Finally, an update ... hope you enjoy the work. Comments are welcome.
after Wallace Stevens
1 The Self
High in the evening trees the oracular screaming
Gives little rest, and the color of the birds
Is a savage orange, the way the sun develops
Heat in the summer, and how his muses
Scatter his thoughts, made whole from the luminous,
Which vanish as if criminals at loose in the larger
Society. It is among them, the trees, the muses,
And the birds of dusk and dawn, that he comes
To delight in the frail autumn winds, unlike those
Of spring that are harsh and cruel. It's his desire
To mark his past violence deeply in his verse,
Like a shark would its teeth into flesh, because
That is a part of him upon which he becomes merciless.
Maddened by the elemental and noble quest
For the unimaginable, he tears grist and gristle
As if the beautiful could be touched and known.
He makes the most of savagery, like a civilized man should.
He stores it in his dreams and mind. His every thought
Contains a madness unknown to the normal. He might
Be called a widow, black, and sharp as the night-
Shadows he loves, those that appear in a radiance that parlays
The earth and the sky with the stars and moon.
He starts to think and a certain viciousness appears
Like a rabid animal or caged panther coiled about
By a serpent, being squeezed in the gut by the boa.
The boundaries he knows circle the jungle, its scents
Of beak and fruit, and the yellow buds straining for life.
But he cannot call it all a dream he remembers
From his earlier, opium-soaked years.
Sweating in his pilgrimage he writes the book of birds,
Their songs and colors, of the trees that hold him hostage,
Of a vaster myth, the northwest end of continent
On which he stands and walks daily, of his total circumference
That is large and ungainly like the minds of men, and beasts
Burdened with heat and fang. Always it is further north
He goes, to escape from sun, to explore the wound of wilderness
And his own insides, pink and gory like a glacial fossil,
Colossal like the myths of youth and the surrounding tundra,
The elk and moose that haunt like ghosts, fish that hum,
Forever dreaming of the life and child he denied himself.
It was all he had, this progress toward the essential,
His rotten carcass relentless on the path to hell, that place
He ignored as one would a little sister or overbearing father.
Then there were the sounds he tried to shut out, the roaring
Madness drumming inside his head. It was as if the blood
There flowed with the power of a tributary of the Pacific,
The longest and the widest one that ran with the relative strength
Of a cornered wolverine. Between the environment
Surrounding him and his interior, there came to be
Less of an abyss than he'd expected. It was normal with him
To voyage intermittently into the starlight as well as the sea.
The adventures others saw as forbidden became commonplace
As his imagination took part everywhere he went. It was a grim
Seduction, this unraveling of the self, and in it he flourished
With a harmonious zone of pleasure. And for that he paid dearly.
He tossed between the old-time juvenilia and the criminally wicked.
He became as abhorrent as a nihilist terrorist and he rejoiced.
As intelligent as the soil or the clouds that drifted, he darkened
His mask and his face became sheer, tortured by the weather.
He tried to drive away his fellows, and the shadows grew darker.
He'd inherited more than a gloomy disposition. He was starkly mad.
Nothing approached him, everything was in fear of him, both the within
And the without screamed like flocks being beaten. So badly
Did his body ache and head hurt he struck the earth to knock away
The monsters and remove their pain. He could not relieve his agony
Or relive his youth. He became so quiet, he was afraid to mutter,
Because he knew it disturbed the balance of the universe.
His excursion into time, and time demented by the future,
Swore at every inch of his being, his passion vanished, he could not
Gain purchase. He measured himself by grains and grams
As he lost miles to his enemies. A patient, his world collapsed
Inward and outward simultaneously. He was included in nothing.
He knew himself a clown, an apprentice on his journey
Through madness, and his world whirled like an asylum dervish.
And in asylum he came to know the world of the other:
The killer and serial rapist, the child molester, the simply
Insane catatonic dreamer. From the mundane boredom
And the everyday he drew his thoughts and learned a little
Of himself without the help of a therapist (the-rapist).
He came to confuse the others with his words, and the words
Of others with himself. He controlled nothing there
And there was not much to bother with but introspection
And compassion. He was among the worst but not so awful
That he didn't make friends with those so-called beasts.
This world was brutal, just like the beauty he'd known before
And came to know after. His was a cruel initiation
Into the awful, where humankind can be found.
In these others he realized himself as criminal. But, he also
Learned a kindness and some truth, a small portion of the real.
2 The Other
A draft of doubt in the mythology of self,
That teary-eyed realist a single thought could negate,
His mind kin to soil, the sea of blue and green,
So uncomplicated one could gather
It with hands and smother it with kisses,
Then know it as a cap of dunces,
The first and last thought worthy of what seems
To be whispered by the moon. But soon
The voices sank in waves of particles,
Matter, strings of theory like the mustard seed
So abundant in the wind which calms the mind
And restores forgetfulness to rain. O Lamb,
Clip-clop your way to the craters of the moon,
O strained lyrics of the pasture, song and dream
Of a wilderness that dissolves in sun and pain!
What could speak it clearer than the elegant voice
Of a minor composer whispering the message of the Mass
To masses, that there's nothing left of them or any other
Worth much more than dung or yardarms hung with flames.
O, verboseness of the storms, the loquacious wind,
Stem the tide of Ministers, Cabinets, and don't leave
Justice to the Justices. The mild lie groveling.
Their minds and hands are memorials to their gestures.
These forbidden clerks and dockworkers,
These typists of the ordinary, with reluctant
Worried eyes, and fists as hard as brass
Knuckled into their boots and chests, the last
Gasp on their tongues, and in their breaths
Oaths and curses for the bosses, explicit asses,
Drawn, quartered, in their dreams of purpose.
What is proposed for those who have been scorned?
Are they left with petered-out myths that end the quest
With a deluded self? until nothing remains but a skeletal
Fragment, stark and bare in a naked world where the sun
Blasts too bright and the chapels are lit without reflection.
What to call this light but nothingness, the nada.
Like a blood-stained salad it's mixed with greens and spices,
Sprinked with dressing. But O, the particles it leaves
Between our teeth, wilting in our mouths, rotting
On our tongues, and we, unable to spit them out.
And then we cut ourselves with words, so much prettier
Than with swords, which only bring the blood. Herd!
Can you hear the thunder of the hooded, those loud,
Forbidden paeans spoken in broken dialects and cantos?
But is it important to myself? they heard. I didn't hear
My name called once, they said. Should I have listened
To some other world? Should I have been more aware
Of the suffering of the insentient? But that is nonsense
They decided, some philosophy of the mentally ill.
We can't bother with abstractions when there is space to conquer,
And the places of privilege reserved for our comfort.
Displeasure is for the homeless and the beasts. We are
The middle-class concerned with the education of our youth,
Not some poor trash begging on the corner, living in prison squalor.
It's only theirs by choice, and by choosing, let them vanish.
Is it self or other? Or does it matter in the long span
Of extinction on the earth?
We learn our foibles from history if mistakes are meant to teach.
In theory we evolve and modify our past. Is that the riddle
Of civilization? that we become less humane, with less in common.
The thoughtless baubles charm our monsters and the masses.
The insignificant becomes enormous in our crush for purchase.
What frantic end do all our objects bring? What material
Cut from the ethereal is lost? What do we really boast
But the opportunity to own and value non-intrinsic things?
Who now knows liberty, justice, those intangible abstractions
That define our freedom. We're only human, and a fraction
Of the celestial. We're merely mammals, but too far gone
From the world of common beasts.
This is our enormous burden: the myth of opportunity
And the mask of independence, but our abundance
Is mostly worthless trash. We were told to husband
The earth. The divorce has been ugly, with our lineage
As the losers. Our borders are freely crossed by geese,
But closed to others. In truth, most of us despise the earth,
Do not trust a soiled hand or callused foot. We do not grow
The food we eat. Our thirst is quenched by gadgets
Produced by slaves in foreign nations.
We drink, we toast, suck-up to the important hosts.
But at what cost? The servants bring us liquor
Wishing they were more like us. We disdain their needs.
We're all beasts, just wall-hung trophies of the respected rich.
It's what you have to do to be a hero.