How They Call Us [by Eugene Narrett]
Not with her pillow underneath my mask
To smother me in comforts, which I want,
Waiting here for the beast that treads
Dead bodies as if they were clouds.
What naïveté I’ve tended in the dark
Fantastic laps I can no longer scent
Here, stunned with mundane anxieties by this northern sea.
What monsters flourish here reflected in this sky?
What memories eclipse this sun
When it sinks, step and pulse, like a dull heart?
Not the bat-headed shade that zooms from light
Like silence from an empty room
To clutch me with its voice.
But this I hear, and mark the thunk
Made when my morbid horn is quenched there
In the mask of her special place.
Seriousness of purpose makes
Nothing where the heart stumbles
To times subtler than we hear.
It fires me no more, now that I buy mature
What stinks with corruption’s clip and gender.
The ear and heart, no matter what they will
Must nurse the living dread of revelation:
The boy consumes his nurse.
Or that the muses love and conquer us,
The living dead.
I cry to recreate that real sea
Of death, not generation.
We’re cold now with accumulated little deaths,
Reiterated dreams that never broke their skin
Of cowardice, their little hearts tormented
By knots of passion gathering there:
Loops of spawn in exotic martyrdoms.
For all of these I wait
While the Sea-Crow soaring gluts its craw
Above Leviathan who breasts the hidden shore.
Teach me now, not that peace endures
But that it frees some metaphor
To crack this shell of song.
Are we not bound, as trees by vines,
To be releasing streams of phosphorous
Where we ride, Arion-like, Platonic music
And dance to the most terrible of gods?
What is the rhythm of the everlasting shore?
What beckons in its brightness?
All this philosophy hides the old bones,
Mother, and the warm dirt yet breaking into blooms
That nod thus idiotically,
Only too happy, clinch by clinch,
To be seen and emptied, crushed and picked,
Wresting from earth the end of time.
Heraclitus said that the living sleep,
Each dreamer turning to his private world
Of artificial woods and beasts.
Just so the old ones knew that fire eats, not feeds,
That promises cloak more than walls,
That lying is a feast of terrible needs.
Elation hides in the horror of unlived lives
Where day by day the drams of poison mix with light
(as Dejanira, wasting, burned for Heracles)
and concentrate as wonderfully as death is said to do
our bestial attentions.
It’s true that we savor more than dread this drab enigma,
But only in its hidden form:
Heaving in the prison’s heart, we’re worthy of our dreams.
Dreams thrive like shapeless things in ponds,
Like liquid involutions. Chaos swallows sound
Even to heaven, as one Goodman heard,
And every pain creates its labyrinth.
Things that exist in the mind only bind the flesh,
Corrupt and make it stiff, so much do objects thrill us
Stuffed animals enamored of this cult,
Symbolic life, and the fiend waiting there.
The day already dreamt and the dream lived,
The flesh is strapped into immortal moods
Imagined by machines.
So now I hear the dull archangel
Chattering of death and life in the winter light.
I hear the million phantoms raging there,
The memories and dreams that shatter nature:
She speaks, I hear.
He carries her, that chastened male,
Where serpents carry seed and spiders sperm;
My image carries her like a horned Priest
The golden bar corrupting in his head.
Just so the axe, so long in falling, catches my cold eye
And the air groans like crushed accordions.
I hear the pure religious tone that dark-skinned people heard
Before us in an infant honesty, they feigned.
Or it groans like the ocean in an empty shell
The sound of waking we have never learned to read.
Once, just one we tomb-dancers, we dreamers
Draped our flowers on this heavy-headed drum.
But now, like earless monsters of the deep
We baffle music to better feed:
We sleepwalk through the undiscovered country.
Or do we shame it, like a boy soaking his pillow,
Creating clouds and frozen gods to people them?
In the end, phantoms live everywhere.