Lament of the Magus
The power has gone out of our stars
Linquenda tellus, et domus, et placens uxor
The Earth—nothing like we imagined.
In those days before the end of the age
I longed to write books, compose thoughts,
Assemble codices, command libraries,
Earn my allotted pittance
Among the stonemasons of the mind.
Trace movements of nations like tectonic plates,
Cheer the rising and the falling of warring camps.
I wanted to diagnose. Understand. Be praised for clarity.
Weave the threads, like my heroes.
I tried to hold them all. Summon miracles.
But I could not. They fell to earth.
No, I was no master theoretician. No theologian.
I was mute animal, bone-sick, sick with words,
Sick with serving the abusers of words,
Sick with spells, formulas, incantations.
Pointless babble, empty pronouncements. The power
Has gone out of our stars.
No, I was no Melchior, white father, who one day
went abroad and never returned,
Was changed. Became rumor, cedar, golden lamp.
I, I was only another stone in stony ground.
Slow and dense amalgam, wrecker of plows,
Indigestible quasar, shy friend of magma,
Reveling in gravity’s bosom.
Glittering suitor impervious to union.
Golden ox whom the ox-drivers adore,
Made for work and not for love.
Silent supplicant waiting in subterranean rooms
To be melted or to be broken open
Or to sink in salt water, hibernate forever.
Or was I a moss, or perhaps a fungus, seeking, groping,
Exploding outward at a snail’s pace, gently dominating,
Fractally unfolding in a caress of underlying forms.
What I wanted, oh, what I wanted too late
Was not knowledge but light and warmth, and merely
A direction to crawl in could have made me happy.
My desire, not dates nor times, not ideas nor language,
But a certain face, yours, turned toward the heavens,
And next to it, mine,
And a bird passing, and you whispering his Christian name
Like a dangerous secret,
Which it is, which all birds fear,
Initiates in the great temple of the sky,
Whose center is everywhere and whose limit, inside us.
What I wanted? Somewhere in dreams unendurable.
What remains are the omens, terrible: Endless hallways,
Incomprehensible speech, flaking skin, sundered maculae,
Cities convulsing, jars of green chemical.
An entire life, summed in an instant, spent in cheap hotels
And always just missing important appointments.
Fated conjunctions of planets, careless tyrants.
Who could have changed everything. But dared not,
Obeying the wise and immutable verdict of Asha:
Condemned to the fires that burn without illumination,
Which do not purify but only consume.
A life suspended, anticipating second chances
That would never come,
And over it all, murmurations
Like shattered teeth, legions of wasps,
Billowing nimbus of flies,
Exultant in the stench of decay.
The principle of rot, which grows from a speck
To overtake the world. In this way,
The evil ones parody our fertility, which they covet
But cannot grasp.
I knew they could not be defeated. Nor contained.
I joined the hymns though I did not believe them.
Without hope I pledged my life to quarantine.
And the fruit? Towers beyond towers,
As far as eye can see—
A considerable distance in this desert air.
They, too, will fall. Decompose. Be forgotten.
Did I fail? Step false?
Sin through reticence, though well-intentioned?
Misread my pages, mistake my call?
If I have done wrong,
Ancestors receive me.
But now there is only
Falcon, dome, empty ossuary,
A strange glow in the west,
And somewhere past sight, visions of the clear river,
Pyre of silenced Marsyas,
And across its banks, an end
To the everlasting squabble, of flesh and spirit,
Of sky and sea,
Of vain gods and vain challengers,
Of truth and lie, of bitter siblings
Who could not learn to share the Earth.