1999 CE


The Traveler's Tale

I: Butterfly Mechanics

In the summer they said he was gone,
the small boy with the chapped lips.

I remember his mouth, shaped
like a mushroom or the cool oh of summer
beading sweat and insolence.

Dreams of fat-bellied flies
dozing in forgotten fields of grass
like butterflies too afraid to move
for disturbing the air.

Butterfly mechanics:
He moved like a butterfly, and I,
standing near at hand, was swept away
strangely, like a silver-rivered raft untethered.

The dream replaces me now
like a silent memory
on the surface of a deep pool charred
by ripples and moved by
the breathing gills of fish.

He showed me how to swim,
then he sank like a cold star and turned
me on toward oblivion.

So I fled, and the dream faded away.

There was something he whispered about beauty
and the need to see:
The purple-jet air breathed twilight
into the sky and the Traveler
moved quickly to pick up the ashes
of the fallen bird that circled the heavens
like a disused cigarette on a spiral to the end.

II: In the Silence of the Ages

I stood long staring and drank at the lips
of maidens with starshine in their eyes;
reached fingers into the cold gloaming and clawed
for the beauty of which he spoke, my fingers moving
empty across the horizon before the pale eyes
of children in the backwards minds of Man.

There ran rivers and sweet lilies
and soft songs which turned over the silence
like a warm blanket undoes the night.

There swirled glimpses of the past
in the Šons-old recesses of the Traveler's cloak.
He turned to me and surrendered his voice to chill
sweeps of upward octaves which held steady at five
until he had sung one song and the first lines of another
melody before the winds blew
his voice away.

In the silence of the Ages I was betrayed.

III: Twelve Dogs

The dogs came to the river and barked like angry mongrels
at shapes I could not see.

Twelve dogs came, drinking at one place where the river ran
closest to the shore and the backwards chants
of monks billowed fresh curtains to surround me.

And then I saw the hunter's dog,
a sad cold corpse having drowned in the depths.
I understood the reason why the dogs swarmed there,
barking like empty statues, their eyes turned to heaven;
to a god
they do not understand.

But the Traveler comforted them,
on bended knee, and whispered,
"He shall rise again, friends of Man;
you shall honor him in the Dog Days."
And the mongrels fled away quickly,
tails whipping the air and tongues
lolled carelessly from mouths between teeth and their teeth
shimmered and undid the curtain of nightfall.

"When the river drowns the dog, Man shall be undone
until he understands why the dog drowns and the river
runs endlessly through every night. Man is
undone by the drowning of the dog
and the sun shall rise no more."

IV: The Compass Rose

For three full days in early summer I sat
transfixed, and always the light came
before I could comfort the dog.
I thought of the small boy who had led me
to the place where everything divides or multiplies
on its whim.

I watched the Traveler plant roses with bursting
petals that traveled forth and spread
the night with radiance.
I looked into the iris of the flower he held
out for me and saw
that beauty is not seeing, but dreaming.

So I slept; felt my field float free of the loose
tethers that hold me.

"The year is a compass rose,
and the divisions a triangle."
That is the most the Traveler ever said.

V: Come the Dog Days

Come the Dog Days.
When Time is right and replaced,
the dew-wet tears of children are seen
rather than heard.

Come the Dog Days,
Understand he died in the spring time
when the leaves fell
below the Earth.

Come the Dog Days.
All things cease to move, save heat;
the awesome power of respect shall bring them
to their feet.

Come the Dog Days,
the Traveler calls his name.

VI: The Eye of the Sun

The dog shall not rise 'til the river subsides;
I dreamt long and hard for the answer.
The Eye of the Sun was as a cold, dark gray
shot through with black veins
like the seventy-two steps which lead through darkness,
where I see all things
travel from the East and on the eastern bank is
where the hunter's dog drowned.

In the gap between this advent and the trails
of last year's tears I saw
the swooping cool winds of summer begging me
to follow them down.

In a season it would all be gone,
the truth of the rumor no more seen,
but the disquiet of the Ages can travel forever
when it circles the perimeter of the cones
which connect at the cold Eye of the Sun.

VII: The Season of the Hunter

In the season when the hare runs from the hunter,
the hunter's dog chases it into the river
and rouses the swan from its slumber.
The dog doesn't know which to chase,
until the current has its paws in the murky
suctioned depths of the river bed.
Its bays and howls go unheard,
for the hunter points his bow at the swan
and the dog drowns and the swan disappears
and the hare remains hidden, just out of the hunter's reach.

VIII: The Drowning of the Dog

Drown it
drown it deep
in the river
in the belly
in the bosom
in the brain
Gouge out its eyes so it can't
lie because it won't see
the truth to discipline the mongrels
left to eat its bones