IN THE WAKE OF DREAMS

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11. THE HORRORS OF FERTILITY



Lately the spirit children had taken
To playing hide and seek
And on this particular day
Silence prevailing longer than usual
I wondered whether it was
My turn to seek and
Went looking for them.
I found the children in
An air-tight windowless room
Assembled behind a long table.
Braced for a showdown
I shut the door behind me.

The children paired off and
In an eye-to-eye confrontation
They tried to outstare each other—
The one defeated collapsed on the floor
The winner picked up the limpid body
Flung it onto the table where
Under a glaring light bulb
With ritual sureness he or she
Twisted off the victim's limbs
Tore the trunk to pieces
And after crushing the head flat
Stuffed the parts into a brown bag
And shoved it under the table.
The winners then turned around
Paired off again and facing each other
Re-enacted the procedure.

And I just stood there
Doing nothing
One hand holding the other, watching
How in this macabre dance—
Pair-off—stare—dismember—
pair-off—stare—dismember
The children enacted their destiny.

*

Selection of the fittest completed
The Master Killer
Flanked by spirit boy and spirit girl
Now stood there staring at me.
Horror stricken I stared back.
Lifting his arm
As if to brush a thought away
The Master Killer released
A bone-pale butterfly—
As if lost
It fluttered in the circle of light
Then vanished
In the ring of darkness—
The Master killer
Slumped to the floor.

Rushing to his side
Holding him in my arms
I consoled my long lost friend—
"Remember how we used to
Chatter our days away?
How walking hand in hand
We mapped the roads and
At an intersection
Switched places?
You took my road and
I took your road to where
Honeysuckle weaves baskets and
The buzz of bees stitches together
Sun and earth.
Remember the day we parted?
I left you leaning on the garden gate
Already waiting for my return
Me looking back waving good-by?
He did not open his eyes.

Leaving the Master Killer
To his own memories
I left the room.


*

Then and there
I was arrested and
Brought before a judge:
"Did you or did you not commit murder?"
"I am innocent your honor.
I only witnessed what
Took place in there"
I answered motioning toward
A closed door.
Leaning forward the judge sputtered
"You only witnessed?
Are we to understand that you
Did not try to prevent the murders
And save your own children?!"
"How could I... giving birth to so many..."
"Did I hear you say Ôtoo many'?
What makes you think you know
How much is too many?"
"I wouldn't... your honor."
"And do you know how many it takes
To bring about change?"
"No, I don't."
"And are you aware that all those
Who leave this room unchanged
Are agents of change?"
"I see your point...
One could say the children
Have changed, while I..."

I was about to confess to a crime
I did not commit when
One of the butchered girls
Now a grown woman
Tiptoed past the judge past the jury
And slipped out of the courtroom.
Soon thereafter the rest of the children
All adults followed her.
"Look, your honor, please look!
There walks the evidence that
I did not commit murder!"
No one in the courtroom recognized
The tiptoeing adults as my children
So the judge heard the jury and
Pronounced the verdict:
"Guilty as charged:
You are to suffer guilt
All your life."


*

On a road away from people
Spirit boy and spirit girl beside me
We found by the wayside
A beautiful porcelain head.
As if on cue
We picked it up and
Rushed back to the room
With the sacrificial table
And taking turns began
To mutilate the doll's head—stick
Fingers into her eyes nostrils and ears
And knead the porcelain until
The lump convulsed and
Ejected a head smaller but
More beautiful than the first.
The head rolled to the end of the table
Where a headless doll lay waiting
And head in place the doll sat up
Jumped off the table and walked away.
The children were not surprised—
They knew all along that
A timely destruction makes room
For new life.

Spirit daughter at my side
We passed a stretch of road dappled
With drowsy summer shadows.
Emerging on the sunny side
No branches no clouds overhead
We found ourselves still
Boxed in a shadow.
We stepped to this and that side
But the entrapping cast
Would not let us slip away.
We entered a stone tower
Expecting to leave the shadow behind
But it followed us up the winding stairs
To a threshold where it halted
And so did we.


*

We stood in the doorway to
A sun-licked vaulted chamber
Town elders waiting for us there.
A stern voice addressed me
"You must give proof that
Your hands act uninstructed."
The shadow rustling overhead
Offered advice "Do as you must...
Your destiny is now in your hands."

When the spirit daughter was taken
Undressed washed lifted onto a slab
And told to lie still
I threw up awareness—
It whooshed to the naked child
Spread a purplish glow over her body
And rose above it
Hovering.

Someone handed me a shiny instrument
I refused to take it.
Told to hurry
I approached the slab and
Standing in a purple mist
Touched the girl's eyelids and
Saw her sink to oblivion.
Against my will
In the grip of an iron will
My index finger traced in the air
A line from the pit of the child's throat
To the slit of her vulva and
Her body fell apart splitting
Into two slabs of stone.
Finger brushing across her throat
Severed her head and
It rolled away like a stone
And every joint I marked
Cut off a limb.

An ocean of words welled up inside me.
Picking up a piece of stone and
Turning the split side to the elders
I let the words come—"Here
Butterflies stay wings folded
Waiting for a tear to appear" and
Picking up another part
"The tear already welling there
Collecting reflections of
Butterflies ready to fly"
"And here are the butterflies
Wings unfolded eager to fulfill
Their destiny on the shores
Of nowhere and there"—
"All the roads lead back to
Beginnings where tears well and
Collect and reflect as they must
As they will as wings close and open
As change ripens to bursting—"
Words gushing till the light withdraws
Till the elders fold into
Their own shadows.

Someone offered me a glass of water.
Raising it to my lips I heard a whisper
"Can I have a sip?" And she
My spirit daughter
After taking a sip—
She a tear ripe in her eye
Got off the slab whole and well—
Hugging rejoicing tears streaming
I asked "Am I forgiven?"
"It had to be done" she whispered.
And as we swayed in each other's arms
The tower swayed and with it
The towering accusations
Fell to ruin.

*

Was this the way of the spirit?—
To be reborn
Every time anew
In some other form yet
The spirit itself ever the same
Unchanging?

Where then is the seat of
This hunger?

I coughed up the heart the lungs the liver
And finding nothing unusual there
Put the organs aside.
Reaching into the cavity I pulled out
The stomach the womb the bladder
These organs sound as well.
Reaching into the hollows
I yanked out a rib marked
With diagonal scratches and
With this tool I cut off a breast
And seeing the wound rapidly closing
Replaced all the organs fast
Lest they forget where they belong.

It was clear—
Fertility of the spirit
Dwelled outside my body.

Moon witnessed the ordeal
And pointing to a stream it said
"Follow the flow
It possesses arcane memories.


*


The stream brought me to a mountain
Hollow inside
The walls lined with doors—
Some with scratch-marks some
Stained with blood or tar others
Bulging from within
Doors with glyphs carved above them.
I knocked on a door unmarked
And a man with a face of bark
Opened a crack listened to
What I had to say and suggested
I knock on the door
On the far right. There
A woman clothed in lichen
Told me to knock on the door
Last on the left where a woman
With a shock of shrub for hair
Greening with promises
She pointed at the far shadows
Saying there I might—
You just might mind you—
Find a passage.

In the bowels of shadows
I stepped onto a slippery incline
The slow rhythm of water dripping
Marking the passage of time.
Stopped by a wall
Hands located the side-posts
Of a once sturdy ladder
Most of the rungs missing.
Scaling darkness inch by inch
I pulled myself up the slimy posts.


*

The air behind a water-logged
Mossy curtain was heavy with
Raw animal odors.
What I saw looked like the hipline
Of a female reclining on
A pile of furs but
Was a litter of wolf cubs
Suckling.

Unnoticed
I asked "Am I guilty?"
As if hearing sounds for the first time
Fertility merely cocked her head
As do birds when curious.
"Am I innocent?"
Words hitting unfriendly angles
Fertility turned her bird-beaked head
One way then the other as if
Wondering who could be making
Such unpleasant sounds.
"Does it ever end?"
I asked again.

A hideous mortifying cackle
Stabbed the air still—
Pushing the cubs aside
Unwillingly
She stood up wrapped
In a blood-stained cape and
Standing upright
Unwillingly
Fertility threw open the cape—
From neck to crotch
Breasts paired row upon row
Nipples mouth ears eyes oozing blood
Blood between her parted legs
Blood rivulets
Slithering on the floor
Toward me
Not meant to be seen—
Then that horrific inhuman
Marrow-piercing laughter again
Not meant to be heard by mortals —

Someone shouted
"Shut your eyes—Shut your ears!"

Free of guilt
Free of innocence
I collapsed.


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