POETRY Rite of Passage

Discussion in 'SHOWCASING' started by RiverNotch, May 9, 2016.

  1. RITE OF PASSAGE: A collection of poems done for National Poetry Month 2016
    by RiverNotch, irl name Jed Castillo

    first draft (open)
    Credit to the promptmaster milo, from Poetry Forum - - Post poetry, get feedback, give critique.
    and to all the other members of the site, for encouragement, feedback, and general poetic awesomeness

    This collection is finished only in the sense that the selection of poems probably will not change; numerous edits might come in the future.

    TABLE OF CONTENTS

    April 1 -- Ariel's Witness
    April 2 -- Alive Again
    April 5 -- Will and Representation
    April 6 -- Under the Hijab

    April 8 -- Memory Reclaimed
    April 9 -- A Visit to Some Forgotten Church in Moscow
    April 10 -- Weathertown
    April 11 -- Giulietta degli Spiriti

    April 13 -- Rota Fortunae
    April 15 -- The Reading
    April 16 -- Ariel Herself
    April 17 -- Rubber

    April 19 -- L'Etoile
    April 20 -- La Lune
    April 21 -- Le Soleil
    April 22 -- La Iugement

    April 23 -- Toddler's Joy
    April 24 -- The 120 Days
    April 29 -- Solomon in the Garden of Asters
    April 30 -- La Maison Dieu


    Check out the bottom of the page for the second draft!

    TABLE OF CONTENTS

    Ariel's Witness
    Alive Again
    Will and Representation
    Under the Hijab
    Memory Reclaimed
    A Visit to Some Forgotten Church in Moscow
    Giulietta degli Spiriti

    Weathertown
    L'Etoile
    The Reading
    La Lune
    Ariel Herself

    Rubber
    Passage out of the Dreaming
    The 120 Days
    Le Soleil
    La Iugement
    La Maison Dieu
     
    #1 RiverNotch, May 9, 2016
    Last edited: May 24, 2016
  2. first draft (open)
    ARIEL'S WITNESS

    I dreamed I saw two souls return to one
    like the logs on the fire of the hearth of the home
    they had built together, out of nails and lumber
    cedar olive branches cross and layer
    him the binding nailing, her the holding birthing
    now the two the one panting side by side
    on a bed of hides, ages of ages --

    then I awoke, naked wet alone,
    uttered practiced prayers, thick saliva vapors
    sacrum heart and eye, like Lady Godiva
    on Spirit's back Truth riding, peeping Tom
    despising the horse the hide the heat -- back to slumber


    ALIVE AGAIN: The lamentation of Javier Methol

    Someday we will be remembered
    not as Adam and Eve were one
    of one flesh, but as Castor
    man and Polydeuces god were two
    brothers, boxer and tamer of horses,
    we shepherd and comforter of men,

    someday, when our father decides our time
    has come, that our flight
    should finally find its way to Santiago
    as this life I have lived
    should rise to that same peak,

    that the sea of our ordeal, now
    named Glacier of Tears, should melt
    and you, Liliana, should spring again.
    Until then, the body sleeps.


    WILL AND REPRESENTATION: An ekphrasis on Mikhail Vrubel's "The Demon Seated" and "The Demon Prostrate"

    Isolate -- turn of the century
    prostrate to past and present -- tears
    rolling down windless slopes -- wings, loins
    hacked, scattered -- off the immortal

    I AM -- desiring no malice
    seated, flying, fallen -- peacock eyes
    filled with hateful flame -- with rueful power!
    and skin glowing copper
    turned tarnished tin --

    Though my skin is earth
    and Venus is my favored planet,
    Saturn cannot conquer. There is
    only Love within this fire,
    misplaced, cracked, consuming,

    yet nevertheless Hallowed,
    for I AM nothing -- a child
    still, enjoying -- sunset flowers
    in the shattered forms of dusk --


    UNDER THE HIJAB

    The first time leaves
    no subtleties of truth,
    only desire -- fear -- then a trace
    of vital memory.

    I saw that morning
    in the heart of a summer wood
    what glows behind the veil,

    brighter than the golden stars and leaves
    traced upon the purple -- not sex,
    which the Prophet says would have struck me blind,

    but a substitute more vital -- and I found myself
    lost in the passage of the woodbird
    and the mosquito.

    How many songs have I written?
    How many hearts have I broken?
    only to recapture that same moment,
    that same stolen sight of golden hair
    and ivory tower neck, then leave
    still starving --

    there is no second time.
     
    #2 RiverNotch, May 9, 2016
    Last edited: May 14, 2016
  3. first draft (open)
    MEMORY RECLAIMED

    a memory a film
    viewed once, eventually excitement
    loud action, hero
    slaying dragon
    or princess opening sex
    drowned out, as always,
    in favor of the little things

    the children -- perhaps the sun
    setting red in the horizon,
    dramatic string section
    hanging chords -- cut to night

    red firelight
    on the deep in contemplation face,
    a young voice, his words in the quiet like
    "should I heed? should I heed?"

    and smells of sage on rafter, thickening
    moss on wood, bed of furs
    beginning to foul, sour wine --

    my son my younger self, we heed now
    sitting here, locked
    in illusion
    now let me enjoy my pipe


    A VISIT TO SOME FORGOTTEN CHURCH IN MOSCOW

    One dusty hand reached out, caressed
    my cheek -- the other held
    offerings to be bought, gilded frames
    of some saints: Vasil fool, Sergei,
    and the painter-monk Andrei.

    This hooded figure also spoke
    in hazy voice -- and Russian. My guess:
    If only you could hear,
    far-hearted tourist, their complaints
    about this house of God turned pile of earth,
    iconostasis flushed by rain,
    and censer made bouquet,
    then how you'd weep! (or pay)
    as now I do.


    Back then, I wanted to become
    a doctor -- returning home, I laughed
    at the leprous spot below my eye.
    How young was I!


    WEATHERTOWN

    I will not leave for Weathertown,
    will not Desire -- its spires,
    for though I like the weatherman,
    I've yet to catch -- his Lies.

    The TV and the radio,
    they never ride my wave --
    and when I search the web for rain,
    I always fail to save.

    And people -- though I took no vows,
    I comb the hermit's fill:
    my wilderness, a shuttered home,
    my hieromonk, a pill --

    for past the weatherman's vane charms,
    you chickens are a chore --
    aside from belts of blood and breast,
    this business is a bore.

    Or rather, how I dread romance --
    to Love is like a storm!
    and cities, hated opposite --
    great droughts -- past all alarm.

    No, I'll not leave for Weathertown,
    and treat the 'Self' -- applied,
    for Truth is not a gale without:
    I'd rather Live -- a child.


    GIULIETTA DEGLI SPIRITI

    1
    Leaving my philandering husband Giorgio, I quickly set out
    to make a mistress of myself to Sangria --
    that is to say, as I boarded Jose's rickety boat
    to Spain, I got myself
    roaring drunk.

    2
    Who rides a boat to Spain?
    Me and Gabriella took the train --

    3
    Sometimes I wonder if I'm really still Giulietta,
    as I sit up smoking after love.

    4
    Me? I know I'm no longer Giorgio -- now, you call me Giorgina.
    One night, after love,
    I dreamed my sex was being pulled off of me bloodlessly,
    like a stub of tallow stuck awkwardly between the legs.
    That was the only change. Yet still, you and all others
    acted as if I were finally complete,
    as if I were your sister, fulfilling your dream
    of a thirst quenched.

    5
    The first thing we did once we reached Barcelona
    was visit that famous unfinished cathedral,
    Sagrada Familia. The name alone
    made me shed a tear,
    although I remember
    it was not one for sadness.

    6
    That business trip I took -- I actually flew Gabriella
    all the way to Hong Kong for a painting.
    "Interior d'un Cafi". I told her seeing Paris
    captured through the eyes of a complete stranger,
    a revolutionary
    who fought against Spain's stranglehold
    over his country,
    was better than actually going there.

    7
    I told Jose, I did not want to live by the sea again.
    But he refused, insisting the salt
    would help clear my lungs. That was my problem,
    he said, becoming breathless
    over every little thing.

    8
    In fact, my plan was
    to go to Tunisia -- she complained
    with your voice, when she learned.
    Why take the long way? she asked.
    Why not go by boat?
    I said I wanted to retrace the steps
    of our ancestors the Romans, reenact the farce
    of the Punic Wars, eventually
    of Aeneas leaving Dido.

    9
    Leaving you, I thought the spirits
    would stop haunting me. Didn't I conquer them,
    if not in this world of phenomena
    then in the world of my memories,
    your films? But they returned
    one night, after love.
    Neptune again rose from the sea,
    again brought with him his great barge
    of decay --

    10
    Then Venus appears next, in her golden veil
    and tight bikini -- then Bacchus the young god
    with the girlish black hair and the over-shaven face
    and the white breasted raiment that in your memories
    still didn't distract from his sex -- then Pluto
    or maybe Saturn burning your favorite doll --
    then Jupiter your grandfather the lord of the heavens
    flying through the mists to his
    mistress Parisienne -- then what again?
    Now I don't remember. That story you told me,
    explaining why you were so breathless
    after your brief visit to the neighbor's,
    I wasn't really listening.
     
    #3 RiverNotch, May 9, 2016
    Last edited: May 14, 2016
  4. first draft (open)
    ROTA FORTUNAE

    Should the shadow of my thumb
    scratch the mole upon your back,
    will you bleed?

    Anything for you
    is so cliche. And besides,
    that's not how metaphors work.
    Here:


    I'll never get used
    to losing my keys.
    I can lose
    anything, really,
    just not keys.

    Everything can be replaced,
    like the broken wheels of a cart.
    It's just harder to replace
    a lock, having to call for help
    in breaking a door open,
    either through force
    or through artifice -- than it is, say,
    to crack open a book and remember
    a name, to make connections
    between a memory and
    an heirloom, to mark
    the passage of time
    and declare a certain place
    home,

    to sit beside a stranger
    by accident and say, "Hello.
    Should the shadow of my thumb


    THE READING

    She drew six cards and formed the cross --
    I found it all arranged.
    I sent them back and went the course,
    but fate had me detained.

    And there it was: the death of me
    and all He left behind,
    the woman by the waters still
    determining the line,

    the devil's curse returning lots,
    the tower falling down,
    the comet blazing through the sky,
    and howling come around.

    But horror struck me not because
    of such a brilliant fall,
    it was that I'd no agency
    even in standing tall.

    For since the Endor-Witch declared,
    I acted without choice,
    at first the hero so accursed
    then afterwards her voice.


    ARIEL HERSELF: A palinode to "Ariel's Witness"

    Swmming through seas of books
    and substanceless souls, I encountered
    my fellow swimmer Leviathan,
    core of my nature, half-woman
    half-whale, head helmeted
    with crown of woven hair --
    I readied my blade
    and tore through her breast.

    Reaching the shore, walking through woods,
    finding a feast -- upon the table,
    goblets of wine, platters of bread,
    bowls of honey, spits of lamb --
    a lion a bear
    Behemoth appeared before me,
    with claws, copper neck
    overlong, face compressed
    into a horror, hair
    extended into horns --
    I readied my blade
    and tore through her breast.

    Climbing the tower
    and resting curious in the astrologer's lab,
    crown of my nature, Ziz the woman the swan,
    swooped down to scratch me to kiss me
    from the stars or perhaps from their reflection
    upon the mirror the lens --
    I readied my blade
    and tore through her breast.

    Returning to the library and parlor, I remembered
    my lover Babylon, mailed to me by an angel,
    cloaked in white yet crowned with red,
    surrounded by the masters --
    Caravaggio boys and Gentileschi girls,
    Titian gods and El Greco saints,
    Bosch and Brueghel, Watteau and Wright,
    the burrs of Blake, the homilies of Goya,
    Cole's landscapes, David-Friedrich's landscapes,
    the symbols of Dore, of Moreau,
    the Ophelias of Millais, of Waterhouse,
    the anguish of Munch, the ardor of Schiele,
    Vereschagin's vivid portraits of war, Vasnetsov's fantasies,
    the bastards of Vrubel, the fables of Bilibin,
    Kuindzhi's studies, Nesterov's contemplations,
    the contemplative sensualities of Kramskoy,
    the innocent seductions of Borovikovsky --
    still, I readied my blade
    and tore through her breast,

    then found myself awaking again,
    naked wet alone,
    uttered practiced prayers, thick saliva vapors
    like Lady Godiva
    on Spirit's back Truth riding, peeping Tom
    now forgiven.
    Oh God, Oh Mighty, Oh Immortal -- consume me.


    RUBBER

    The pathologist poured wax plaster
    over the peaceful face of the woman
    who drowned smiling in the Seine,
    afterwards saying, "Her beauty was breathtaking,
    and showed few signs of distress
    at the time of passing -- so bewitching,
    that I knew beauty as such
    must be preserved."
    If he lived now, he would have poured latex, instead.

    Juan Luna, meanwhile, used oil
    paint, splashing and pouring it onto the canvas
    like light striking a piece of film,
    to create his masterpiece, the "Spoliarium",
    apparently a thinly veiled protest
    against Spanish oppression.
    Some of us now would use a camera,
    arranging the composition on a stage
    with a dozen living models, but most others,
    knowing to achieve his same expressive effect,
    would prefer acrylic.

    Here in the Philippines, his magnum opus
    hangs in the main gallery
    of the National Museum, where the gigantic scene
    of gladiators cloaked in chiaroscuro
    pulling away their dead for the next entertainment
    would be the first work to greet visitors' eyes.
    I've only ever seen it in the pictures,
    though this girl I like once told me
    seeing it through a screen
    was completely different
    from observing it in person,
    intimately, feeling one's breath
    bounce back from the canvas.
    I nodded, and showed her the next week
    my coffee table book on the Tretyakov.

    Sometimes I wonder why I've seen
    all the sights of other countries,
    but not my own. And then I remember:
    her father owns a rubber plantation
    down south, in Davao. Just west,
    in Cotabato, rice farmers
    a few weeks ago went to rally
    against a governor who refused to give them food
    in the middle of a famine, not knowing
    the reserves were already being sold
    in the markets of Manila. Their bodies
    still lie on the streets, I imagine,
    their brothers too afraid to pull them away.
    Nothing ever changes.
     
    #4 RiverNotch, May 9, 2016
    Last edited: May 14, 2016
  5. first draft (open)
    L'ETOILE

    To the fox, those grapes
    he could not reach
    seemed
    to become some other fruit -- nightshade,
    perhaps, only enough
    to quiet the grumbling child.

    He tried to leave, naturally,
    first wishing upon the distant star
    that some ready ship would come and take him
    then having the haunch of farmer's rabbit
    bloat his small stomach,
    but already
    the trellis
    had become a noose, Venus
    herself a morning
    consumed by the coming sun.

    The true lesson is
    wishing upon a star
    ties you to its course.


    LA LUNE

    I'd wish it off,
    their light, their noise,
    every damn night
    either partying or arguing --

    more distracting than the moon,
    than the howling of the bitches
    and the crawling of the crab
    out my sex --

    if I knew its futility
    wouldn't just distract me,
    just lead me down worse circles round
    this loomy gloom --


    LE SOLEIL

    Here in the city, the birds
    are always begging for food -- their songs,
    however light, are never happy ones.

    Even the crowned rooster, who at dawn
    courts the sun with a little chicken dance,
    does not do so out of love,

    unless one confuses
    the ease of Abraham's climb
    with his knife.

    Then the cock returns to his kingdom,
    the feathers washed by dew now dried by the sun,
    and he finds that he is one son less,

    all for the sake of a handful of corn
    scattered across the barren road.


    LA IUGEMENT

    Apparently, the teacher who introduced me
    to the pleasures of Caravaggio
    and the crises of El Greco
    died today --


    just fell a few steps
    and hit her head, four years
    after she last gave birth, three years
    after she handled us, two years

    after I'd set off for college -- about a year ago.
    Usually, this sort of news
    just pops up on the internet,
    but this time I had the luxury

    of being called. I had to make an effort
    to sound like I was on the brink of crying,
    as it was in the middle of class -- Analytical
    Chemistry, I think, the one I failed that year.

    I think that was also the year I started writing.
     
    #5 RiverNotch, May 9, 2016
    Last edited: May 14, 2016
  6. first draft (open)
    TODDLER'S JOY

    it's those pesky baptist virtues again,
    turning every span of fun --
    the crackle crash of crystal dish,
    the spilling of the rice and fish --
    into some catastrophe,

    all my roofie contemplations
    and ritual masturbations
    becoming some sort of hook
    to the dark side, to the pagan side --

    yet is it really so dark at the surface?


    THE 120 DAYS

    1
    getting hard to parse through people nowadays --
    quite a surprise, to see
    how alike all girls' asses are.

    not teeth, either -- seems
    they get them braces before boyfriends, as if,
    to their stock, the subtleties count.

    hair and eyes, perhaps? how hard their hair sticks,
    how wet their eyes get -- for I've learned
    it's not the air that really gets me,
    it's the moans, the groans -- then the crescendo
    of screams, sobs --

    2
    know what, this time we'll make the rules simple.
    regardless of how swayed you seem,
    you will die -- for in these modern days,
    who isn't a convert already?

    oh come on -- don't cry, not yet, not yet. our sex
    still lies hidden, unready beneath the sheets.
    besides, if you were really worth saving,
    you'd enjoy all this -- twice we libertines
    have lived and died, each time
    the fires of hell
    succumbing to the succulent
    smell of the roast.

    3
    you know, one of the whores -- excuse me,
    Sunday school teachers -- tells us
    God also loved the smell, when he was nothing
    but a child -- turned it into his consolation,
    after drowning us in one of his tantrums.
    I suppose that's what we're trying to capture here,
    the arc of the rainbow
    formed by pools of drying spunk --

    one more subtlety to count. tell us,
    Renata, what exactly did you do
    when we married you to Sergio?

    shut up. i didn't really ask you anything.
    that was obvious. one more demerit.
    Anubis would not enjoy this.

    4
    stop shivering. it's not as if
    one hundred and twenty days
    were not enough time to prepare.
    and those nails we stuffed into your dog bowl
    really turned your teeth to shit.

    stop looking at that brand. Sergio deserved it,
    as he was the one with the sword. you shall get
    a far subtler knife -- instead of steel,
    maybe a candle. and maybe
    we'd stuff it up your ass,
    once you're dead, let the putrefying flesh
    absorb the wax.


    SOLOMON IN THE GARDEN OF ASTERS; The third section being taken from the King James and English Standard Versions of Song of Solomon

    1
    God gave gifts
    to his beasts --

    wings, claws, beaks.
    He gave me
    wisdom,

    opened
    my third eye
    with his hand --

    I tell you, his hand
    feels softer
    than silk, sweeter
    than sex.

    Why should the other two
    open again?

    2
    Father sowed
    the garden --
    I built
    the house.

    And as flowers wither
    like stone bricks never do,
    as stolen looks
    murder,
    I ask myself:
    what is my father to me?
    Am I not both hand and cheek,

    son of David,
    son of Bathsheba?
    Bound to be

    the lion and the lamb,
    the hand of God
    and the cheek
    of his foolish people.

    3
    As the daisies
    open in the days of angels,
    so do I open
    before my beloved.
    Daughter of Pharoah,

    who is chiefest
    among ten thousand?
    Whose head is as
    the most fine gold?
    Whose locks are bushy,
    are black as a raven?
    Whose eyes are as doves
    beside streams of water,
    bathing in milk
    and fitly set?
    Whose cheeks are as beds of spice,
    as sweet flowers -- lips like lilies,
    like lily-bowls dropping myrrh --

    whose hands are golden rods,
    easily bent, crusted with the beryl,
    not the diamond. Whose belly
    is polished ivory, naked teeth
    stained blue by lapis lazuli,
    glorified pebbles. Whose legs
    are alabaster -- not marble,
    not as old, not as strong.
    Whose countenance is as Lebanon,
    as her cedars -- now conquered,
    now chopped down for the house
    of a foreign king. Whose mouth
    is most sweet -- sickly so,
    desirable only to fools.

    4
    The essence of wisdom
    is grief.
    Deprived of love,
    the worthiest gift,
    I stumble

    upon the bushes before me.
    And now the lids
    are glued shut,
    all force
    atrophied.


    LA MAISON DIEU

    I live as if
    I were married,

    then by some
    stroke of the poet's hand,
    I died --

    a marriage born
    of a thousand kine,
    a consummation
    interrupted,

    then by the swift
    stroke of Agamemnon's hand,
    my limbs unstrung.

    It is to see and to be silent,
    to walk and act
    in dreams
    yet by every
    stroke and judgement
    to love passionately, unconditionally --

    the dead-end job
    becoming hell,
    the impractical lover
    becoming Calypso's hand,
    rather, Penelope's jealous shadow,
    the needlessly expensive
    collection of 60s records
    becoming the Sirens' song,
    better yet, the Phaeacians' gift.

    Is there a greater peace?
    to live, in this tower,
    an exile,
    yet to be
    perfectly one
    with humanity --
     
    #6 RiverNotch, May 9, 2016
    Last edited: May 14, 2016
  7. RITE OF PASSAGE, edited manuscript


    RITE OF PASSAGE: National Poetry Month 2016 Compilation
    A collection of poems by Jed Castillo


    PART ONE: Uncircumcised

    ARIEL'S WITNESS

    I dreamed I saw two souls return to one
    like the logs on the fire of the hearth of the home
    they had built together, out of nails and lumber
    cedar olive branches cross and layer
    him the binding nailing, her the holding birthing
    now the two the one panting side by side
    on a bed of hides, ages of ages --

    then I awoke, naked wet alone,
    uttered practiced prayers, thick saliva vapors
    sacrum heart and eye, like Lady Godiva
    on Spirit's back Truth riding, peeping Tom
    despising the horse the hide the heat -- back to slumber.


    ALIVE AGAIN: The lamentation of Javier Methol

    Someday we will be remembered
    not as Adam and Eve were one
    of one flesh, but as Castor
    man and Polydeuces god were two
    brothers, boxer and tamer of horses,
    we shepherd and comforter of men,

    someday, when our father decides our time
    has come, that our flight
    should finally find its way to Santiago
    as this life I have lived
    should rise to that same peak,

    that the sea of our ordeal, now
    named Glacier of Tears, should melt
    and you, Liliana, should spring again.
    Until then, the body sleeps.


    WILL AND REPRESENTATION: An ekphrasis on Mikhail Vrubel's "The Demon Seated" and "The Demon Prostrate"

    Isolate -- turn of the century
    prostrate to past and present -- tears
    rolling down windless slopes -- wings, loins
    hacked, scattered -- off the immortal

    I AM -- desiring no malice
    seated, flying, fallen -- peacock eyes
    filled with hateful flame -- with rueful power!
    and skin glowing copper
    turned tarnished tin --

    Though my skin is earth
    and Venus is my favored planet,
    Saturn cannot conquer. There is
    only Love within this fire,
    misplaced, cracked, consuming,

    yet nevertheless Hallowed,
    for I AM nothing -- a child
    still, enjoying -- sunset flowers
    in the shattered forms of dusk --


    UNDER THE HIJAB

    The first time leaves
    no subtleties of truth,
    only desire -- fear -- then a trace
    of vital memory.

    I saw that morning
    in the heart of a summer wood
    what glows behind the veil,

    brighter than the golden stars and leaves
    traced upon the purple -- not sex,
    which the Prophet says would have struck me blind,

    but a substitute more vital -- and I found myself
    lost in the passage of the woodbird
    and the mosquito.

    How many songs have I written?
    How many hearts have I broken?
    only to recapture that same moment,
    that same stolen sight of golden hair
    and ivory tower neck, then leave
    still starving --

    never a second time.


    MEMORY RECLAIMED

    a memory a film
    viewed once, eventually excitement
    loud action, hero
    slaying dragon
    or princess opening sex
    drowned out, as always,
    in favor of the little things

    the children -- perhaps the sun
    setting red in the horizon,
    dramatic string section
    hanging chords -- cut to night

    red firelight
    on the deep in contemplation face,
    a young voice, his words in the quiet like
    "should I heed? should I heed?"

    and smells of sage on rafter, thickening
    moss on wood, bed of furs
    beginning to foul, sour wine --

    my son my younger self, we heed now
    sitting here, locked
    in illusion
    now let me enjoy my pipe


    A VISIT TO SOME FORGOTTEN CHURCH IN MOSCOW

    One dusty hand reached out, caressed
    my cheek -- the other held
    offerings to be bought, gilded frames
    of some saints: Vasil fool, Sergei,
    and the painter-monk Andrei.

    This hooded figure also spoke
    in hazy voice -- and Russian. My guess:
    /If only you could hear,
    far-hearted tourist, their complaints
    about this house of God turned pile of earth,
    iconostasis flushed by rain,
    and censer made bouquet,
    then how you'd weep! (or pay)
    as now I do./

    Back then, I wanted to become
    a doctor -- returning home, I laughed
    at the leprous spot below my eye.
    How young was I!


    GIULIETTA DEGLI SPIRITI

    1
    Leaving my philandering husband Giorgio, I quickly set out
    to make a mistress of myself to Sangria --
    that is to say, as I boarded Jose's rickety boat
    to Spain, I got myself
    roaring drunk.

    2
    Who rides a boat to Spain?
    Me and Gabriella took the train --

    3
    Sometimes I wonder if I'm really still Giulietta,
    as I sit up smoking after love.

    4
    Me? I know I'm no longer Giorgio -- now, you call me Giorgina.
    One night, after love,
    I dreamed my sex was being pulled off of me bloodlessly,
    like a stub of tallow stuck awkwardly between the legs.
    That was the only change. Yet still, you and all others
    acted as if I were finally complete,
    as if I were your sister, fulfilling your dream
    of a thirst quenched.

    5
    The first thing we did once we reached Barcelona
    was visit that famous unfinished cathedral,
    Sagrada Familia. The name alone
    made me shed a tear,
    although I remember
    it was not one for sadness.

    6
    That business trip I took -- I actually flew Gabriella
    all the way to Hong Kong for a painting.
    "Interior d'un Cafi". I told her seeing Paris
    captured through the eyes of a complete stranger,
    a revolutionary
    who fought against Spain's stranglehold
    over his country,
    was better than actually going there.

    7
    I told Jose I did not want to live by the sea again.
    But he refused, insisting the salt
    would help clear my lungs. That was my problem,
    he said, becoming breathless
    over every little thing.

    8
    In fact, my plan was
    to go to Tunisia -- she complained
    with your voice, when she learned.
    Why take the long way? she asked.
    Why not go by boat?
    I said I wanted to retrace the steps
    of our ancestors the Romans, reenact the farce
    of the Punic Wars, eventually
    of Aeneas leaving Dido.

    9
    Leaving you, I thought the spirits
    would stop haunting me. Didn't I conquer them,
    if not in this world of phenomena
    then in the world of my memories,
    your films? But they returned
    one night, after love.
    Neptune again rose from the sea,
    again brought with him his great barge
    of decay --

    10
    Then Venus appears next, in her golden veil
    and tight bikini -- then Bacchus the young god
    with the girlish black hair and the over-shaven face
    and the white breasted raiment that in your memories
    still didn't distract from his sex -- then Pluto
    or maybe Saturn burning your favorite doll --
    then Jupiter your grandfather the lord of the heavens
    flying through the mists to his
    mistress Parisienne -- then what again?
    Now I don't remember. That story you told me,
    explaining why you were so breathless
    after your brief visit to the neighbor's,
    I wasn't really listening.



    PART TWO: First Cut

    WEATHERTOWN

    I will not leave for Weathertown,
    will not Desire -- its spires,
    for though I like the weatherman,
    I've yet to catch -- his Lies.

    The TV and the radio,
    they never ride my wave --
    and when I search the web for rain,
    I always fail to save.

    And people! though I took no vows,
    I comb the hermit's fill:
    my wilderness, a shuttered home,
    my hieromonk, a pill.

    For past the weatherman's vane charms,
    you chickens are a chore --
    aside from belts of blood and breast,
    this business is a bore.

    Or rather, how I dread romance --
    to Love is like a storm!
    And cities, hated opposite,
    great droughts -- past all alarm.

    No, I'll not leave for Weathertown,
    and treat the 'Self' applied,
    for Truth is not a gale without:
    I'd rather Live -- a child.


    L'ETOILE: A fable

    To the fox, those grapes
    he could not reach
    seemed
    to become some other fruit -- nightshade,
    perhaps, only enough
    to quiet the grumbling child.

    He tried to leave, naturally,
    first wishing upon the distant star
    that some ready ship would come and take him
    then having the haunch of farmer's rabbit
    bloat his small stomach,
    but already
    the trellis
    had become a noose, Venus
    herself a morning
    consumed by the coming sun.

    The true lesson is
    wishing upon a star
    ties you to its course.


    THE READING

    She drew six cards and formed the cross --
    I found it all arranged.
    I sent them back and went the course,
    but fate had me detained.

    And there it was: the death of me
    and all He left behind,
    the woman by the waters still
    determining the line,

    the devil's curse returning lots,
    the tower falling down,
    the comet blazing through the sky,
    and howling come around.

    But horror struck me not because
    of such a brilliant fall,
    it was that I'd no agency
    even in standing tall.

    For since the Endor-Witch declared,
    I acted without choice,
    at first the hero so accursed
    then afterwards her voice --


    LA LUNE

    the neighbor's pet
    the lobster squirts
    the yellow salt

    into my eye
    the backyard key
    watching the girl
    swim naked on

    "for whom did we
    collect this pool?
    not you, she-wolf
    unplanned!" the dad
    declared as I
    withdrew and she
    arose to crack

    a smile a shell
    a pinching cry
    arose that night

    when out her thigh
    a hand of blood
    diffused to dye
    the loomy gloom


    ARIEL HERSELF

    Swimming through seas of books
    and substanceless souls, I encountered
    my fellow swimmer Leviathan,
    core of my nature, half-woman
    half-whale, head helmeted
    with crown of woven hair --
    I readied my blade
    and tore through her breast.

    Reaching the shore, walking through woods,
    finding a feast -- upon the table,
    goblets of wine, platters of bread,
    bowls of honey, spits of lamb --
    a lion a bear
    Behemoth appeared before me,
    with claws, copper neck
    overlong, face compressed
    into a horror, hair
    extended into horns --
    I readied my blade
    and tore through her breast.

    Climbing the tower
    and resting curious in the astrologer's lab,
    crown of my nature, Ziz the woman the swan,
    swooped down to scratch me to kiss me
    from the stars or perhaps from their reflection
    upon the mirror the lens --
    I readied my blade
    and tore through her breast.

    Returning to the library and parlor, I remembered
    my lover Babylon, mailed to me by an angel,
    cloaked in white yet crowned with red,
    surrounded by the masters --
    Caravaggio boys and Gentileschi girls,
    Titian gods and El Greco saints,
    Bosch and Brueghel, Watteau and Wright,
    the burrs of Blake, the homilies of Goya,
    Cole's landscapes, David-Friedrich's landscapes,
    the symbols of Dore, of Moreau,
    the Ophelias of Millais, of Waterhouse,
    the anguish of Munch, the ardor of Schiele,
    Vereschagin's vivid portraits of war, Vasnetsov's fantasies,
    the bastards of Vrubel, the fables of Bilibin,
    Kuindzhi's studies, Nesterov's contemplations,
    the contemplative sensualities of Kramskoy,
    the innocent seductions of Borovikovsky --
    still, I readied my blade
    and tore through her breast,

    then found myself awaking again,
    naked wet alone,
    uttered practiced prayers, thick saliva vapors
    like Lady Godiva
    on Spirit's back Truth riding, peeping Tom
    now forgiven.
    Oh God, Oh Mighty, Oh Immortal -- consume me.



    PART THREE: Moving Out

    RUBBER

    The pathologist poured wax plaster
    over the peaceful face of the woman
    who drowned smiling in the Seine,
    afterwards saying, "Her beauty was breathtaking,
    and showed few signs of distress
    at the time of passing -- so bewitching,
    that I knew beauty as such
    must be preserved."
    If he lived now, he would have poured latex, instead.

    Juan Luna, meanwhile, used oil
    paint, splashing and pouring it onto the canvas
    like light striking a piece of film,
    to create his masterpiece, the "Spoliarium",
    apparently a thinly veiled protest
    against Spanish oppression.
    Some of us now would use a camera,
    arranging the composition on a stage
    with a dozen living models, but most others,
    knowing to achieve his same expressive effect,
    would prefer acrylic.

    Here in the Philippines, his magnum opus
    hangs in the main gallery
    of the National Museum, where the gigantic scene
    of gladiators cloaked in chiaroscuro
    pulling away their dead for the next entertainment
    would be the first work to greet visitors' eyes.
    I've only ever seen it in the pictures,
    though this girl I like once told me
    seeing it on a screen
    was completely different
    from observing it in person,
    intimate, feeling one's breath
    bounce back from the canvas.
    I nodded, and showed her the next week
    my coffee table book on the Tretyakov.

    Sometimes I wonder why I've seen
    all the sights of other countries,
    but not my own. And then I remember:
    her father owns a rubber plantation
    down south, in Davao. Just west,
    in Cotabato, rice farmers
    a few weeks ago went to rally
    against a governor who refused to give them food
    in the middle of a famine, not knowing
    the reserves were already being sold
    in the markets of Manila. Their bodies
    still lie on the streets, I imagine,
    their brothers too afraid to pull them away.
    Nothing ever changes.


    PASSAGE OUT OF THE DREAMING

    something about water being thicker than blood,
    about clear urine diluting funkless semen
    some awful joke about sphincters, about muscle relaxants
    someone drinking a glass of almost-water, doing a spit take

    something bursting out of the normally flat screen of my phone
    something about the way those words swim about like moray eels on the prowl
    something bursting out of the waters of the toilet

    something about the picture of Jesus the old woman at the photocopyist's showed me,
    about the blood and the water pouring out of his heart, or rather the hole in his liver
    someone drinking a glass of gin, doing a spit take

    something about moving to some far away Arcadia, maybe Canada
    someone chasing after me, like Droids, like the Empire, like the First Order
    something childish: wrists poised, fingers pointed, mouths going psshew! psshew! psshew!
    something about the technical specifications of my stolen editing software

    something about the pleasures of orgasm, of all those sighs and spasms
    something about the river Lethe coursing through the pipes
    someone's grandmother passing away at the church steps

    some awful joke about dilution
    someone wakes up, has a cold shower


    THE 120 DAYS

    1
    getting hard to parse through people nowadays --
    quite a surprise, to see
    how alike all girls' asses are.

    not teeth, either -- seems
    they get them braces before boyfriends, as if,
    to their stock, the subtleties count.

    hair and eyes, perhaps? how hard their hair sticks,
    how wet their eyes get -- for I've learned
    it's not the air that really gets me,
    it's the moans, the groans -- then the crescendo
    of screams, sobs --

    2
    know what, this time we'll make the rules simple.
    regardless of how swayed you seem,
    you will die -- for in these modern days,
    who isn't a convert already?

    oh come on -- don't cry, not yet, not yet. our sex
    still lies hidden, unready beneath the sheets.
    besides, if you were really worth saving,
    you'd enjoy all this -- twice we libertines
    have lived and died, each time
    the fires of hell
    succumbing to the succulent
    smell of the roast.

    3
    you know, one of the whores -- excuse me,
    Sunday school teachers -- tells us
    God also loved the smell, when he was nothing
    but a child -- turned it into his consolation,
    after drowning us in one of his tantrums.
    I suppose that's what we're trying to capture here,
    the arc of the rainbow
    formed by pools of drying spunk --

    one more subtlety to count. tell us,
    Renata, what exactly did you do
    when we married you to Sergio?

    shut up. i didn't really ask you anything.
    that was obvious. one more demerit.
    Anubis would not enjoy this.

    4
    stop shivering. it's not as if
    one hundred and twenty days
    were not enough time to prepare.
    and those nails we stuffed into your dog bowl
    really turned your teeth to shit.

    stop looking at that brand. Sergio deserved it,
    as he was the one with the sword. you shall get
    a far subtler knife -- instead of steel,
    maybe a candle. and maybe
    we'd stuff it up your ass,
    once you're dead, let the putrefying flesh
    absorb the wax.


    LE SOLEIL

    Here in the city, the birds
    are always begging for food -- their songs,
    however light, are never happy ones.

    Even the crowned rooster, who at dawn
    courts the sun with a little chicken dance,
    does not do so out of love,

    unless one confuses
    the ease of Abraham's climb
    with his knife.

    Then the cock returns to his kingdom,
    the feathers washed by dew now dried by the sun,
    and he finds that he is one son less,

    all for the sake of a handful of corn
    scattered across the barren road.


    LA IUGEMENT

    /Apparently, the teacher who introduced me
    to the pleasures of Caravaggio
    and the crises of El Greco
    died today --/

    just fell a few steps
    and hit her head, four years
    after she last gave birth, three years
    after she handled us, two years

    after I'd set off for college -- about a year ago.
    Usually, this sort of news
    just pops up on the internet,
    but this time I had the luxury

    of being called. I had to make an effort
    to sound like I was on the brink of crying,
    as it was in the middle of class -- Analytical
    Chemistry, I think, the one I failed that year.

    I think that was also the year I started writing.


    LA MAISON DIEU

    I live as if
    I were married,

    then by some
    stroke of the poet's hand,
    I died --

    a marriage born
    of a thousand kine,
    a consummation
    interrupted,

    then by the swift
    stroke of Agamemnon's hand,
    my limbs unstrung.

    It is to see and to be silent,
    to walk and act
    in dreams
    yet by every
    stroke and judgement
    to love passionately, unconditionally --

    the dead-end job
    becoming hell,
    the impractical lover
    becoming Calypso's hand,
    (rather, Penelope's jealous shadow)
    the needlessly expensive
    collection of 60s records
    becoming Phaeacia's precious gift
    of a homeward ship.

    Is there a greater peace?
    to live, in this tower,
    an exile,
    yet to be
    perfectly one
    with humanity --