that’s the very wrong word, to mess with missiles and dreadnoughts.’
‘Not all of us!’ we shrieked (here ‘shrieked’ is the very very right word).
‘We, and many like us,’ we whined, ‘adhere to the venerable thesis
of live and let live.’ Guide Number 2 said, ‘Do not be absurd.’
Guide Number 2, we knew, when we knew, was actually Lachesis.
She took our measure, of each of us, meaningfully waving the rod
we had hoped she had forgotten to bring. Clotho (her sister, Guide 1)
gave Atropos (Guide Number 3) a weary dooming nod.
Clotho vowed that in times future if any she would shun
spinning life threads for human people. ‘They are irredeemably bad
for themselves, for us and for ‘Gaia’ — whatever you want to name it,’
she said. She looked for an immortal thoroughly hauntingly sad.
‘They inherited the Earth but soon misused their growing powers to maim it!’
said Atropos. She smiled softly then. A Fate’s smile is disarming.
Could it be that our fate that threatened simply disappears?
We smile back. We try to laugh. The planet keeps on warming.
Then we see that Atropos is sharpening her shears.
We forget again, forgetting our Guides’ — these three dire Fates’ — true names,
and then from fright we forget our own. There is nowhere we can run.
The shears’ edges spark. Our threads spew smoke. Our souls go up in flames.
The Guides count down, the last thing we hear: ‘Three’ and ‘Two’ and ‘One’.
The lion’s coat, renowned in tribal vision,
is redolent close up of muck and dirt
and zebra remnants from the subdivision
of his last meal. Gazelles that you think flirt
with lions do so perhaps on television
but in real life the pride itself is hurt
by breath past fangs that flecked with unflossed prize
explain why lions converse with squinted eyes.
‘Who’s Wot Gnu?’ you ask. A magic gardener
conceived from little just like you and me
and thus with bugs and beasts and us coparceners
an inheritor of the sun, the fields, the sea.
Wot operates with me a veterinary
practice: we heal beasts to set them free
as they free us. They bring colour to our world.
We do not want a home that is not merled,
not foxed nor robined. We are for preservation
of rat-cheer rodents, sleeping ants, the chough,
and, in moderation, every nation.
‘What’s Wot got,’ you may ask, ‘to do with lions?’
I answer, ‘Everything from here to Orion.
It’s similar to asking how much twine
goes in a piece of string. All life is fine.’
‘What knew Wot Gnu to make you his disciple?’
you ask despairing of an answer clear.
‘Damn all,’ I say, ‘except he’s archetypal
of this whole confusing mess that I hold dear.’
(in his own words)
‘Too many words
now nothing else is left.
My dull life
livens up in face of death.
and catamites depart.
Their absence delves
no abscess in my heart.
Their absent selves,
less aberrant than when,
they laid claim to my thin
and feigned concern,
elicit not one jot
of pity, nor
remorse. The mood I’ve got
is but the one
sufficing me for years,
of caring, for my peers,
and for my Self.
I almost made it work.
It moved me up
from labourer to clerk.
Much later, when
the bishop caught a cold,
it worked again.
He wasn’t very old,
or very strong,
a wispy little man
who died of draughts
accepted from my hand.
They weren’t a curse,
nor poisonous, no need,
just chequered crowns
I conjured up to feed
his inborn fears,
Within five years
I had his horse to ride,
and bed to fill
with acolytes, like he
had never done.
I had to hang but three.
and after that,
and by the Prince’s grace,
a quieter fief
than mine, a calmer place
has not been seen
since Caesar’s dotage days.
I couldn’t care,
or understand the ways
of those who died
for faith, or those who stayed,
for days sometimes,
alive, while minions flayed
them for some slight
to Prince, or God, or me.
I saw no need
to walk to Galilee,
go mount a cross,
lead martyrs on crusade.
I built high walls,
for glory against trade,
let men dig moats,
then populate each ditch
with those I let
be marked as thief or witch.
I kept the peace
through three proud Princes’ reigns
and, without war,
avoided any gains
in any sense:
no population growth,
no pleasure parks,
no single place where both
sweet love and joy
could find one hour’s respite.
I made each day
a horror night, a pit.
Perhaps men think
I’m monstrous. No one says.
I never met
a single soul could faze
me in my thought
that nothing has a point.
That Nothing’s what
inspires me to anoint
all widespread death
as highest good, and try,
this autumn eve,
to will my Self to die.’
She is waiting for the death bug unaware
that she is waiting for the death bug. She is bored.
Her life remains a trick she’ll double dare,
like life did her, presenting her the gourd
of plenty when she asked it for a sword.
She had wanted war, a war to make things right.
War came and went and though her throat felt tight
she can’t remember details like who won.
She is waiting. Will the death bug come tonight?
She does not know what they’ve agreed upon.
Note: Catherine Darc, whose initials became in the late 20th Century synonymous with electronically stored music, was in her lifetime (early 15th Century) a non-celebrity.
Here I am imagining for her that she lived a long, peaceful life while hankering for the passion, armed conflict and bright, gaudy fame that was the lot of her sister Jehanne (Joan of Arc).
He’s a renegade, it says so on his Jeep.
He’s a man reflective as fluorescent paint.
He’s proud of what he has: the talk, the walk,
the replica hair-shirt that a drunken saint
gave him one time for a cocktail and a song.
Reneging not an everyday complaint
in his world, he is flabbergasted when
she stops, says going further is a sin.
He says they both aren’t married any more
than when he’d said ‘Outside’ and she had smiled
and followed him from Tucson to the sea.
‘I thought you were a priest, then, one who whiled
away his inter-sacramental hours
enjoying beauty: temples, birdsong, me.’
‘I am,’ he said, ‘both priest and renegade,
but neither knows what motivation made
me speak to you in Tucson. Was I bored?
Were spirits from a bottle in my blood?
There is something in your beauty I adored
when I had feelings, and an ancient flood
of what you call emotion made me call
the first word out that came to me. That’s good.
Analysis prevents me, quieter days,
from any action. Can this be a phase?’
‘An undertaking, while the undertaker
still disappoints by hovering offstage?’
she asks, and sitting up, moves feet away.
‘You hanker for me, but I’m half your age,
and you were born already twice that old.
Perhaps I am the ink set on the page
and spine of books you substitute for life.’
But you, not I, said No.’ ‘Don’t twist the knife
I handed you,’ he importunes. She laughs
and moving further off, she cries, and stands.
And he stands too, relieved, again alone
inside his thoughts, until one of them hands
him what she wishes he would call emotion,
as he listens to receding angel bands
and knows the moment thought about has passed,
and that soulless resurrections cannot last.