A Meeting of Five Strangers.
a scene in mixed verse
A Meeting of Five Strangers
What stilted assembly is this
in dark locale obscured from sense?
New-sent forth upon the haunches
of that skittish nether muse-steed
who into pregnant mire launches
mortals sick with apprehension
to the bitter moor-stalk's sap
that curl'd affect, anguished tension
might unfurl and soft disperse.
With harsh alkalinic remedy,
ferment-swirlèd bee-lush symphony—
what brings this midnight sentinel
with camphorous touch
to this dun niche of strangers met?
O unseen Guide, may my pen glide
as high as pinions mine may soar
to view from vantage such companions
motley-crewed in stygian moor.
Humbly do I beckon, calm reposed,
aloft the air in matters bare
though knowing not the name, what care?
The five that speak and share unnamed
within this verse, though unproclaimed
take up parade-tail, trotting still, fear not.
For life full kens its own sweet mare,
though all our quillings lack its title:
still we take, O my dear reader,
up the seat and up the bridle!
Now speak Sage, so I no more
with clumsy speech will bore
your precious eyes that read on page
or ears that hear this joy and rage.
Five Strangers sit in a half-circle;
all around is total darkness
save an iron lantern between them.
"I shall give an invocation brief
in rambling words, a minute's thief
while ponder we this place we sit.
So for a space, fears may unknit.
If I eschew the rules of grammar,
orderly verse, mense-silk-sick hammer—
forgive my stiff, decrepit age
for I am naught but a humble sage."
"Living is but a leapfrog turnstile
to turn the while:
the bane of fair trajectory,
to beguile fate's face
with conversant murmurings not heard
but seen to play upon ill humor's strings
in the guise of quick-redd'ning or pallidified favors
that throw eldritch tones upon the breeze
with each respective grimace rung
in registers too rare for ear to seize upon
who's long-attuned to earthsong sung.
An ill-assembled smattering of wits
dashed abstract in daubs of dye,
the all expansive whims of preference
which ever revolve celestial houses
in the castled firmament:
switch harsh locales for more propitious skies
to build their starry armament.
May diamond wit and webbèd heart
bejewel mind-net and seize the toad:
Insight your shield, discernment's sword
will usher you 'long winding road.
Not the measuring of one specific ray
but their compounding whole, prolific day
whose body breath to ours must give:
and so, just so, in truth we ever live."
With darkened countenance
and a scowl the Dismal replies.
"These may be sage, bewitching words
or folly cursed, or pure absurd;
but tell me, what's the import
of this chaos all-entangled?
Have I not through contemplation, noise,
peace, strife, sport, and ploys,
unabashed epicury in rounds extemporaneous
shown that same nature-ennobling deference
as ocelous stem of glade to fiery hounds
of wildfire bares its nape that they may seize upon
its tender neck to turn all life to ashen urn?
Have I not considered, rejected, recovered, renounced
in the smithing of a soul-circlet drawn from awareness-ore
the weight and levity of the moment's grasping
to be further smelted by each successive pawstep?
Was I not a proper meek doe to the slaughterous intent
of the world's leonine maw? Even, lo,
as lion communes with inverted pyre
of cobra of emerald Thoth,
who with mesmerizing eye
strikes rainbow batrachian of whim
in grisly embrace, she with him,
both torn, unto their cosmic cradles fly
and thus bereft of vigor—die."
Swayed not by this morbidity,
speaks the Celebrant with a smile.
"In merriment and song repose,
unroll a bed of lushest rose!
And for our weary here
bring mead, and meat, and meal in rows!
Dwell not on such vexation,
life has abundance enough to sate.
Stronger souls than yours have fall'n
To the mendicant—false ingrate!
See the loft of midday cloud,
whispering morning that precedes her,
decked with dew, ambrosial shroud
keep all that would impede her.
Gaze upon fair creatures
who against all odds arise,
and raise their shining countenance
with mistborn fiery eyes.
Feel the silent music
of the temperate and the cold,
each sun its beauty hums
for willing spirits to behold!"
At the mention of winter
the Griever starts, forlorn.
"Yet every note intoned by fire is alone,
the heart is rent in twain
by privacy of thought and feeling thrown:
all love is in vain.
And if ten thousand years could I
be with my dearest friend—
what of the million more, apart,
which we must needs append?"
The Sage's knowing grin
"Ha! But what is this?
A gathering passing dull.
Unstop the flask, resound the chime,
that half-filled may be full!
Time to speak and space to think
and womb in which to sleep:
simple charms upon the blink
pass life through cumbrous deep.
Such a clump of strangers met
in this eclectic hall
methinks occasion rare enough
to throw some sort of ball!"
With flitting eyes
the Fearul replies.
"What sort of dance? For seems I sense
a pall descending 'pon me.
All this speech of sundry sort
inscribes de'il-trace along me."
The Dismal interjects.
"Of some of you I'd sure expect
a nobler urge than this.
To revel? Sure, the Celebrant,
but Sage, too, rambling thus?
For seven decades have I strode
o'er plied and rocky turf,
to view primordial stone erode
by cruel, insistent surf.
What balm's in song, and rhyme, and fare
befitting kings and queens,
that seals the skin to deathly wave
which ever-harsh, demeans?
More fools are they that hope
upon mere trinkets and delights
than this sad Fearful here
that every turn of chance indicts."
The Celebrant speaks,
with fond-sad look.
"Ah Sage, sweet friend, ah Dismal too!
I pity naught but all you
who refuse to widen warm orb-path
before your pulsing step
and sink into such aging wrath
as hellish reaper yearly brings
with keenest blade before all springs
unleash their glow on slumberous Earth.
Shall you, upon a Saturn-bended knee
with grave affect and hunchèd posture yield
to brief, impassive chill of hoary field?
Nay, but hold! With your ecstatic soul
that March may find you whole.
No fear is there, nor deep despair
can sink the warmèd shoal
of joy full-wed—
fed by sun
for wading arms to live life well
afloat the seas bright-dun
from morning-bell to twilit knell
yea still hold! With your ecstatic soul
that Spring the next, and next e'er new
with light unrued may find you whole."
And saying their parts, the party all fell mute
and glanced from each to each, forsooth,
I've never heard such silence deep:
a vacuum, soul to steep.
And after one thought-lush eternity
from Sage's throat erupted such
a mirthly sound as none could match
and ere they all knew, caught such laughter
in their auric spheres that even Dismal Fear
could not resist.
Captured in sweet glee
the place lit up, revealing golden beams
and cherubim with ruby goblets,
sapphire rounds, and plenteous host
to share their joys and join with them
at bounteous feast.
And looking round, astonished found
their comrades not unknown,
but friends long-lost to sultry cost
of sorrow's taxing moan.
Then who could speak what tenderness,
what tears of understanding,
what sunbeamed smile followed
that clear gaze of apprehending?
Perhaps a defter pen than mine
could all these joys expound,
held not in throes of brightest chime
with which these halls resound.
Writing and images
March 24, 2019
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