Lyrics from This Insubstantial Pageant

Huckleberry Juju

Huckleberry juju.
Magnolia fire.
Bayou flatboat.
Palmetto moon.

Black snake napping
Up in a mossy oak.
Hound in the swamp.
Cottonmouth rainstorm.

Sweetgrass baskets.
Catching sense.
Brotherhood mended
Through taking of hands.

Gospel elevation
At backwoods church.
Gullah conversation
With the hoodoo man.

Sip some sun-brewed tea,
Barbequed squirrel on the grill, y’all.
With them pigtails and cornrows,
A sweet southern belle on your knee now.
Take a roll in the hay,
Feed her blueberries picked from your backyard.

Gator cools his blood
In the chocolate mud.
Fishing in the ditches:
Crawdads and toads.

Broom by the doorway
Till fowl crow arrive.
Root-doctor trackin’ down
The boo hag lair.

The sun done rise, and
The early morning wind
Fetch me the smell of the marsh
To my favorite chair, here on the porch.
I take a handful of huckleberries
And I live.

Ineluctable

firefly lights trapped in a miasma of eternal now
pinpricks in the whorls of her eyes,
suns that wink out with a disco clap of singularity
drawn to the candle flame by inches and parsecs

fulgent enlightenment that sears without maiming
fate that awaits and hoarsely whispers your name
from mountain forests she speeds toward the city
passion embodied in black plastic and steel

ineluctable

rivers of neon and concrete and soot
a Charybdis of metropolis and pheromone highs
wavy and particulate you merge with the bucket seat
she downshifts and curls her loop round the urb

rocky wedges greet spindly spires
your flesh alive with her streets and wires
abandon the self that just does not exist
her control of your fate is ineluctable

Deep Blue Bottomless Soul

“[L]ulled into such an opium-like listlessness of vacant, unconscious reverie is this absent-minded youth by the blending cadence of waves with thoughts, that at last he loses his identity; takes the mystic ocean at his feet for the visible image of that deep, blue, bottomless soul, pervading mankind and nature; and every strange, half-seen, gliding, beautiful thing that eludes him; every dimly-discovered, uprising fin of some undiscernible form, seems to him the embodiment of those elusive thoughts that only people the soul by continually flitting through it.  In this enchanted mood, thy spirit ebbs away to whence it came; becomes diffused through time and space.”

—Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Enigmatic gam on the foam:
Not quite spirit, not just bone;
Flotsam beach and jetsam shore—
Leeward breakers crash and moan.

Empirical compass and sounding pole
Shivered my mast, stove my soul.
Dog-vane flutters on a spar
But the sail is furled upon the yard.

Drop my eyes to white-capped sea
Cast wide my net…
My net is me.

Deep blue
Bottomless soul.

Alone, on the brink of the watery abyss, the vast void which gapes incomprehensibly wide on every side of me, I stare into its unsoundable depths, despairing at understanding aught but my own reflection, broken like a pinwheel upon its foamy surface.  Clenching teeth against rising bile, with wet eyes I search for the pale forms that move glacially beyond the glassy mask, hoping for and yet dreading that Leviathan that comes to drag me deep….

From fathoms down now comes a roar;
Should slip the cable, head for shore,
But my mind has yawed from all that’s sane,
For I’ve learned the secrets of the brain.

Ghostly bulk cracks inky blue,
Mottled white— a frightening hue.
The beast arises from the sea
And turns his milky gaze on me.

I stare with horror at his eye:
I’m not reflected… only sky.

Who am I?
Do I exist?
No… I… I don’t know!

It opens wide its maw for me:
I cannot turn, I cannot flee.
Bone-white teeth and pitch-black throat,
I slowly lower from the boat.
Oblivion I now embrace,
My self’s façade I now efface.
Like Jonah once, I see I’m naught;
I dive within the dark I’ve sought.

The whale plunges, sounding deeper and deeper, past all clinquant, filtered light, to the unknowable darkness thousands of leagues below human ken.  And there, on the verge of mighty molten rivers and geothermic vents and pressures that should crush the very marrow from my bones… it releases me, and I… still… am.

Deep blue
Bottomless soul.

Here below
It’s beautiful.

I am here
Amidst the blue;
I always was,
And so were you.

The flitting forms,
They are the soul…
We are the sea;
We are the Whole.

Here below
It’s beautiful.
I am here,
And so are you.

Shadow-dappled aeries

[spoken] I wish you were here
I wish I were there…

Queen Mab visits me in dreams
Takes me to her realm, a world that’s never seen
Where every fancy lives and breathes
Unicorns and talking trees
Angels dance to muses’ songs
Dryads splash the prancing fauns

Don’t wake up, please don’t wake up, please don’t wake up

Nymphs, elves and fairies
Shadow-dappled aeries

Nymphs, elves and fairies
Shadow-dappled aeries

I know I’m dreaming
Can’t stop believing

I wish you were here;
I wish I were there

Dazzling white butterflies wrap me round
Silky wings urge me with whispering sound
They guide me to a bosky vale
And there I find you, whole and hale
The ones I love who’ve gone before
And for a time I mourn no more

Don’t wake up, please don’t wake up, please don’t wake up

Nymphs, elves and fairies
Shadow-dappled aeries

Nymphs, elves and fairies
Shadow-dappled aeries

I know I’m dreaming
Can’t stop believing

Starkissed Darkness

She lives in the light
Has never seen the dark
Her parents at the hearth
Fan each vagrant spark

But shadows call her name
The void casts its allure
She aches to understand
Its inky depths so pure
She douses now the flame

Oh, all these sensations flowing
Up and down her inner wires
What a novel way of knowing
Just by closing tight one’s eyes
But, ah, the teeth that champ and clamp
And gnaw upon the heart

Desperately begging
Illumination
She’s blindly groping
For her salvation

Then glowing ribbons of ions appear
Firefly wings that can staunch all her tears
Long silhouettes limned with warm, soothing fire
Voices that murmur, “We love you, dear child.”

[take my hand, daughter; let us dance toward the light;
No need to fear now; go on, open your eyes]

Starkissed darkness spirals slow

Now she has explored
The darkness in her soul
The torch she bears within
Can break her from its hold

Sable night still calls
But she just rubs her scars
And hums herself to sleep
Deep in the embrace
Of darkness kissed by stars

Ermined Rainbow

The colors bleed away
The shape still remains
Black and white and gray
Gorgeous just the same

My ermined rainbow

Your dazzling eyes
Your coruscant smile
Your ribboning soul
Arched cross my sky

And when you end
What treasures await?

My covenant is sealed
With my ermined rainbow

Hallow

Heart’s a grave, too shallow
Some small part of it still hallow.
Midst cerements and dust
Moldy bones and phosphorous crust
The dung beetles that skitter blind
Ungezeifer of humankind
Shadow whispers in my rotted brain
Vivisection sublunary pain
Casket’s cracked, the cruel wind howls
Chipped façade and rusted trowels
Wraithlike figures writhing bowels
Snarling wolves and screeching owls

She turns from me, face aghast,
Repulsed by glimpses of my past
In lime-rimed jars those tumors float
With excised organs, formaldehyde bloat
Naught but a sheet to hide my demon
And my hallow bits a feeble beacon

Piles of lies and graveyard dirt
Layers of excreta and masks and hurt
Mumbled blasphemies and festering sores
Exhumed abortions and moral whores
Rip it all out till there’s nothing left
But an empty scarecrow, dead and bereft

All gilt edges burned away
Leaving ugly truth in shades of gray
Hallowed ground demands no less
Only bones remain for life to bless

The rest to worms and soil and root
Meaningless trappings are rendered moot
Heart’s a grave, too shallow
Nothing left of it is hallow

White Ribbon for Jade (Throneless King)

A man can enlarge his Way, but there is no Way that can enlarge a man.”
—Master Kong (Confucius)

Barely a maiden, she walks through mountain forests:
Bamboo and jasmine, misty skies.
Abandoned temple, ancient, ivy-hung—
Lulled into trance-like slumber, she rests.

Twilight, slivers of orange luminescence,
Soft thrumming glow near the altar—
K’i-lin appears, single horn phosphorescent,
Cervine body, tail of an aurochs.

Five-colored hide, most holy hues,
The air round it shimmers with clinquant peace.
The unicorn lifts its rune-patterned muzzle,
Voice like a thousand chimes in the mountain breeze.

Tread that seems to float on air, not a blade of grass bending,
The beast draws near, jade slipping from its mouth,
Lowers itself, undefended, head settling in her lap,
A scent of cinnamon and clover and eternal love.

She wraps her white ribbon round its horn,
Closes her eyes for a moment, and then it’s gone.
Forest seems to part for her as she runs to her husband,
Hushed obeisance to K’i-lin’s ineffable touch.

Together, trembling, the couple read the inscription
Incised like filigree upon the skin-smooth jade:
“Son of water’s essence shall succeed the withering tyrant—
A throneless king who will be revered for millennia.”

Child is born, father soon dies—
Raised by his mother in honorable poverty.
Memetic transmitter, inventor of nothing,
Deliberate tradition, respect for the past.

Largeness of heart, quintessential host,
Proper speech, action and ties to fellow man,
Responsible power, love for the arts:
Our culture is dying, let us keep it alive.

The young man clasps his dying mother’s hand—
She whispers his true origin, white ribbon for jade.
Forty years he journeys, kingdom to kingdom,
In search of a ruler who would know the truth.

A throneless king, as old age creeps closer,
Sets down in analects the wisdom of ages,
Then visits the forest, the ancient stone temple,
And finds there a k’i-lin, riddled with arrows, close to death.

Distant dogs barking, lengthening shadows,
Wind chimes and cinnamon, the Master kneels down
And takes from its horn a tattered white ribbon.

The Golem’s Hands

Sometime during the mid-21st century, the nation of Israel decided it had exhausted every reasonable means of brokering peace with its Islamic neighbors.  A highly covert department of Mossad brought from deep storage a massive cedar crate originally shipped to the then nascent state a century previously by Jews fleeing European anti-Semitism.  The prime minister herself supervised the crate’s opening, only to stand by dumbfounded as a group of rabbis sketched the Seal of God upon the ancient clay.  Slowly, with squelching deliberation, the Golem sat up and inquired after its purpose.  The prime minister, speaking the words that would live on in infamy for ages to come, unaware of how she sealed her own doom with her command, whispered hoarsely, “Destroy the enemies of the Lord.”

Centuries of insensate dark
Since the Maharal closed me away.

I stopped the blood libel there in Prague,
So the Chosen People could safely live.

Then with a quick thumb, Loew changed truth to death:
Shapeless clay, no holy breath.

They’ve wakened me again;
They want my obedience, my power.
They want destruction for those they hate.
They are blind.

Truth inscribed on clay,
Justice in my hands.

I cross the Jordan,
Trudge across deserts
Darkness as my shield.

They track me, I know,
Secret eyes grazing
Heaven’s lower edge.

I plunge deep into Persia,
Stop rods from Baghdad,
And there I start to dig.

My origins go further back
Than Torah or Kabala
To when Ishtar ruled the skies.

The rabbis learned in exile
Babylonian secrets:
Bread and water of life.

My predecessors—
Galatur, kurgarra
Silent ones of old.

Formed in secret places
Of clay scraped from
Beneath God’s own fingernail.

I unearth their power now,
Driven by inaudible whispers,
He will show them their arrogance:
He will punish them all.

I return by darkness,
My earthen form flowing fast,
And by the banks of the Jordan
I begin my work.

Trace the figures,
Man-like but huge,
Inscribe the holy word,
Let the newborn taste the power.

Too late they comprehend:
They bring their arms to bear.
The missiles pass through us,
And each of us makes more.

We sweep now toward the sea
And north and south and east,
A million Golem strong,
We drive mankind away.

Jew, Christian, Muslim, all:
Every last human soul,
All humans, they must leave
They’ve long defiled the Holy Land.

Some stop and try to fight
With earthen fists we take their lives.
This is the final wrath:
There is no mercy now.

Ruach ha-Emet
Ruach ha-Emet
Ruach ha-Met
Ruach ha-Mavet*

Predictably, they drop the bomb:
Soak the land of milk and honey
With the poison of their souls.

But we stand.
But we stand.
But we stand.
Yes, we stand.

And with flaming fists, we block the way.

And to this day the radioactive waste that was once Israel is guarded on all sides by millions of golems, hardened by nuclear blasts into solid rock, reminders of humanity’s capacity for evil and destruction.  The present ecumenical and rational trend of earth’s peoples owes much to this Great Tragedy, what many call God’s Final Lesson. 

*Hebrew: Spirit of Truth/ Spirit of Truth/ Spirit of the Dead/ Spirit of Death

Sunrise in Your Eyes

Every morning when I wake,
I turn to see your sleepy smile.
Though dark clouds obscure the dawn
There’s always sunrise in your eyes.

I’m still amazed you love me so.
I feel unworthy of your trust,
Yet here I find you at each daybreak:
At your touch the nightmares fade to dust.

I had a dream: you had gone,
And left me in the darkest tomb
Where only shades shared my bed
and tasteless clay became my food.

I crawled blind through the black
Howling out your precious name
Forms danced in the gloom
I cried and screamed but you never came

There I lay all alone
Eternal twilight smothering me
Of dawn there was no hope
My soul slipped down into blackness slowly

With a start I sat upright
Your hand reached out and steadied me
You kissed away my startled tears
And swore it was all just a dream.

And so each morning when I wake
I turn to see your sleepy smile
Though dark clouds obscure the dawn
There’s always sunrise in your eyes

Your rosy fingers cradle mine,
Their warmth dispels my clammy fear
Your lips brush soft against my cheek
You whisper courage in my ear

Though you know I am a coward
You would make of me a man
My instincts would make me huddle
But you’ve inspired me to always stand.

And so I start each day anew
My private Phoebe by my side
Fight the swirling blackness night by night
With your holy smile as my guide

Every morning when I wake,
I turn to see your sleepy smile.
Though dark clouds obscure the dawn
There’s always sunrise in your eyes.

Every morning when I wake,
I turn to see your sleepy smile.
Though dark clouds obscure the dawn
There’s always sunrise in your eyes.

Herdthink

Pod of thugs fluking downstreet
Drone choreography, communal crime
Want of volition yet complex behavior
Visible hive, but where’s the queen mind?
Inaudible echoes that steer the school?
Which the systems that cybernate blind?

Surging mobs that flood the squares;
Angry eddies and crescent waves
Spouting forward, unawares,
To break with vengeance on a man.
Pseudopodia rip and tear—
Conscience lost till it disbands.

Geometry of the selfish herd,
Trusting the center, moving as one.
The stock market rises, the stock market falls,
Marching in tandem to some single drum.
Digital Maoism, worldwide collective,
The multitude unthinkingly thrums.

Such relief to lose your identity—
Just herdthink and safely graze.

Watching the polls and flocking with glee;
Kids checking the hands raised to see how to vote.
Relative ease of the sheeples’ lives—
Why bother with logic when you learn by rote?
Spacious bandwagon invitingly cruises…
Break free of the pattern, you’re rocking the boat.

Faith of our Fathers, but not of our hearts:
We worship the most popular god of the day.
We’re proud of traits beyond our control—
Race, culture and nation define our souls.
Free your unique ego, escape that harm,
Forge individual thought, outside the swarm.

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