IN THE WAKE OF DREAMS

    <<< Previous

Table of Contents

Next >>>

            Home



3. TERRITORIES OF DEATH



High on a steep incline
A figure wrapped in black
Turned around and looked at me.
It then bent over and
With the left hand
Changed the order of things
On the ground.
Then turned to see
Whether I saw
What was done.

I did—
The death-wish
Lodged in my rib cage was
No longer a somber hum
But a promise.

Keeping a respectable distance
I climbed after Death
Stopping when it stopped as if
Waiting for me to catch up.
Death was beside me when
I tripped on a purple shadow
Death made sure I placed
My foot on solid ground
Grabbed a root strong enough
To prevent a slip
Death a reliable companion.
Gravely considering every step
I trusted Death more
Than I trusted myself.

The mountain top—an island
Afloat in lucid amber yellows
Distances soaking in a coral haze
Scarlet plumes on the horizon
Slumbering like afterthoughts.
No breeze no cloud
No bird in sight.

In the high mountain meadow
A lone black iron gate and
Behind the gate rows of
Emerald cemetery mounds.
I walked through the gate
Lay down on the nearest deathbed and
Eyes shut hands folded over chest
Waited for Death to approach me.


*

A rustle at my side
Made me squint—
Ancestors gathering
To ease the passage.

They removed my dark robe and
Solemnly folded the past away.
They wrapped me in swaths of
Chaste linen and laying hands
On the swaddle chanted—
"Blessed be Thou...
Blessed be this hour... blessed
The Everlasting the ever Glorious..."
Breath fading to ribbons of whispers.

A cup was put to my lips.
"Lift the head... Now sip... Slower."
Then "Take a deep breath...
Exhale your life...
Deeper."
A short blow struck my forehead and
The body gave up something
That splashed liquid to the ground.

Was that my spirit departing?
I peeked—

A shudder shook the assembly
Another cup of poison was
Rushed to my lips
Another blow struck my forehead
And again the body gave up
Something essential.
Seven times I emptied the cup
Seven times I received the blow and
Seven times the body let go of a
Something that was gathered like dew.

"The appointed hour has passed!"
Proclaimed a voice shattering
A swelling silence—
"Unclaimed by Death
You shall rejoin the living!"


*

Rising ghost-like
Along a shaft of light
My ancestors took leave
"Fare well... Take care..."
An immense drop of water
Liquid transparent
Bouncing from raised hand to
Raised hand
Tracing vapory spirals
On the pale firmament
Taken up for safekeeping.

A flock of white birds
Skimmed the rays of the setting sun—
On the upsweep each bird a solid
Sun exploding on tips of wings.
On the down-swoop each bird a streak—
Luminous dashes etching loops
Unbroken in time.


*

Up the mountain
I carried in my pockets
A dead canary in a matchbox
An apple that was not supposed to rot
An orange stocking that wouldn't wear out
And a watch still ticking though empty inside.
I buried the canary facing the rising sun
The stocking under the bleaching sun
The apple under the setting sun
The watch on the shady side
Of the mountain.

First in a trickle then in groups
People came up the mountain
To see me
The gatekeeper.
Squatting before me
A visitor would pull out a packet
Unfold the brittle wrappings in silence
And hold up a key twisted in overuse
An eye blinded by reflection
A lock of hair pressed brittle
Or some other such item
Drained of life.

Obliged to allot a place to each thing
I'd say "The key is to rest
Next to the watch
The eye by the canary
The lock by the stocking."
Shattered mementos I'd try
To assemble in a meaningful way
Fit to receive a name.
When a thing was beyond recognition
I refused to guess—
An elemental mix-up would disrupt
The essential silence imperative
For a memento to rest—
I'd bid it be tossed into the air
Assuring that things fall
Where they must.

A procession carried up
A scroll unrolled from
The beginning to the end of time.
In it were our pasts raided
Things possessive forbidden scripted
In wind-licked bird-pecked Cyrillic.
I bid the scroll be rolled up
And placed beside me.

When
Illumined like icons
My dreams arrived
It was time
To leave the mountain.

*

Sun heavy on my shoulders
I took the long the winding way
Down the mountain and
Was already some distance away when
Underground rumbles made me
Look back in time and see
The mountain split open—
Pulsing in the heart exposed
Were the relics of my past.
Raising a finger from afar I drew
A chalk circle around them
And the old heart stilled
As if carved in stone.

A white bird escaped petrifaction.
After circling me once overhead it
Took off appointing a direction.


    <<< Previous

Table of Contents

Next >>>

            Home