Surfing the Apocalypse (Poetry of Revealing and the Road to Damascus)

Discussion in 'Dragon Poetry, Dreams, Music and Creativity' started by Allisiam, Apr 7, 2015.

  1. Allisiam

    Allisiam Well-Known Member


    Dreaming Pancho Villa
    By Carl Marcum
    The silence that was neither Spanish
    nor English
    was my prayer.

    —Luis Alberto Urrea

    Last night I dreamt I was Pancho Villa—
    ragged, bandoliered, reckless.
    I dreamt my poetry at the end of a pistol,
    felt it kick nearly out of my hand.

    But this morning I awoke again
    white and assimilated into these cobwebs
    of my half-self. When did I forget
    my mother? Sometimes Spanish

    syllables creak like wobbly shopping cart
    wheels, I have to lean against accent,
    fill myself with verbs: necesitar, hablar, poder.

    Half, medio, milkweed,
    Carlos Gringo, Carlos Murphy.
    Part mexicano,
    part Kentucky hillbilly,
    I’ve angloed my way
    through this life—
    hablando español
    de conveniencia,
    nunca pensando en
    la bendición.

    I dreamed again last night
    I was Pancho Villa. Only this time
    I couldn’t speak a word of Spanish.
    I could understand what the men
    were asking me, but to blurt orders
    in English would have stretched my neck.
    So I kept quiet, austere. I kept a rifle
    in my hand. I’ve taken it as a sign.

    When I was fourteen,
    I lost my brand-new Timex
    in the waist-high surf of Pismo Beach.
    I couldn’t feel it missing from my wrist
    until I was in my uncle’s Volvo,
    my shorts still soaking, my lips caked white.

    The sand in my hair, the sand in my shoes—
    the very real estate of Madera, where
    during the revolution, no train or telegraph
    passed for months. The business
    lumbering on, turning trees
    to the fabric of living.
    After the war, they sent query
    to Juárez, they needed the hour, the day,
    the month, the year they hadn’t noticed.

    I’m awake early, half-dreams of last night’s rain & a dirty porch pull me
    from the sheets. En la madrugada, a broom is a necessary instrument.
    The swish of straw against concrete, a whisper, a prayer. Shoulders
    cantilever, wrists rigid, hands in pliable tension—in this motion there is

    My great-grandmother swept her porch, the way she did every morning.
    From the burnished Sonoran dawn, a stranger approached. She watched
    him, always sweeping. The man was young, in his early thirties maybe,
    beaten, ragged. His face crusted with blood, filthy. The man appealed to
    her, “Señora, por favor, ayúdeme,” he said. She stopped sweeping &
    looked at him. “Me siguen los federales,” he said. She looked on him with
    pity & brought him into her home. She must have thought of her
    daughters, she must have thought of consequence. She put the man in a
    bed, went back outside to sweep. The federales arrived shortly after, five
    on horseback armed & angry. “Señora,” they asked, “have you seen a
    stranger this morning?” She stopped sweeping, told them she had not.
    They asked if anyone was in the house. “No one,” she told them, “only my
    sick uncle.” They left without incident or investigation.

    Night fell. She cleaned the man’s wounds, gave him clothes, listened to
    his stories of revolution. She told him, “Whether the revolution or the
    government, I lose chickens all the same.” She handed him a plate of
    arroz con pollo. He rested for two days. She gave him the few centavos
    she had & he left amidst the desert night.

    Years later, the man returned to her house—with a gift that no one can
    remember—to thank her for his life.

    This time it’s turning
    tequila sueño,
    gold spinner
    gone retrograde
    La Sirena—verde-verdad,
    glinting back-black
    and skin—
    across the metallic blue
    chulo wagon.
    Mariachi gone mad
    in the back seat.
    This is cruising
    at watch-me-

    why don’t
    you come down
    to chrome avenue,
    where it’s all
    manos y moda?
    We’ll sit
    brass-stick high.
    Me and you, pendejo.
    We’ll pick up Hi-Tone,
    all fingers and hair,
    that little guitarrista.
    No te mortifiques,
    Ride shotgun with me.
    Pégame un grito.

    Chale. I’ve got work to do, homes.


    I’m dreamsick now. Staying asleep past
    noon. Desvelado. Headache-fog
    when I’m awake, even keeping down
    milk is hard. Images, sounds, curdle thick
    in my ears, my eyes. Levántate.
    ¿Qué horas son?

    I dream Villa’s first murder. The other
    man on horseback, his jefe’s son. An argument
    at the crossroads. A girl, Pancho’s sister.
    Something forced—a point, a pistol. A sharp
    report, blue-black smoke. Fear, alarm—the smell
    of guilt, like bad masa, taints tastes, turns on Pancho.
    Running now, like before but worse. Three days
    into las montañas. Marcado por vida.

    In a dream of brown skin, I’m lost
    in black, black hair, dark nipples,
    a face I’ve never known. A kiss
    so difficult I moan. My face
    wet with her—princess, mujer—irrecoverable.
    Only impression across
    sleep-soaked lips, only an ache
    and a dark, dark scent.


    Barbed wire fence runs down the axis
    of a heart. River rides in canyon
    dreams—a revolution in water.
    I am a kiss, confessed by tongues that will not pronounce me.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2015
  2. Allisiam

    Allisiam Well-Known Member


    Poet Laureate of Hell

    is what I seek to become, because why swoon and slather over fame
    in some sparse or even populous city-state
    saturate and dizzy with mall-to-mall glitz and glitter of deafening
    “buy-me buy-me”s – jewelers hawking each corner
    of every artery of the one true church
    gaggling enough gaudies to glut several thirdworld countries
    of bloated child-bellies, and circumscribed fully by
    bumper-to-bumper smog-machines and their
    get-there-yesterday Armani suits hyped on road rage,
    mud-thick caffeine and and cellphone drunkenness
    screeching past garish megaplexes with their latest
    slasherflicks or fraught with daft and derelict comedy buffoons,
    silicone-infused floozies and their salivating wilderbeasts
    up until dark's last orgasmic gasp, as meanwhile
    throughout day and night snore the heavy-lidded libraries,
    museums and college auditoriums of Anytown USA,
    hushed and tomblike as stout and sated cows?

    Oh why be king or queen of any scuzzy American whoretown
    with its elective artistic hysterectomy, so overly-bled and sutured,
    so straining at its own adhesions until the next mad psychosurgery
    in the richest nation on earth daddied and diddled
    by such surcease of soul, that Jesus in thorns could descend
    into all boudoirs waving neon crosses
    prophecying the beginning of the world, and yet World War III
    or black gold would be too alluring, all hackneyed parishioners
    panting for, say, the next Walk-Mart to sprout suddenly in their backyards
    like Aladdin-mansions to be even vaguely interested
    in the compulsively obsessed-over kingdom of heaven
    proffered by some lesser deity?

    As if it means anything at all to be versed or eloquent
    within the truculence of a “culture”
    so reveling in ignorance and greed
    and lacking in first-hand knowledge with something as simple
    as a novel insight or idea, too jaded and spoiled
    to extract its head from its ignominious back hole
    to recognize just one mote of genius?

    NO! Give me instead HELL, where all the bright lights lie,
    like Blake, Byron, Thomas, Pound, Yeats, Sexton, Schwartz,
    Rilke, Ginsberg, Plath, Dante and all the rest who still blather
    like quote quote lunatics or at least phonetic fanatics,
    consigned to the underworld for insistently blasting
    lucidity and truth straight onto the mid-brain
    past thick foreheads of intransigent Neanderthal puppeteers
    and their grinning glass-eyed dummies –
    al lthose bituminous brain-dead bums
    ramrodding inane nationalistic and paternalistic
    bullshit sacks of utter dimwittery down tight throats
    unflexed yet acquiescent of such blow-hard jobs,
    territorially manhandling, gunny-sacking and penny-shucking,
    hiccoughing hosannahs over shiny objects
    and electronic sheephead detritus, blaring enough iniquity
    to blot out each and every dancing star
    but never their hoarse and hoary voices,
    incessantly yammering and pontificating
    about anything and everything except what exactly might be meant
    by an “A”or “B” or “C!”

    by ©Julie K. Shavin
  3. Allisiam

    Allisiam Well-Known Member


    Globus Hystericus
    By Timothy Donnelly


    A pity the selfsame vehicle that spirits me away from
    factories of tedium should likewise serve to drag
    me backwards into panic, or that panic should erect

    massive factories of its own, their virulent pollutants
    havocking loved waterways, frothing all the reed-
    fringed margins acid pink and gathering in the shell

    and soft tissues of the snails unknowingly in danger
    as they inch up stems. Through the bulkhead door
    I can hear their spirals plunk into the sluggish south-

    bound current and dissolve therein with such brutal
    regularity their dying has given rise to the custom
    of measuring time here in a unit known as the snailsdeath.

    The snailsdeath refers to the average length of time,
    about 43 seconds, elapsing between the loss of the first
    snail to toxic waters and the loss of the next, roughly

    equivalent to the pause between swallows in a human
    throat, while the adverb here refers to my person
    and all its outskirts, beginning on the so-called cellular

    level extending more of less undaunted all the way down
    to the vale at the foot of the bed. I often fear I’ll wake
    to find you waiting there and won’t know how to speak

    on the subject of my production, or rather my woeful
    lack thereof, but in your absence, once again, I will begin
    drafting apologies in a language ineffectual as doves.


    Daybreak on my marshland: a single egret, blotched,
    trudges through the froth. I take its photograph
    from the rooftop observation deck from which I watch

    day’s delivery trucks advance. I take advantage of
    the quiet before their arrival to organize my thoughts
    on the paranormal thusly: (1) If the human psyche

    has proven spirited enough to produce such a range
    of material effects upon what we’ll call the closed
    system of its custodial body, indeed if it’s expected to,

    and (2) If such effects might be thought to constitute
    the physical expression of that psyche, an emanation
    willed into matter in a manner not unlike a brand-

    new car or cream-filled cake or disposable camera,
    and (3) If the system of the body can be swapped out
    for another, maybe an abandoned factory or a vale,

    then might it not also prove possible for the psyche
    by aptitude or lather or sheer circumstance to impress
    its thumbprint on some other system, a production

    in the basement, or in a video store, as when I find you
    inching up steps or down a shady aisle or pathway,
    dragging your long chains behind you most morosely

    if you ask me, the question is: Did you choose this, or was it
    imposed on you, but even as I ask your hands move
    wildly about your throat to indicate you cannot speak.


    After the memory of the trucks withdrawing heavy
    with their cargo fans out and fades into late-morning
    hunger, I relocate in time to the lit bank of vending

    machines still humming in the staff-room corner for a light
    meal of cheese curls, orange soda, and what history
    will come to mourn as the last two cream-filled cakes.

    Eating in silence, a breeze in the half-light, absently
    thinking of trying not to think, I imagine the Bethlehem
    steel smokestacks above me piping nonstop, the sky

    wide open without any question, steam and dioxides
    of carbon and sulfur, hands pressed to the wall as I walk
    down the corridor to stop myself from falling awake

    again on the floor in embarrassment. If there’s any use
    of imagination more productive or time less painful
    it hasn’t tried hard enough to push through to find me

    wandering the wings of a ghost-run factory as Earth
    approaches the dark vale cut in the heart of the galaxy.
    Taking shots of the sunbaked fields of putrefaction

    visible from the observation deck. Hoping to capture
    what I can point to as the way it feels. Sensing my hand
    in what I push away. Watching it dissolve into plumes

    rising like aerosols, or like ghosts of indigenous peoples,
    or the lump in the throat to keep me from saying that
    surviving almost everything has felt like having killed it.


    (Plunk) Up from the floor with the sun to the sound of
    dawn’s first sacrifice to the residues of commerce.
    On autofog, on disbelief: rejuvenation in a boxer brief

    crashed three miles wide in the waves off Madagascar,
    cause of great flooding in the Bible and in Gilgamesh.
    Massive sphere of rock and ice, of all events in history

    (Plunk) thought to be the lethalmost. A snailsdeath
    semiquavers from pang to ghost where the habit of ghosts
    of inhabiting timepieces, of conniving their phantom

    tendrils through parlor air and into the escapements
    of some inoperative heirloom clock on a mantel shows
    not the dead’s ongoing interest in their old adversary

    (Plunk) time so much as an urge to return to the hard
    mechanical kind of being. An erotic lounging to reanimate
    the long-inert pendulum. As I have felt you banging

    nights in my machine, jostling the salt from a pretzel.
    This passion for the material realm after death however
    refuses to be reconciled with a willingness to destroy

    (Plunk) it while alive. When the last of the human voices
    told me what I had to do, they rattled off a shopping
    list of artifacts they wanted thrown down open throats.

    That left me feeling in on it, chosen, a real fun-time guy
    albeit somewhat sleep-deprived; detail-oriented, modern,
    yes, but also dubious, maudlin, bedridden, speechless.


    Graffiti on the stonework around the service entrance
    makes the doorway at night look like the mystagogic
    mouth of a big beast, amphibious, outfitted with fangs,

    snout, the suggestion of a tongue, throat, and alimentary
    canal leading to a complex of caves, tunnels, temples . . .
    There are rooms I won’t enter, at whose threshold I say

    this is as far as I go, no farther, almost as if I can sense
    there’s something in there I don’t want to see, or for which
    to see means having wanted already to forget, unless

    stepping into the mouth at last, pressed into its damp,
    the advantage of not knowing is swapped out for the loss
    of apartness from what you’d held unknown, meaning

    you don’t come to know it so much as become it, wholly
    warping into its absorbent fold. I can’t let that happen
    if it hasn’t already. What draws me on might be thought

    canine, keen-sighted, but it’s still incapable of divining why
    the constant hum around or inside me has to choose
    among being a nocturne of toxic manufacture, the call

    of what remains of the jungle, or else just another prank
    on my gullible anatomy. Am I not beset in the utmost
    basement of industry? Is that basement itself not beset

    by the broad, black-green, waxy leaves of Mesoamerica?
    And haven’t I parted those selfsame leaves, discovering me
    asleep on my own weapon, threat to no one but myself?


    Asked again what I miss the most about my former life,
    I remember to pause this time, look left, a little off-camera
    an entire snailsdeath, an air of sifting the possibilities,

    I eliminate certain objects and events from the running
    right off the bat, such as when their great displeasure
    brought the gods to turn to darkness all that had been

    light, submerging mountaintops in stormwater, the gods
    shocked by their own power, and heartsick to watch
    their once dear people stippling the surf like little fishes.

    Or when the flaming peccary of a comet struck the earth
    with much the same effect, waves as high as ziggurats
    crashing mathematically against our coastlines, scalding

    plumes of vapor and aerosols tossed into the atmosphere
    spawning storms to pummel the far side of the earth,
    approximately 80 percent of all life vanished in a week.

    Or when we squandered that very earth and shat on it
    with much the same effect, and more or less on purpose,
    emitting nonstop gases in the flow of our production,

    shoveling it in as ancient icecaps melted, what difference
    could another make now. And so I clear my throat, look
    directly into the camera, and even though it will make me

    come off bovine in their eyes, I say that what I miss the most
    has to be those cream-filled cakes I used to like, but then
    they prod me with their volts and lead me back to the barn.


    After the panic grew more of less customary, the pity
    dissolved into a mobile fogbank, dense, reducing visibility
    from the rooftop observation deck. Mobile in the sense

    that it possessed mobility, not in the sense that it actually
    moved. Because it didn’t. It just stayed there, reducing
    visibility but not in the sense that it simply diminished it

    or diminished it partly. Because it didn’t. It pretty much
    managed to do away with it altogether, as my photography
    will come to show: field after field of untouched white.

    After the possibility of change grew funny, threadbare,
    too embarrassing to be with, I eased into the knowledge
    that you’d never appear at the foot of the bed, the vale

    turned into a lifetime’s heap of laundry, and not the gentle
    tuffets and streambanks of an afterlife it seems we only
    imagined remembering, that watercolor done in greens

    and about which I predicted its monotony of fair weather
    over time might deaden one all over again, unless being
    changed with death means not only changing past change

    but past even the wish for it. I worried to aspire towards
    that condition might actually dull one’s aptitude for change.
    That I would grow to protect what I wished to keep from

    change at the cost of perpetuating much that required it.
    In this sense I had come to resemble the fogbank, at once
    given to motion but no less motionless than its photograph.

    The last time I saw myself alive, I drew the curtain back
    from the bed, stood by my sleeping body. I felt tenderness
    towards it. I knew how long it had waited, and how little

    time remained for it to prepare its bundle of grave-goods.
    When I tried to speak, rather than my voice, my mouth
    released the tight, distinctive shriek of an aerophone of clay.

    I wanted to stop the shock of that from taking away from
    what I felt. I couldn’t quite manage it. Even at this late hour,
    even here, the purity of a feeling is ruined by the world.


    The noises from the basement were not auspicious noises.
    I wanted to live forever. I wanted to live forever and die
    right then and there. I had heard the tight, distinctive shriek.

    Here again and now. I no longer have legs. I am sleeping.
    Long tendrils of tobacco smoke, composed of carbon dioxide,
    water vapor, ammonia, nitrogen oxide, hydrogen cyanide,

    and 4,000 other chemical compounds, penetrate the room
    through the gap beneath the door and through heating vents
    with confidence. They are the spectral forms of anaconda.

    The ruler of the underworld smokes cigars. A certain brand.
    Hand-rolled. He smiles as if there is much to smile about.
    And there is. He is hollow-eyed, toothless. His hat, infamous:

    broad-brimmed, embellished with feathers, a live macaw.
    His cape is depicted, often, as a length of fabric in distinctive
    black and white chevrons. Otherwise, as here, the full pelt

    of a jaguar. On a barge of plywood and empty milk cartons
    he trudges through the froth. He is the lord of black sorcery
    and lord of percussion. He is patron of commerce. He parts

    the leaves of Mesoamerica, traveling with a retinue of drunken
    ax wielders, collection agents. His scribe is a white rabbit.
    Daughter of moon and of night. Elsewhere, you are having

    your teeth taken out. There is no music left, but I still feel held
    captive by the cinema, and in its custom, I believe myself
    capable of protecting myself by hiding my face in my hands.
  4. Allisiam

    Allisiam Well-Known Member


    The Cloud Corporation
    By Timothy Donnelly


    The clouds part revealing a mythology of clouds
    assembled in light of earliest birds, an originary
    text over water over time, and that without which

    the clouds part revealing an apology for clouds
    implicit in the air where the clouds had been
    recently witnessed rehearsing departure, a heartfelt phrase

    in the push of the airborne drops and crystals
    over water over time—how being made to think
    oneself an obstruction between the observer

    and the object or objects under surveillance or even
    desired—or if I am felt to be beside the point
    then I have wanted that, but to block a path is like

    not being immaterial enough, or being too much
    when all they want from you now is your station
    cleared of its personal effects please and vanish—

    not that they’d ever just come out and say it when
    all that darting around of the eyes, all that shaky
    camouflage of paper could only portend the beginning of the

    end of your tenure at this organization, and remember
    a capacity to draw meaning out of such seeming
    accidence landed one here to begin with, didn’t it.


    The clouds part revealing an anatomy of clouds
    viewed from the midst of human speculation, a business
    project undertaken in a bid to acquire and retain

    control of the formation and movement of clouds.
    As late afternoons I have witnessed the distant
    towers borrow luster from a bourbon sun, in-box

    empty, surround sound on, all my money made
    in lieu of conversation—where conversation indicates
    the presence of desire in the parties to embark on

    exchange of spirit, hours forzando with heartfelt phrase—
    made metaphor for it, the face on the clock tower
    bright as a meteor, as if a torch were held against

    likelihood to illuminate the time so I could watch
    the calm silent progress of its hands from the luxury
    appointments of my office suite, the tumult below

    or behind me out of mind, had not my whole attention
    been riveted by the human figure stood upon
    the tower’s topmost pinnacle, himself surveying

    the clouds of the future parting in antiquity, a figure
    not to be mistaken, tranquilly pacing a platform
    with authority: the chief executive officer of clouds.


    The clouds part revealing blueprints of the clouds
    built in glass-front factories carved into cliff-faces
    which, prior to the factories’ recent construction,

    provided dorms for clans of hamadryas baboons,
    a species revered in ancient Egypt as attendants
    of Thoth, god of wisdom, science, and measurement.

    Fans conveying clouds through aluminum ducts
    can be heard from up to a mile away, depending on
    air temperature, humidity, the absence or presence

    of any competing sound, its origin and its character.
    It is no more impossible to grasp the baboon’s
    full significance in Egyptian religious symbolism

    than it is to determine why clouds we manufacture
    provoke in an audience more positive, lasting
    response than do comparable clouds occurring in nature.

    Even those who consider natural clouds products
    of conscious manufacture seem to prefer that a merely
    human mind lie behind the products they admire.

    This development may be a form of self-exalting
    or else another adaptation in order that we find
    the hum of machinery comforting through darkness.


    The clouds part revealing there’s no place left to sit
    myself down except for a single wingback chair
    backed into a corner to face the window in which

    the clouds part revealing the insouciance of clouds
    cavorting over the backs of the people in the field
    who cut the ripened barley, who gather it in sheaves,

    who beat grain from the sheaves with wooden flails,
    who shake it loose from the scaly husk around it,
    who throw the now threshed grain up into the gently

    palm-fanned air whose steady current carries off
    the chaff as the grain falls to the floor, who collect
    the grain from the floor painstakingly to grind it

    into flour, who bake the flour into loaves the priest will offer
    in the sanctuary, its walls washed white like milk.
    To perform it repeatedly, to perform it each time

    as if the first, to walk the dim corridor believing that
    the conference it leads to might change everything,
    to adhere to a possibility of reward, of betterment,

    of moving above, with effort, the condition into which
    one has been born, to whom do I owe the pleasure
    of the hum to which I have been listening too long.


    The clouds part revealing the advocates of clouds,
    believers in people, ideas and things, the workers
    of the united fields of clouds, supporters of the wars

    to keep clouds safe, the devotees of heartfelt phrase
    and belief you can change with water over time.
    It is the habit of a settled population to give ear to

    whatever is desirable will come to pass, a caressing
    confidence—but one unfortunately not borne out
    by human experience, for most things people desire

    have been desired ardently for thousands of years
    and observe—they are no closer to realization today
    than in Ramses’ time. Nor is there cause to believe

    they will lose their coyness on some near tomorrow.
    Attempts to speed them on have been undertaken
    from the beginning; plans to force them overnight

    are in copious, antagonistic operation today, and yet
    they have thoroughly eluded us, and chances are
    they will continue to elude us until the clouds part

    in a flash of autonomous, ardent, local brainwork—
    but when the clouds start to knit back together again,
    we’ll dismiss the event as a glitch in transmission.


    The clouds part revealing a congregation of bodies
    united into one immaterial body, a fictive person
    around whom the air is blurred with money, force

    from which much harm will come, to whom my welfare
    matters nothing. I sense without turning the light
    from their wings, their eyes; they preen themselves

    on the fire escape, the windowsill, their pink feet
    vulnerable—a mistake to think of them that way.
    If I turn around, the room might not be full of wings

    capable of acting, in many respects, as a single being,
    which is to say that I myself may be the source of
    what I sense, but am no less powerless to change it.

    Always around me, on my body, in my mouth, I fear them
    and their love of money, everything I do without
    thinking to help them make it. And if I am felt to be

    beside the point, I have wanted that, to live apart
    from what depends on killing me a little bit to keep
    itself alive, and yet not happily, with all its needs

    and comforts met, but fattened so far past that point
    I am engrossed, and if I picture myself outside of it
    it isn’t me anymore, but a parasite cast out, inviable.


    The clouds part revealing the distinction between
    words without meaning and meaning without words,
    a phenomenon of nature, the westbound field

    of low air pressure developing over water over time
    and warm, saturated air on the sea surface rising
    steadily replaced by cold air from above, the cycle

    repeating, the warm moving upward into massive
    thunderclouds, the cold descending into the eye
    around which bands of thunderclouds spiral, counter-

    clockwise, often in the hundreds, the atmospheric
    pressure dropping even further, making winds
    accelerate, the clouds revolve, a confusion of energy,

    an incomprehensible volume of rain—I remember
    the trick of thinking through infinity, a crowd of eyes
    against an asphalt wall, my vision of it scrolling

    left as the crowd thinned out to a spatter and then
    just black until I fall asleep and then just black again,
    past marketing, past focus groups, past human

    resources, past management, past personal effects,
    their insignificance evident in the eye of the dream
    and through much of the debriefing I wake into next.
  5. Allisiam

    Allisiam Well-Known Member


    The Schooner 'Flight' by Derek Walcott
    1 Adios, Carenage

    In idle August, while the sea soft,
    and leaves of brown islands stick to the rim
    of this Carribean, I blow out the light
    by the dreamless face of Maria Concepcion
    to ship as a seaman on the schooner Flight.
    Out in the yard turning gray in the dawn,
    I stood like a stone and nothing else move
    but the cold sea rippling like galvanize
    and the nail holes of stars in the sky roof,
    till a wind start to interfere with the trees.
    I pass me dry neighbor sweeping she yard
    as I went downhill, and I nearly said:
    "Sweep soft, you witch, 'cause she don't sleep hard,"
    but the bitch look through me like I was dead.
    A route taxi pull up, park-lights still on.
    The driver size up my bags with a grin:
    "This time, Shabine, like you really gone!"
    I ain't answer the ass, I simply pile in
    the back seat and watch the sky burn
    above Laventille pink as the gown
    in which the woman I left was sleeping,
    and I look in the rearview and see a man
    exactly like me, and the man was weeping
    for the houses, the street, that whole fucking island.

    Christ have mercy on all sleeping things!
    >From that dog rotting down Wrightson Road
    to when I was a dog on these streets;
    if loving these islands must be my load.
    out of corruption my soul takes wings,
    But they had started to poison my soul
    with their big house, big car, big time bohbohl,
    coolie, nigger, Syrian and French Creole,
    so I leave it for them and their carnival -
    I taking a sea bath, I gone down the road.
    I know these islands from Monos to Nassau,
    a rusty head sailor with sea-green eyes
    that they nickname Shabine, the patois for
    any red nigger, and I, Shabine, saw
    when these slums of empire was paradise.
    I'm just a red nigger who love the sea,
    I had a sound colonial education,
    I have Dutch, nigger, and English in me,
    and either I'm nobody, or I'm a nation,

    But Maria Concepcion was all my thought
    watching the sea heaving up and down
    as the port side of dories, schooners, and yachts
    was painted afresh by the strokes of the sun
    signing her name with every reflection;
    I knew when dark-haired evening put on
    her bright silk at sunset, and, folding the sea,
    sidled under the sheet with her starry laugh,
    that there'd be no rest, there'd be no forgetting.
    Is like telling mourners round the graveside
    about resurrection, they want the dead back,
    so I smile to myself as the bow rope untied
    and the Flight swing seaward:"Is no use repeating
    that the sea have more fish. I ain't want her
    dressed in the sexless light of a seraph,
    I want those round brown eyes like a marmoset, and
    till the day when I can lean back and laugh,
    those claws that tickled my back on sweating
    Sunday afternoons, like a crab on wet sand."

    As I worked, watching the rotting waves come
    past the bow that scissor the sea like milk,
    I swear to you all, by my mother's milk,
    by the stars that shall fly from tonight's furnace,
    that I loved them, my children, my wife, my home;
    I loved them as poets love the poetry
    that kills them, as drowned sailors the sea.

    You ever look up from some lonely beach
    and see a far schooner? Well, when I write
    this poem, each phrase go be soaked in salt;
    I go draw and knot every line as tight
    as ropes in this rigging; in simple speech
    my common language go be the wind,
    my pages the sails of the schooner Flight.
    But let me tell you how this business begin.

    2 Raptures of the Deep

    Smuggled Scotch for O'Hara, big government man,
    between Cedros and the Main, so the Coast Guard couldn't touch us,
    and the Spanish pirogues always met us halfway,
    but a voice kept saying: "Shabine, see this business
    of playing pirate?" Well, so said, so done!
    That whole racket crash. And I for a woman,
    for her laces and silks, Maria Concepcion.
    Ay, ay! Next thing I hear, some Commission of Enquiry
    was being organized to conduct a big quiz,
    with himself as chairman investigating himself.
    Well, I knew damn well who the suckers would be,
    not that shark in shark skin, but his pilot fish,
    khaki-pants red nigger like you or me.
    What worse, I fighting with Maria Concepcion,
    plates flying and thing, so I swear: "Not again!"
    It was mashing up my house and my family.
    I was so broke all I needed was shades and a cup
    or four shades and four cups in four-cup Port of Spain;
    all the silver I had was the coins on the sea.

    You saw them ministers in The Express,
    guardians of the poor - one hand at their back,
    and one set o'police only guarding their house,
    and the Scotch pouring in through the back door.
    As for that minister-monster who smuggled the booze,
    that half-Syrian saurian, I got so vex to see
    that face thick with powder, the warts, the stone lids
    like a dinosaur caked with primordial ooze
    by the lightning of flashbulbs sinking in wealth,
    that I said: "Shabine, this is shit, understand!"
    But he get somebody to kick my crutch out his office
    like I was some artist! That bitch was so grand,
    couldn't get off his high horse and kick me himself.
    I have seen things that would make a slave sick
    in this Trinidad, the Limers' Republic.

    I couldn't shake the sea noise out of my head,
    the shell of my ears sang Maria Concepcion,
    so I start salvage diving with a crazy Mick,
    name O'Shaugnessy, and a limey named Head;
    but this Carribean so choke with the dead
    that when I would melt in emerald water,
    whose ceiling rippled like a silk tent,
    I saw them corals: brain, fire, sea fans,
    dead-men's-fingers, and then, the dead men.
    I saw that the powdery sand was their bones
    ground white from Senegal to San Salvador,
    so, I panic third dive, and surface for a month
    in the Seamen's Hostel. Fish broth and sermons.
    When I thought of the woe I had brought my wife,
    when I saw my worries with that other woman,
    I wept under water, salt seeking salt,
    for her beauty had fallen on me like a sword
    cleaving me from my children, flesh of my flesh!

    There was this barge from St. Vincent, but she was too deep
    to float her again. When we drank, the limey
    got tired of my sobbing for Maria Concepcion.
    He said he was getting the bends. Good for him!
    The pain in my heart for Maria Concepcion,
    the hurt I had done to my wife and children,
    was worse than the bends. In the rapturous deep
    there was no cleft rock where my soul could hide
    like the boobies each sunset, no sandbar of light
    where I could rest, like the pelicans know,
    so I got raptures once, and I saw God
    like a harpooned grouper bleeding, and a far
    voice was rumbling, "Shabine, if you leave her,
    if you leave her, I shall give you the morning star."
    When I left the madhouse I tried other women
    but, once they stripped naked, their spiky cunts
    bristled like sea eggs and I couldn't dive.
    The chaplain came round. I paid him no mind.
    Where is my rest place, Jesus? Where is my harbor?
    Where is the pillow I will not have to pay for,
    and the window I can look from that frames my life?

    3 Shabine Leaves the Republic

    I had no nation now but the imagination.
    After the white man, the niggers didn't want me
    when the power swing to their side.
    The first chain my hands and apologize, "History";
    the next said I wasn't black enough for their pride.
    Tell me, what power, on these unknown rocks -
    a spray-plane Air Force, the Fire Brigade,
    the Red Cross, the Regiment, two, three police dogs
    that pass before you finish bawling "Parade!"?
    I met History once, but he ain't recognize me,
    a parchment Creole, with warts
    like an old sea bottle, crawling like a crab
    through the holes of shadow cast by the net
    of a grille balcony ; cream linen, cream hat.
    I confront him and shout, "Sir, is Shabine!
    They say I'se your grandson. You remember Grandma,
    your blck cook, at all?" The bitch hawk and spat.
    A spit like that worth any number of words.
    But that's all them bastards have left us: words.

    I no longer believed in the revolution.
    I was losing faith in the love of my woman.
    I had seen that moment Aleksandr Blok
    crystallize in The Twelve. Was between
    the Police Marine Branch and Hotel Venezuelana
    one Sunday at noon. Young men without flags
    using shirts, their chests waiting for holes.
    They kept marching into the mountains, and their
    noise ceased as foam sinks into sand.
    They sank in the bright hills like rain, every one
    with his own nimbus, leaving shirts in the streets,
    and the echo of power at the end of the street.
    Propeller-blade fans turn over the Senate;
    the judges, they say, still sweat in carmine,
    on Frederick Street the idlers all marching
    by standing still, the Budget turns a new leaf.
    In the 12.30 movies the projectors best
    not break down, or you go see revolution. Aleksandr Blok
    enters and sits in the third row of pit eating choc-
    olate cone, waiting for a spaghetti West-
    ern with Clint Eastwood and featuring Lee Van Cleef.

    4 The Flight, Passing

    Dusk. The Flight passing Blanchisseuse.
    Gulls wheel like from a gun again,
    and foam gone amber that was white,
    lighthouse and star start making friends,
    down every beach the long day ends,
    and there, on that last stretch of sand,
    on a beach bare of all but light,
    dark hands start pulling in the seine
    of the dark sea, deep, deep inland.

    5 Shabine Encounters the
    Middle Passage

    Man, I brisk in the galley first thing next dawn,
    brewing li'l coffee; fog coil from the sea
    like the kettle steaming when I put it down
    slow, slow, 'cause I couldn't believe what I see:
    where the horizon was one silver haze,
    the fog swirl and swell into sails, so close
    that I saw it was sails, my hair grip my skull,
    it was horrors, but it was beautiful.
    We float through a rustling forest of ships
    with sails dry like paper, behind the glass
    I saw men with rusty eyeholes like cannons,
    and whenever their half-naked crews cross the sun,
    right through their tissue, you traced their bones
    like leaves against the sunlight; frigates, barkentines,
    the backward-moving current swept them on,
    and high on their decks I saw great admirals,
    Rodney, Nelson, de Grasse, I heard the hoarse orders
    they gave those Shabines, and that forest
    of masts sail right through the Flight,
    and all you could hear was the ghostly sound
    of waves rustling like grass in a low wind
    and the hissing weds they trail from the stern;
    slowly they heaved past from east to west
    like this round world was some cranked water wheel,
    every ship pouring like a wooden bucket
    dredged from the deep; my memory revolve
    on all sailors before me, then the sun
    heat the horizon's ring and they was mist.

    Next we pass slave ships. Flags of all nations,
    our fathers below deck too deep, I suppose,
    to hear us shouting. So we stop shouting. Who knows
    who his grandfather is, much less his name?
    Tomorrow our landfall will be the Barbados.

    6 The Sailor Sings Back to the

    You see them on the low hills of Barbados
    bracing like windbreaks, needles for hurricanes,
    trailing, like masts, the cirrus of torn sails;
    when I was green like them, I used to think
    those cypresses, leaning against the sea,
    that take the sea noise up into their branches,
    are not real cypresses but casuarinas.
    Now captain just call them Canadian cedars.
    But cedars, cypresses, or casuarinas,
    whoever called them so had a good cause,
    watching their bending bodies wail like women
    after a storm, when some schooner came home
    with news of one more sailor drowned again.
    Once the sound "cypress" used to make more sense
    than the green "casuarinas", though, to the wind
    whatever grief bent them was all the same,
    since they were trees with nothing else in mind
    but heavenly leaping or to guard a grave;
    but we live like our names and you would have
    to be colonial to know the difference,
    to know the pain of history words contain,
    to love those trees with an inferior love,
    and to believe: "Those casuarinas bend
    like cypresses, their hair hangs down in rain
    like sailors' wives. They're classic trees, and we,
    if we live like the names our masters please,
    by careful mimicry might become men."

    7 The Flight Anchors in
    Castries Harbor

    When the stars self were young over Castries,
    I loved you alone and I loved the whole world.
    What does it matter that our lives are different?
    Burdened with the loves of our different children?
    When I think of your young face washed by the wind
    and your voice that chuckles in the slap of the sea?
    The lights are out on La Toc promontory,
    except for the hospital. Across at Vigie
    the marina arcs keep vigil. I have kept my own
    promise, to leave you the one thing I own,
    you whom I loved first: my poetry.
    We here for one night. Tomorrow, the Flight will be gone.

    8 Fight with the Crew

    It had one bitch on board, like he had me mark -
    that was the cook, some Vincentian arse
    with a skin like a gommier tree, red peeling bark,
    and wash-out blue eyes; he wouldn't give me a ease,
    like he feel he was white. Had an exercise book,
    this same one here, that I was using to write
    my poetry, so one day this man snatch it
    from my hand, and start throwing it left and right
    to the rest of the crew,bawling out, "Catch it,"
    and start mincing me like I was some hen
    because of the poems. Some case is for fist,
    some case is for tholing pin, some is for knife -
    this one was for knife. Well, I beg him first,
    but he kept reading, "O my children, my wife,"
    and playing he crying, to make the crew laugh;
    it move like a flying fish, the silver knife
    that catch him right in the plump of his calf,
    and he faint so slowly, and he turn more white
    than he thought he was. I suppose among men
    you need that sort of thing. It ain't right
    but that's how it is. There wasn't much pain,
    just plenty blood, and Vincie and me best friend,
    but none of them go fuck with my poetry again.

    9 Maria Concepcion & the Book of Dreams

    The jet that was screeching over the Flight
    was opening a curtain into the past.
    "Dominica ahead!"
    "It still have Caribs there."
    "One day go be planes only, no more boat."
    "Vince, God ain't made nigger to fly through the air."
    "Progress, Shabine, that's what it's all about.
    Progress leaving all we small islands behind."
    I was at the wheel, Vince sitting next to me
    gaffing. Crisp, bracing day. A high-running sea.
    "Progress is something to ask Caribs about.
    They kill them by millions, some in war,
    some by forced labor dying in the mines
    looking for silver, after that niggers; more
    progress. Until I see definite signs
    that mankind change, Vince, I ain't want to hear.
    Progress is history's dirty joke.
    Ask that sad green island getting nearer."
    Green islands, like mangoes pickled in brine.
    In such fierce salt let my wound be healed,
    me, in my freshness as a seafarer.

    That night, with the sky sparks frosty with fire,
    I ran like a Carib through Dominica,
    my nose holes choked with memory of smoke;
    I heard the screams of my burning children,
    I ate the brains of mushrooms, the fungi
    of devil's parasols under white, leprous rocks;
    my breakfast was leaf mold in leaking forests,
    with leaves big as maps, and when I heard noise
    of the soldiers' progress through the thick leaves,
    though my heart was bursting, I get up and ran
    through the blades of balisier sharper than spears:
    with the blood of my race, I ran, boy, I ran
    with moss-footed speed like a painted bird;
    then I fall, but I fall by an icy stream under
    cool fountains of fern, and a screaming parrot
    catch the dry branches and I drowned at last
    in big breakers of smoke; then when that ocean
    of black smoke pass, and the sky turn white,
    there was nothing but Progress, if Progress is
    an iguana as still as a young leaf in sunlight.
    I bawl for Maria, and her Book of Dreams.

    It anchored her sleep, that insomniac's Bible,
    a soiled orange booklet with a cyclop's eye
    center, from the Dominican Republic.
    Its coarse pages were black with the usual
    symbols of prophecy, in excited Spanish:
    an open palm upright, sectioned and numbered
    like a butcher chart, delivered the future.
    One night, in a fever, radiantly ill,
    she say, "Bring me the book, the end has come."
    She said, "I dreamt of whales and a storm,"
    but for that dream, the book had no answer.
    A next night I dreamed of three old women
    featureless as silkworms, stitching my fate,
    and I scream at them to come out of my house,
    and I try beating them away with a broom,
    but as they go out, so they crawl back again,
    until I start screaming and crying, my flesh
    raining with sweat, and she ravage the book
    for the dream meaning, and there was nothing;
    my nerves melt like a jellyfish - that was when I broke -
    they found me round the Savannah, screaming:

    All you see me talking to the wind, so you think I mad.
    Well, Shabine has bridled the horses of the sea;
    you see me watching the sun till my eyeballs seared,
    so all you mad people feel Shabine crazy,
    but all you ain't know my strength, hear? The coconuts
    standing by in their regiments in yellow khaki,
    they waiting for Shabine to take over these islands,
    and all you best dread the day I am healed
    of being a human. All you fate in my hand,
    ministers, businessmen, Shabine have you, friend,
    I shall scatter your lives like a handful of sand,
    I who have no weapon but poetry and
    the lances of palms and the sea's shining shield!

    10 Out of the Depths

    Next day, dark sea. A arse-aching dawn.
    "Damn wind shift sudden as a woman mind."
    The slow swell start cresting like some mountain range
    with snow on the top.
    "Ay, skipper, sky dark!"
    "This ain't right for August."
    "This light damn strange,
    this season, sky should be clear as a field."

    A stingray steeplechase across the sea,
    tail whipping water, the high man-o'-wars
    start reeling inland, quick, quick an archery
    of flying fish miss us! Vince say: "You notice?"
    and a black-mane squall pounce on the sail
    like a dog on a pigeon, and it snap the neck
    of the Flight and shake it from head to tail.
    "Be Jesus, I never see sea get so rough
    so fast! That wind come from God back pocket!"
    "Where Cap'n headin? Like the man gone blind!"
    "If we's to drong, we go drong, Vince, fock-it!"
    "Shabine, say your prayers, if life leave you any!"

    I have not loved those that I loved enough.
    Worse than the mule kick of Kick-'Em-Jenny
    Channel, rain start to pelt the Flight between
    mountains of water. If I was frighten?
    The tent poles of water spouts bracing the sky
    start wobbling, clouds unstitch at the seams
    and sky water drench us, and I hear myself cry,
    "I'm the drowned sailor in her Book of Dreams."
    I remembered those ghost ships, I saw me corkscrewing
    to the sea bed of sae worms, fathom past fathom,
    my jaw clench like a fist, and only one thing
    hold me, trembling, how my family safe home.
    Then a strength like it seize me and the strength said:
    "I from backward people who still fear God."
    Let Him, in His might, heave Leviathan upward
    by the winch of His will, the beast pouring lace
    from his sea-bottom bed; and that was the faith
    that had fade from a child in the Methodist chapel
    in Chisel Street, Castries, when the whale-bell
    sang service and, in hard pews ribbed like the whale,
    proud with despair, we sang how our race
    survive the sea's maw, our history, our peril,
    and now I was ready for whatever death will.
    But if that storm had strength, was in Cap'n face,
    beard beading with spray, tears salting his eyes,
    crucify to his post, that nigger hold fast
    to that wheel, man, like the cross held Jesus,
    and the wounds of his eyes like they crying for us,
    and I feeding him white rum, while every crest
    with Leviathan-lash made the Flight quail
    like two criminal. Whole night, with no rest,
    till red-eyed like dawn, we watch our travail
    subsiding, subside, and there was no more storm.
    And the noon sea get calm as Thy Kingdom come.

    11 After the Storm

    There's a fresh light that follows a storm
    while the whole sea still havoc; in its bright wake
    I saw the veiled face of Maria Concepcion
    marrying the ocean, then drifting away
    in the widening lace of her bridal train
    with white gulls her bridesmaids, till she was gone.
    I wanted nothing after that day.
    Across my own face, like the face of the sun,
    a light rain was falling, wih the sea calm.

    Fall gently, rain, on the sea's upturned face
    like a girl showering; make these islands fresh
    as Shabine once knew them! Let every trace,
    every hot road, smell like clothes she just press
    and sprinkle with drizzle. I finish dream;
    whatever the rain wash and the sun iron:
    the white clouds, the sea and sky wih one seam,
    is clothes enough for my nakedness.
    Though my Flight never pass the incoming tide
    of this inland sea beyond the loud reefs
    of the final Bahamas, I am satisfied
    if my hand gave voice to one people's grief.
    Open the map. More islands there, man,
    than peas on a tin plate, all different size,
    one thousand in the Bahamas alone,
    from mountains to low scrub with coral keys,
    and from this bowsprit, I bless every town,
    the blue smell of smoke in hills behind them,
    and the one small road winding down them like twine
    to the roofs below; I have only one theme:
    The bowsprit, the arrow, the longing, the lunging heart -
    the flight to a target whose aim we'll never know,
    vain search for an island that heals with its harbor
    and a guiltless horizon, where the almond's shadow
    doesn't injure the sand. There are so many islands!
    As many islands as the stars at night
    like falling fruit around the schooner Flight.
    But things must fall, and so it always was,
    on one hand Venus, on the other Mars;
    fall, and are one, just as this earth is one
    island in archipelagoes of stars.
    My first friend was the sea. Now, is my last.
    I stop talking now. I work, then I read,
    cotching under a lantern hooked to the mast.
    I try to forget what happiness was,
    and when that don't work, I study the stars.
    Sometimes is just me, and the soft-scissored foam
    as the deck turn white and the moon open
    a cloud like a door, and the light over me
    is a road in white moonlight taking me home.
    Shabine sang to you from the depths of the sea.
  6. Allisiam

    Allisiam Well-Known Member


    Love After Love by Derek Walcott
    The time will come
    when, with elation
    you will greet yourself arriving
    at your own door, in your own mirror
    and each will smile at the other's welcome,

    and say, sit here. Eat.
    You will love again the stranger who was your self.
    Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
    to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

    all your life, whom you ignored
    for another, who knows you by heart.
    Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

    the photographs, the desperate notes,
    peel your own image from the mirror.
    Sit. Feast on your life.

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