The Ancient World

by Andrew Haley

 

I

 

the old world baseless

form without form

 

a multitude of larva poured

from a withered cornucopia

 

students with beautiful legs

in the arms of September

 

a broken European car

hovering in the slow lane

 

on the parkway

on a sunny day in the chasm between the trees

 

children mewing under the orthodoxies

of their balloons

 

shadowing them and they in turn shadowing

mother’s long white wrist

 

on the walk from kindergarten

along the little rusted fence

 

the gardens blighted of their blooms

life returns to the leaves

 

soon thicken the pale roots

search tapering in the clay

 

towards the point of thirsting

at the apex of the quest’s parabola

 

poised frameless in its frame

zooed beyond the wild of time's

 

continual savage and meander

blank rot carousel

 

worted

a lye-white foam off sloughing waves

 

breaking and blending above and among

the true tides

 

complete universe

a dissipation of solid worlds

into the liquid air we murmuring in the room

murmur and inhale

 

transparent as green water

slipping plastic and tangible

 

among the stones liquefied and molded

into sluiceways before first erosion

 

in the chanceways of time's molding

and trepanation of glacier’s holdings

 

blows the appointed rut into its chasm

and the liquid world turns inward above a colored rot

 

of month old discarded blooms

in sun bleat

 

the white shadows of September lulling along the axis

of world’s tilt

 

light evoking memory

all fall a common dead time

 

a single point of feeling

returning and returned

 

hovering between the sessions of the seasons

life’s fluttering of episodes

 

brief passage of light through a prism

a colored glob dripping down a kitchen wall

 

and in it hovering a singularity

tiniest remembrances all shed

 

to a common core

fall you are my funeral

 

I return to you again

I return to your inevitable reunion

 

in the frosted hay

stacked graying in the frozen fields

 

dark morning’s frost

among faces that like singularities

 

mark forever the procession of identities

false as light split in prism’s passage

 

a white chance bearing the whole of light

fluttering ultraviolet

 

soft orange at the brim of pink

floating down a dingy kitchen wall

 

life in my brief forever

you have been unkind

 

to the lovers of memory

memory sunk like a well

 

in a school yard

with a little greasy parapet

 

and you in your sessions

bold bland lies we label seasons

 

hacked into facets

of a dumb quadrilateral

 

you coil over and eat your tail

along with the best of us

 

the best is behind you!

you choke

 

the best is always behind you!

before sucking your own head

 

coiled curling back abysmal into the swirl

tapering white roots swollen with the news

 

in the quest we are the point

which extended forms the line

 

of the parabola

the parabola is endless

 

and our passage

nothing but our brief infinite

 

at no phase paused

at no phase inactivated

 

II

 

Percival that dumb skirted girl scout

stands among the winter aspen

dressed in the ribbons of exhaustion

 

his shield draped with rags

his sword dropped weeks before

in a near frozen crossing winter ford

vanished in eddying ruffles for good

 

poor Percival you metaphor

not even the light will wash your stain

from the whitening world

 

III

 

clouds dreamily as dromedaries

loping slow in advance of their slowly rolling ranks

 

drag the sun poured among them

through them

 

luminous white eclipses lit from within

halos in the blue passing

 

advancing slow and pure

thickening

 

dark bellied

dragging their shadows over

 

the fluttering leaves

the brick walls darkening

 

around their air conditioners

the mirrors in the neighbor’s windows disappear

 

and no neighbor stands there looking out

from the room time occupies with his few talismans

 

his actions small and stumbling

up the gang plank

 

under a coolie's burden

to a ship without ship on a sealess sea

 

his mind contracted into a few kilograms

crowned with a scalp on a skull

 

container of these merest articles

movements and abstractions

 

he loves a coin

he found on a road

 

in a place one time

permanently voided

 

from the little space he shares

with a white radiator

 

he stands in his room

and he loves his coin

 

except he isn't there

and clouds passing have turned

 

their white fringes the brightest feature

of a darkening sky

 

against this halved brightness

his brick chimney struggles to maintain

 

its mottled angles

dressed in soot’s patina

 

from flattening

into dimmed silhouette

 

and across the lush leaves

at the level of the neighboring roof

 

as if rising from the same tarred lead

as the plumbing and exhaust

 

the cross on the spire

of a distant church

 

is two black lines

flat as a singularity

 

two strokes against the sky

as wide as the world’s room

 

IV

 

Percival you dumb musketeer

you forgot your mead cup

your lead lined stein

your whiskey jar

 

caught in a fool's mala fides

mumbling over your ashes

blessing the crumbs

you scrape from a moth-eaten towel

  

blowing a cold fog on a cracked mirror

to determine with primitive certainty

whether you still have the strength

to carry that broken shield

 

while Ronsard wears a garter belt for a crown

a maiden’s thighs fixed to his ears

in an aventail of adolescent skin

bleating love-torn songs to a tune

 

we wrote together

remember

on the ramparts of Col-de-Cuisse

that was 1069

 

your eyes were luminous

I feared I would give it all

for a moment pressed to your black beard

the ghosts cruised over the heather below

 

mixing with the steam that rose

from the backs of unsaddled horses

and those putrid gasses the bloated

bellies of the slain no longer could endure

 

we were the picture of happiness

twelve tones on a twelve stringed lute

twelve strings struck on a guitar

our faces as white as the inlay under your palms

 

our minds as blank as the candle’s golden tapering

its flicker on the white wrists

of the dames who had come on donkeys

sidesaddle up the cliffs of Roth-Händle

 

word of your singing had reached that far

Alexander was dressed in a suit of blood

you sang

the elephants slept dreaming of tigers

 

and the maidens shifted on their crushed petticoats

to get a better glimpse

of those remorseful sapphires

your wear in place of your eyes

 

V

 

from the lid of the holy mountain

with the sun behind us

 

and the sun spread before us over the turquoise bay

we watched sliver dolphins

 

in the few fathoms

day lit to green coral

 

flowering from the sand

that day we leapt from the dinghy

 

and swam deep

to the enormous tortoises

 

grazing on grass that floated long and lean

from the fine white sand

 

five fathoms down

we swam with bull sharks

 

in a murky current

and fear livened us

 

when we climbed back aboard

the water running over our up-pricked hairs

 

made our skin seem smooth

as if invisible crystal cream

 

had been poured over us

as if we were the light

 

flowing in the crystal

as we rocked in the sun on the tip of the tide

 

fetching those dripping bottles of ice cold beer

you nearly capsized us

 

Percival

you klutz

 

do you remember

in the glare of summer

 

the episodes

you passed through

 

my little proton

my singularity

 

do you recall

the kelp draped on the keel

 

the prayer flags red and fluttering

from the anchored prow

 

do you remember

the light of summer

 

as it seemed to hover

in the mosquito netting

 

and the way it turned to shadow

in the folds

 

of the young woman's skin

the two of you naked

 

and glowing

under that light and luminous parachute

 

do you recall anything

my melancholy fool

 

of the summer nights

in the Quonset hut

 

on the mountainside

where in the afternoons

 

you wandered the shorn hedges

of the tea plantation

 

and hitchhiked to the greenhouse

for strawberries

 

you sat on the terraces

of the apiary

 

eating honey made from roses

and the light on the wrought iron sign

 

shining tropical at zenith

seemed to incise the sharp shadow

 

of the words on the wall

do you recall

 

fool

tired and broken down

 

in motley

clinging no longer to the bare twigs

 

of winter aspen

content at last to collapse against the beam

 

of a broken wikiup

with a sharp stone

 

in your tailbone

and dirt scraped in the holes

 

worn in those old Sienese boots

while the ants crawl nibbling beneath your shirt

 

and the clouds turn each white black trunk

into one another

 

under a sky

as gray as skin

 

your hunger grown so small it finally

crawled out of you and disappeared

 

do you remember any of this

is it all

 

is all of it

gone done

 

the gray hairs among the black hairs

of your beard

 

VI

 

where is

this autumn

 

that calls me back

to pure clear loneliness

 

among the visions

where I wander

 

where I sleep and sit

in rooms I will not enter in again

 

with faces or better bodies

bundled and exuding frosted breath

 

not what they were or will be

but what they are

 

along the tiniest spell

of my parabola

 

where is it kept

a room or a wide field

 

blotted with frozen hay

locked somewhere

 

along the flattest trace

no wider than a singularity

 

curled brief white root

under the lightless clay


Allison Scarpulla

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