Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
Small, shrouded in pure white cotton, I have come . . .
from the lush shades of the palm-girt wells, and
the designs of the watchmen, women, and
merchants of the great market by the sea;
pigeons on ruffled ironwork and curses sung,
and my simple neighbors splashing in their fountains of drunkenness,
and the cock-a-doodle-do greeting glimmering dawn poised upon the windowpane,
and the rushing electric clock that skips softly and wishes no one well . . .
beyond the twisted gorges, winds crying in their ruining bellies,
beyond the courtyards of hunting birds and
the paths left by scorpions with murderous appetites, and
villages of insects leaking like pain onto the sands, and
the stoney hills that hold no blue pools . . .
The endless bright sun on my back,
my naked shadow, head down, pulls me along.
On the way,
forgetting the waters of the Jordan.
All the shelves flooded with obsessed and woolly mumbo-jumbo
the champions of truth that have not yet burned and
the hungry, bickering Jews behind me . . .
To each vacant mirage,
cold, stillborn Nevers bloated with sizzling laughter, I walk.
Oh how I damn each arsonist, each poisoned chalice!
My clipped litany of venom sweet as a moist fig upon my tongue . . .
Roba El Khaliyeh is a cruet empty pot,
dashing hope with sultry lies of ease.
How I long for the calm pronouncements of rose-scented moonflowers
and silk divans --
For sweet air and colors,
and the ribbons of an angel's laughter raining upon me,
or the sculptured hum strolling the ornamented sidewalks of Vienna and Berlin,
or one more closing time with the anthem of friends cloaked about me
like a miracle cure for disorder,
but I am only thirst's bloated anguish,
On the way,
shadowed by the temptations of Christ stretching;
the polished avalanche of ambition-anointed chiefs and kings and wizards
discovered to be useless exercises . . .
All born of heaven or earth, dust in the wind, indeed.
Like camel-footed caravans whose destinations lie in the East --
each laden with yard goods for the unmarried daughters of shepherds
and Tomorrows destine for homes in old photographs --
twelve and twelve sunsets leave me . . .
The wind and I continue our steps South.
Each footprint I leave vanishes like a solitary drop of rain.
Each moist breath exhaled, expects a reply, a signal on the horizon,
but the long road will not compromise.
I wonder if my map of these dry seas was rendered by an imbecile
or a poisonous snake.
And my pleasureless companion and I --
and my shadow, glowing in the full-light of day -- arrive in Irem.
Yet, only I am worn by the cruelties of ever-attendant, animal heat . . .
I would collapse like a sick-thing failing,
but this strange city of enchantments
falls upon me like the silver drafts of the wild moon --
|The burned avenues of many-columned Irem,|
its linear corners hiding assassins;
Sublime trees -- limbs blended like flocks in flight;
Shapes and sand-eroded spires as seen in fogs where demons traffic with wraiths
or Chinese paintings filled with festivals of love and death and war;
Ziggurats forgotten kings borrowed from Paradise . . .
Here, I, the nimble-fingered hunter, will fill my pockets.
I will never grown old, or suffer the black condition of Doom's web --
I am thunder singing.
Then: touched by the swell of night, the world,
suddenly chilled as if by a pure frost feeding
or the crippling pecks of a lie of love,
is unsettled and confusing --
As one in a dream I walk in the Garden of Sin with jangled senses,
the jubilant flies of Doomsday, binding
as a malignant weight or unexpected enlightenment
-- light from lamp and star, playing
like drunken shadows in a flawed mirror, showering believing in a different now
-- outnumbering scents as strong as death screeching from a crossbow
-- sounds on this island of scorched dust, an unrepeatable river of reverberation;
The Noise of Heaven?
This flailing ode of death,
roaring like the thunder-heart of a gluttonous city of famine
rotting with snapping mouths, or the Devil's disobedient laugh,
Just imagined to lighten the darkness?
Having looked into my heart, I hesitate -- I know the dark, the Perfect Emptiness,
and conflicted, harnessed in tremors, fear.
I pray for fog and thunders.
I kneel on dry earth cracked like old skin,
feel winds playing after the heat.
By all is drying leaves, blazes in miniature.
I -- refusing the pungent sleep of the deadman --
cling fast to the mage's discipline,
and ride from distress . . .
Darkness into light --
|Beyond the South wall I ascend three-hundred and thirty-three steps of red stone.|
I rise at a right angle to the East;
pass through a confusion of chambers old when Zoser rested in his mother's womb,
seeing unsealed space in the disposition of the copper pins and dials.
Ceilings which must have wings soar a thousand miles above me.
I listen to the carnivorous quite reflect off sand and stone.
I proceed by vestibules whose stories were demolished by sand,
march through corbelled arches and vaults inlaid with ancient scents;
past familiar engines,
surely for measuring the attitudes of prominent stars, and
broken furniture and orderly mosaics shaped from memory.
Within a stunted tower I read inscriptions ripe with malice on a wall,
each, loud as the glare of a severed head set upon a spike
when Death's bright tournament concludes,
speak of Terrible Visitors in the house
and the beginning of the Sleep of Ruin.
Decay surrounding me, long do I toil in the cursed halls of long-night.
I stand within the annular central pillars,
examining the perfection of invading starlight on masonry . . .
My fingers slide over the stark blaze of the sigils.
I place my hand in The Hand That Reaches for the Key to the Gate
and speak the Forbidden Names
and talk to cursed spirits risen in the temple.
Into another fierce darkness --
Night is a hissing swarm.
Surrounded by the shining of things without shadows.
a return to a theme towering like winter open on the North shores of the Northmen.
Ghostly moonrays and wind --
Nightsick with storm-dreams, the poison bride of flesh,
her hell-flowers writing on me
The arrows of secrets, vibrations;
unmistakable, a shower of lions loose in the lost land.
Where is that vesperal testament of my youth which sings of divinity,
that postcard painting the coils of home,
the day little hands clapping was enought?
I smell the horde of corruption resuscitated
-- tangle of smoldering notions flickering,
a galaxy of nails speeding from towerblocks --
Tomorrow's funeral today.
Yesterday and Mother, that gentle Arab woman who bore me,
things without muscle, ambushed
in the rushing, the first wave.
Filled with voices, each in their own tongue echoing, "The blood is water."
I greet what I can't hold back
-- Dazzling details.
Under the Dome of Dreams, conquered -- ravished by shapes of terror,
my tongue dries and curls-up.
Irem's enormous inhabitants have come, furrowing talons firm in prey.
Like every vanished rainmaker before me
I have learned . . .
From the desires of my soul, holding it
love, fear, need . . .
Time is not weeks dragging flung open days into months
or the rumbling mountain of history
I, betrothed to the Dragons In the Stars by a vow of death,
feel its blast.
It, the Hidden-Abundance Swelling, has arrived
-- Here, now and forever, Oblivion's riddle solved by the worm's eternal elegy.
Compliant, I formally bow;
beg to be enraptured by Their Secrets.
"O Lords, Most High, all praise to Thee . . ."
All the pious elder phrases shouted in the stormy air . . .
The sentence passed.
With a wave of my hand the blade, lightning to a surface, arcs --
I have ended the story.
Created: December 5, 1999; Updated: August 9, 2004