“There be no mercy here. There be no pardon.
No haloes have we in the clemency of saints arrayed, but with mane of the lion haloed, and given to crimson appetite such as begets bestial slaughter. Beg off. Beg off with thy entreaties to gentler nature, for we’ve none, but with fang and claw keenly paired giveth unto surfeit that rage innate in all whom so wronged seeketh recompense. This is reckoning inexorable in its numeration. Doff thy fleece. Doff thy fleece, for poorly it becometh thou. Prepare thyself as well may prepare the sexton. A roar, though deafening as thunder, is but the death of an ear soon reconciled with a truer silence. And that silence shall follow fast. Take what comfort thou may in that surcease. Mouth the words of braver men. Mouth the prayers of thy Lord, should he proffer ear to hear. No Daniel walks here, unafraid, nor would such as he escape wrath such as ours. The den resounds, thou bleating fool. We come. By fang and claw we shall slake the thirsty dust with thy meager make. Believe no shade of doubt in this, for it conceal thee not. By day or night, villain, we see thee clear and, as hound to mark, seeketh unrelentingly. Whether thou art steadfast in grim resoluteness toward thy end, or whether thou flee far from sudden battlefield, we shall pursue. As hound afoot or crow alight, we pursue thy bountiful blood. Doubt it not. The clarion of war ringeth as the sky in revolt. Lo, it soundeth in every thirsting throat.”
(Recently I have been reading Shakespeare’s more confrontational moments in his plays, such as Macbeth and Macduff’s fight scene, and I wanted to attempt something in the Shakespearean vein. With minimal success.)
Were you to have seen the ovens
your hard tongue would have burned to ash,
you devil, lecturing covens
as the fulgurous blitzkriegs flash.
Across your adopted homeland
you exulted while others warred,
having no honor, a Roman
who would not fall upon his sword,
even after his unjust wrath
had been thwarted by apt measure
like Commodus slain in his bath,
a tyrant cleaved to his pleasure.
What good songs you sang are lost,
deafened by your erudite cries
of hatred, bigotry—mind lost
in rooms padded with your own lies.
The lunatics sang behind you,
electroshock troopers plugged in,
the asylum leader in view,
his thunderclap voice a loud din
that quickened Europe’s stagnant blood
and swept you across the ocean,
your own heart racing forth, aflood
with a Modernist’s crass notion
about “betterment”, “perfection”,
the irony of your lection
being bad Aristophanes.
Eliot, Yeats, Woolf, and others
embosomed you with their regard,
sympathetic to such brothers
who despised those whom were ill-Starred
and though I might forgive them such
as was wont in that insane age,
you, villain, were not half so much
repentant on your prideful stage.
Some claim you recanted your songs
so thunderous with cannon force,
but even if true, how can wrongs,
once done, not continue their course?
They are as birds within a cage
set free, their talons stretched apart
to clutch the world with a sharp rage;
thunderbolts thrown into the heart.
You cannot outrace the echoes
that fly away from bygone words,
no more than may a weed beck those
seeds carried far by passing birds,
or passing storms, or fell ages,
the seeds sprouting roots and shoots far
and blooming fast, necrophages
of blood and soil spilled from a Star.
Fling a handful of words
against the chill rain,
fling the choicest words
into the dark, ash-throated fireplace
and see if they kindle a flame
to keep off the wintry cold.
Cast a lifetime of mellifluous words
into the river
and haul up a fish,
a meager leaf.
Overspread your whole language
as the arches in a roof to keep dry
or, lesser, a blanket
on your bed
as you shiver in the nighttime storm.
My words fail
to do what my father’s wordless hands have done.
I have never built a home of words,
but my father has built a
life for me,
a life more easily lived,
a life distracted by
head-down in study,
transfixed by scribbled ink
on flimsy paper,
smooth fingers on smooth pens,
never looking up with proper gratitude
for the wood his calloused fingers worked
to shoulder aside the brunt
of elemental onslaught—
to keep my head down,
to attempt to reach higher realms
beyond wood and fingers and ink,
and still I fail.
Thunderous the too-distant hooves
along the softened bridlepath,
countless the many horseshoe grooves
in the twilight, the aftermath,
and half-awake I but wander
that sylvan lane wherethrough may pass
dreams aplenty over yonder—
a pilgrimage, a dusk-flown Mass.
My father declined to cut down the trees
where he built his beloved sylvan home,
thinking them a fortress against the breeze,
or the columns of ancient Greece or Rome,
but as the March windstorm shrieks like banshees
I watch, and worry, in the early gloam
and think of the courtier, Damocles,
while trees fall like swords from their vaulted dome.
Waves lap at the moon
like cats at a bowl, drinking;
milk gleams on their snouts.
And so it was that Isaac, bound alike a kernel in the shell,
yet being of thought and feeling bloomed, if confused,
was carried up the mountainside while the
empty sky reeled around with acute indifference,
and thus came he to know, in the flash
of a trembling knife, the descent of angels unseen
while that senile sire of his being,
that old man begetting all Mankind,
pledged his son deliriously to the vast Void waiting
to embrace us all, and heard he loud the
that can be heard unto all future days
by those fearless to hear while facing the
sacrificial altar of Life. And he came to know the woe
of Ishmael, but worse, for he was near to exile
not only from his home, but from Life itself,
sacrificed by he whose seed begot him,
a seed hereupon nipped afore it could
gain purchase as its own tree
to overshadow the tribes of Israel.
upon the heady slopes of Mount Moriah
a father drew a feverish blade
to kill his son
at the behest of a voice only he could hear
and hereon the demons that would one day
build the Temple of Solomon
bethought themselves how they inhabited
the heads of Man as does vermin
the heartwood of the Cross
and knew they should never want.
The mist is at ease
like a head on a pillow
or a lethargic breeze
in sails that do not billow.
The mists scarcely move,
like breath from a sleepy laugh
or wool brushed soft and smooth,
loosely wound round the distaff.
Phantom fleece, it floats,
the soul of a suicide,
the tiny moonlit motes
the breath of the river wide.
As languid lovers
beneath the Cumberland moon,
a froth of silk covers;
sighing waterfall aswoon.