The Dahlonega Elegies
I. Go and tell your father
That I am here to deliver the paper,
So he can stop molesting his daughter
And pay attention to the headline
That says that he is dead,
Destroyed by my hand for being
The impassable borderland between
My mouth and one whose mouth
Fit mine so tight there was never
Need for mortar to join us.
Only corrosives could have collapsed us
(He was that, too, in the end).
II. The headlines have, for many days
Reported sightings of her
on a far-off journey
After the commonplace Beast
Pushed her into the wilderness,
A blue Lady with a crown of seven stars.
Meanwhile, at home, I took the fire
And the paperboy's vocation -
I am the deliverer of bad news,
The raven or crow of pleasant neighborhoods
Where each house secrets the sick,
Cracked chalice of misery
And the fetid liquor of daughter-love.
The headlines go unread, all except this one
That your father will be seeing
And the ink of it's oily and wishes to shake hands
With its darker subject.
III. My sleep is Babylon.
I awaken in darkness, my bed beneath the branches
Of that tree where the stars are nailed
And the burning apples hang beneath
The gray canopy of sorrows.
I share my sleep with Babylon's Whore
And her name is written on my tongue,
Though, they say, I can only read it in wine's reflection.
Nightly I wrestle this lamia
For a taste of the hissing coal
And your sister comes from time to time,
A blue shade within the grisaille of my world
Watching my pointless thrashing,
Hearing my animal throat cry out
For more than what it is.
Yet, neither is your sister's name at peace:
I am the stars of her holy diadem -
Seven is the number of desire,
And though she may have forgotten my flesh
She remains a slave to the fire.
IV. Tell your father that I am coming
To deliver him the evening paper.
Tell him he can remove his hands
From the breasts of his absent daughter.
Tell your father that while Fate
Granted him a healthy sinecure
It did so at the cost of my pleasure,
My desires, my destiny:
My share in Fate became my life's
I am the poet who cannot sing,
The one who sold his lyre for six minute's sleep.
My soul has become the crow
Come down from the trees to take away
The carrion after the roadway accident.
That and to deliver all the unwanted news.
V. In the end, the streets are empty
As they always are by half-past eight
And the boys and girls are trading hands
On the dirt roads while the churches,
In their fear of dirt, whitewash the saints.
Some say there's gold lying in the ditches
But I've only found myself there,
While a thousand miles away your sister's jet
Cuts its way through the atmosphere.
So works the spinning spell
While the presses roll away the day
That I might come to rest upon your doorstep
By nine o'clock tonight.
I do not know judgment's hour but
It's rumored to be ubiquitous.
Beautiful harshness -
your face is one
that I can see soul in,
see it spread out like
a watercolor desert,
light and darkness balanced
at sunset, skulls
and rattlers blooming
beside small crimson
Eyes dark as wine
spilled into night -
grant me but a drop
to taste as we stand
surrounded by the dunes
in your silent dream.
Evenings have become a cloistered event.
Water's my liquor, not much inspiration
In it, and I take loneliness for meat,
Share it with the flickering spirits
That parade in and out of my heart
As if the thing were worm-eaten.
And it is, for all I know, halls hollowed
Within me by the serpent as it winds
Its way toward the Tree and its
Bitter, coral fruit. These spirits, though,
Pass by, each with some claim
On my soul, my corpse, my name.
"We are memories and dreams
and beings of both sleep and sight,
all ineluctable and unyielding.
We are the very precincts of your life,
Its roads, its landscape, its wind,
Stars, moon, rain. We are you."
And yet, I said, none of you suffers
When I am wounded -
You may be the wound but you
Are not the agony it brings.
That is mine, mine alone and the reason
My evenings are spent in silence
Save the clatter of the keyboard:
What my life is, is in spite of
The roles you've each performed
Upon its stage. The roles, dear ghosts,
Were only roles within the bleak comedy
That Fate has transcribed, marked-off
As my life. I say, you did not
Give meaning to me; it was my life
That granted meaning to you.
So, they all depart in a huff, the rich,
Dangerous women and the neurotics
And the girls too young to have understood;
The fathers, the mothers, priests, gods,
And the rest, none with ears for hearing,
Only vampire appetites and some affinity
With night. They will all return -
We play this game every eve, sometimes
In the day, the ethereal arriving with their
Demands and I with my ascetic resistances.
But, God, how I wish I could fall
Like a slaughtered lamb into their arms
To be consumed away, like light
When the sun is slain at day's end.
Another Club I Can't Join
I don't know all the words
to even one Monty Python skit,
not even the one about the
Norwegian Blue. And I openly
find fault with some of the sketches
and would rather eat boiled rags
than sit through them.
Alcohol is anathema for
my drugged-up, alcoholic frame.
Cigarettes are a distant memory
of sinuous lines frozen in air,
and laughter seems a waste
of breath when it's only a ploy
to gain attention or keep it.
I mean, why cement something
that will probably come down
Flirtation is a crown of thorns
and I know that the women see
the blood running red down
my face, and I am as charming
as the last survivor of the final war,
and I don't want their bodies, only
something of themselves, some
secret thing whispering misery.
Plus, I don't enjoy fetching
Diet Cokes or explaining my art
when I know no one gives a shit.
And I could care less for staggering
through the hallways of some
infernal hotel dressed in a costume
not fit for carnival, proving what
I already know and wear on my skin:
I am a fool. I have no wisdom,
not even the wisdom to revel.
My station is with my pain
on a balcony somewhere overlooking
the miracle of the city at night.
I am overtaken by her beauty,
hear her murmurs, her promises,
admire her bejeweled form.
Together we almost forget that
there's no place reserved
for the perpetual trespasser.