The old men behind the waterfall & Ostrich palisades
[ poetry - june 05 ]
The old men behind the waterfall
Shadows murmur in the moist vault.
A brushwood fire ignites and flares,
throws a pyrotechnic script on the walls.
Trident-forked the flame leaps out and darts
and water tumbles down in luminous transparency.
Burn. Let water roar. And burn.
Ideas are millionthed in ash or simply
dashed by tower's deluge in boulder pools of clarity
where fish below the churning of the force
are bleak-green silverdull or swift and pendant and unsullied.
Prophetic age? Or time of stupefying?
Pouring or descanting, lifting or arousing,
in salivating fuses, spewing up the end of physic,
mayhem's sadness sweetens to a language-plunge
of firefall and waterburn, of river-blaze, of fiery deltas, elder-tongued.
There they are: the feathered neck-poles driven
solid into ground. You can't expect a man to linger
in the shadow of their beaky crenellations long.
Beneath their bending ramparts
dice-cups move from hand to hand. The horses blether
defend, defend, defend. Defend.
In darkness someone slits a dress from knee to breast.
Better don't protest. The pewter adjutants,
slate-grey corporals - brimstone's acolytes -
bunch up to slake their thirst for fire & cards
& gamble maidenhoods against the desert sand
that leaps and drifts against the walls of cartilage.
One would like to leave. Strip off his epaulettes,
tear the raging buttons from his soul, expel
the roebuck panegyric from his head, refute the litany
of drinking songs, apply a poultice to the stable-cries
that sear his listening ears through straw.
Get out of there.
That lump. That built-up shadow, amassing out of
shadow-earth. That castle baulked against a universe of nothing.
Don't think that as he walks, discarding boots, un-
buckling sword, he wilfully abjures
the whole refractory. He accepts the night's uprooted flowers,
accepts to have their shapes dashed hard against his mind.
Petals make ideas of blossom bloom: the Rose of
Betelgeuse, Orion Buttercup, their fragile being
rolled in by the rut of beasts. His stockinged tread
leads out beyond the ostrich gate, a whisper-progress
into emptiness where stars hang colour
no one but the star-entranced can see
You can't expect a man to simply win or die.
He's a joke in pallid underwear. Insignias torn off,
barefoot through the scorpions, over cooling rock,
he breathes the thistly air without regret.
Behind him, vast against the moon, smelling of arrest,
they rise up to a dungeon sky: the ostrich palisades.