Fifth Flight of the Imago
Blow on this dandelion. Spread its seeds on
the wind. I'll rest in your hand while you're dying.
Do I climb on your back, minstrel? Shrink so small you'll carry me?
Or, roped, follow you down? A stairwell? A gradual tunnel?
Or into a mine-shaft, headlong? Or shall we float without gravity?
Your time of times has come. Now is the last
of your moments. Now you must pass for ever
out of time.
How? My hand will scarcely lift to reach and pick
your little globe. I cannot stand. Can scarcely move at all.
My breath is far too weak to blow it to its seeding place.
No matter. Matter with all its dimensions
like snowflakes, will be melted down to images,
and images into the nothingness
from which they first emerged. This is your end
and borderland, the final twist that fate
will ever knot around you. Here all lines
must stop and the entire scope of your consciousness,
like a napkin of intricate fine lace,
be folded back in and upon itself.
This is finality of angles and
very last bowing out of here and there.
Haze and smoke will begin to cover everything:
filigree webs of intermeshed perceptions,
grains of cognition, threads of body's functions,
chains of longings, spores of fulfilment, will
evaporate in mist, like morning dew.
Where and when are we then? In what dimension of time-space
can this be? Is this the last end-game? Emptiness without
fanfare? No single sign of greeting? Not even the simplest
dignity or ceremony? No sole mark of farewell?
'Here' is the infinitely spanned hiatus
between not-time and time, the final pause
given you to rest for a single instant
before one of the gates, countless, unseeable,
that leads down to the underworld, this being
your special entrance, open for you only.
In time, this was a river and a way.
What of the river, then, with its first chilly springs, its ripples
and torrents, backwaters and rapids, clear and polluted stretches,
broadened saline estuary and reedy marshlands? What of
the path onwards?
Onwards? That was a bell,
when act and doing both were necessary,
to wake you up each morning. But this
is something else: no when or where
or in or out of which. It is an edge,
a brink, without-within, one that is best
described by notness, by negations of
what may be defined. So in this not-here,
we pause for an immeasurable instant
in what might well be signposted as no
man's land, contested gap between time-end
and time, a pause that is never a pause.
Seeing what I know, or believe or think I know, is sparse,
and seeing the whole scope of what I do know is excelled
so vastly by not-knowing, how do I ever grasp this?
If your knowledge were an expanding sphere,
the face of its circumference would be
the edge between your knowing and not knowing.
Your areas of ignorance would measurably
spread at the exact pace of that expansion.
Now think of turning that sphere inside out.
From now on, shall my trust be formed not on what I do know,
but on what lies outside the whole circuit of my experience?
For you no onwards is possessed by now.
After-this-now does not exist, is nothing.
Outsides and insides also have no difference.
Trust was always steeped in sweltering ignorance.
You dangle me through voids like a puppet on strings of sophistries.
I do not speak in riddles or enigmas.
Language has gaps and holes and in them lurk
many incomprehensible expanses
more copious than the sum of everything
meticulously collated and catalogued
in dictionaries and encyclopaedias.
In the faulty speech current and acceptable
on this side Death, despite its hazinesses,
gulfs, lapses, shreddings, what may be said is
Follow me, regardless of the unsayable,
I shall take you, despite what is unspeakable,
past tragic pain, and wastes of countless souls
Inadequate, I know. But will this serve?
Pain? Tragedy? Waste? Gross and meaningless words that insult
realities of suffering we were given no choice
to avoid, and so were crushed by, by the fatuous, appalling
accident of happening to be 'there'! Being identified
in such and such a group, and not another, by the sheer
crassness of fortune working against us, between the merciless,
weak, frightened, quivering hands of an all-too human enemy
army, hoodwinked and brutalised to believing that we were
less worthy and pure, and less noble and proud than they. Fury
still pumps adrenalin through my weakening brain and fibres.
Injustice reeks in my nostrils. I can still taste the bitterness.
We had done nothing wrong. We deserved better than that. And
so did all the miserable sufferers who went down
like me, without memorial, whom earth, fire, water closed
over, whom aftercomers will never bother to name
let alone attempt to celebrate, honour or recall.
The whole of history is filled with ghostless specks of ash
and dust, as I shall be, morsels of reploughable chemicals
useful for futurity as rich and fertile loam. For
all this shall I who am nothing now go back into nothing,
to being one entirely with the one absolute nothingness
I was in truth always part of, through which my person and
identity in this world were no more than a very brief
hiatus. Like a tear in a fabric ripped by a bullet, then stripped
from its corpse, washed and patched over again, I was no more
than a waste of space, a blip.
If these are
your last angers, last reasons, do not hold
fast onto them. For you, that chance is gone now.
Time only now to peer into your destiny,
scry what must be, accept and follow that.
Anger and uncertainty come and go. They alternate
like cowardice and bravery. But I'm past caring now.
Would you have me pretend I was never afraid of dying?
And this, the very last of your despairs?
In all things, everywhere, Death hides invisible.
Every instant that specks or pocks the surfaces
of movement takes up identical distance
from time's unbreachable core. That span is
zero. Think of a sphere so very minuscule
its centre and circumference are one.
Well, minstrel, my delicate winged creature, my dream-controller,
will you take me on? I mean appoint me, take me on trust now,
away, far, into the unshapen, into the whatever-
is-yet-to-come, in which as-yet-nothing exists to hold to,
to hold on to, to be guided with or by or towards?
Furthernesses! Futurities! Beyonds!
Not into anywhere conceived or thought
by spells like these, my swiftly-dying friend.
Although it be impossible to think
at all without them, I beg you, do, and
do so through their notnesses! Begin now!
My task and destiny together form
the taking of you, not to any zone
nor through, beyond or past any such scoping
that may be measurable by desires, or
retrospective wishes, for ways, paths, rivers,
pictures of the ascending and descending
of mountains, embarking on ocean voyages
or final arrival in ports and harbours
on this side. At this threshold between non-time
and time, all such images blur and fray.
But where, my minstrel? Without space-time, how can either one
of us be, or relate, at all? And how can your fine abstract qualities be
conceived at all if not rooted and fixed in these dimensions?
You who make yourself known only when unstoppable Death calls,
tell me, where? When? Into or out of what notness do you call me?
Where but under dark. Underneath it. Under
Death. No flavour of salt hangs there, no scent
of imminent sea. No frogs croon through evening,
No fish mate in salt marshes among reeds.
No terns or gulls are glimpsed, black against skies,
or white and grey above curled, frothy waves.
No dragonflies or mosquitoes go courting
in the estuary. Here on this side, where
air buzzes with voices, each moment perches
on the edge between time and death. The brink
is here and now, always.
Now you speak of unders and afters;
this now, precisely, being where no-one possesses instruments
to catch and trap what will always slip between fingers like
water, or warp, twist and destroy, like fire.
In this precise
instant, ephemeral, infinitesimal,
rests a whole fortune, ready for the taking.
Do you think it could be yours? To receive it,
open palms, then, and hold them, side by side,
cupped carefully beneath it. Catch the drops!
All I wanted was impossible, even then. But anything else or less
seemed inadequate, shameful, scarcely deserving the effort
and only what was unattainable worth fighting for.
This and every moment is the entire
fortune of Fortune, whose other name is
Ananke. She was, even before time.
Whatever gifts she grudgingly metes out
and whether at any moment, you love
of detest her for her crass machinations,
were you once naïve enough to believe
she would ever let you possess what only
she controls? Allow you to enjoy it? Never!
This elder sister of Hades who hides
invisible, behind bins, trash and bushes
outside your kitchen window, peering in,
or sits, modest, beside your village well
preening herself among lizards and butterflies
and smiling her utterly detached smile,
may let you sip a little. But she knows,
as you do, you can never drink enough
and she knows your thirst is a rage, unquenchable.
But I would have had, or governed, or made, at least one thing
on this side wholly perfectly, even if small and delicate,
even if apparently insignificant and inconsequential.
I'd have left behind some mark of achievement and defiance
on the field of this war, between desire and imperfection,
to record, in passing, that I had wanted, by co-operating
harmoniously with nature, to make something of use,
a painted box, carved table, breakable pot, or to serve
clarity, through some dispassionate non-thing, like a theorem
imbued with clean elegance, or to give out, in form, colour
and perfume, an original and unexpected version of
perfection, as some new variety of rose –
But to serve whom, for what? For your own fame
and glory, as much as anyone else's.
Under this field of stars, my hopeful hopeless
friend, fellow traveller of gods and angels,
permanent death is all you may aspire to.
Death will occupy you like an invaded
territory, fallen, captured and colonised.
No matter whether poor and entirely worthless, I have
in me at least some droplets of the blood of Byron, and fire
and courage of Filipovic of Opuzen and Kraljevo.
I shan't go lightly till Death completely forces me down . . .
. . . whose name is Overlord of Riches. Think
of the mounds of corpses piled high by time
that grow taller daily, rèfuse tips so
spectacular that even death by fire
and digging out caverns deep in the earth
for secret burial, and tipping corpses
over sides of ships, can't stop their increase.
And who profits from this hoard but grim Death,
alias Thanatos, Hades, Dis, Charon,
plutocrat Pluto, brother to Ananke?
I know he'll steal everything, minstrel, that he'll take away
everything I have and am, which is this ephemeral present.
Although you keep touching, fingering, grazing it,
this present you call yours remains forever
a gift unopenable, sealed hermetically.
Grasp it and it leaves in a puff of flame.
Blow on it and it is a current of air.
Catch it and it is water poured away.
Only when death perfects time is time made
perfect and its presence called irrevocable,
just as a naked statue represents
what it embodies, and is: a god. That
is why now you must go with me to death's
chill zone of shadows deep in darkness, shadows
deeper than darkness.
But, if it is only
dark there, only wholly black, how can shadows grow, since
shadows are simply stitched, sown, stretched, hemmed
borders on the interstices between darkness and light?
That is another story which belongs
to Orpheus, not you. Nature exults
in secrets, loves to hide in many veils.
That you, day's minstrel and darling, will lead me down past night,
beggars belief and logic, both of which I abandon. Let them
fall away. Now, will you take me on, out of honeyed sunlight?
You are committed anyway to going
right to the end of your end, and to bear
the weight of your foretellings.
Wait a little.
The merging of matter back into nothing wears no fear
for me. Nor this being's physical pain, which has to be
endured. But what of consciousness, identity, uniqueness?
Mine? And anybody's ephemeral human contribution?
The face of your death is always the same
distance exactly from time's core, its end.
which is also its eventless beginning.
To Death you are always naked. To you,
he is always transparent. Though apparently
in modesty he turns his head away
whenever you move, you would never notice,
precisely in that place that he vacates,
his breathless breath pursuing you relentlessly,
that entire absence of scent he exudes,
or his pocketing of emptiness from sockets
under your eyes, just as you think you see
wholly into the hearts of things themselves.
Like the sun, but a deep black one, in negative,
he won't be viewed directly without scorching
your vision out, scalpelling out your eyes.
No further consolation can be given
to your need for hope, absolute, than this.
Take me, minstrel. It is enough. To see you, is enough,
to filter away blurs and shadows that surround me, find
courage to go with a certain understanding of irony and
at least some degree of quietness, clarity, transparency.
Though I rise over deaths like the blue core
in living flames, though I step light on what
I touch, though I make future and past disappear,
my function is not discovery, still
less speech. I prefer easy paths on air
across fields and meadows, where it is good
to settle and nestle inside heads of flowers.
You pass through these gates. I protect and watch them.
Angel of life or death, my butterfly, no matter. You
blue speckler and flecker of wind, handsomest airborne drifter,
master lightfoot, with your club-tipped antennae, go, shimmering.