Monday, November 7, 2016

Before we ever came…

"African Child" © 2016 David Prashker
To listen to an audio recital of the poem, click here

   Before we ever came to the fort our eyes already saw the signs of hasty restoration - paint as thin and vapid as peroxide on a brothel-madam's wig, designed only to pretend to style; but it was all so obvious... clear-water in the once-slurried pool, a seam of flesh, the scar where earth was growing back, the over-tidy rooms that indicated absence, the lack of fetor in the lavatories. No one was living in this place. Even the dead were not living in this place. Even the memory of the dead had been evacuated.

   On the high-point of the hill, the god's eye view, trees opened their branches as if inviting us to look between the cracks in the disguise. Behold - the mask of Eve, bearing the face of Eve, shaped like a fig-leaf. Behold - the face of Adam: always two-faced, Man is always two-faced, and each face always has two faces: one the double headed Man-God on his cross of lilac wood: one the hypocritical decreer of his fate.

   So we trudged on, over mud-banks wet and dry - all tumuli - where a snake wriggled through the undergrowth and rats crept silently through rotted vegetation, and all the still and silent beckoning of trees could not undo the shame of Earth, whose body had been literally raped with corpses.

   Among the pickled foetuses and bottled bones, where fetid vapours rose up to our nostrils like sacrificial incense to the distended nostrils of Almighty God, sometimes, there, I saw my mother’s arms raised up towards me like a drowning woman's reaching for a life-raft. It seemed to me her very flesh was screaming (purple in the purple darkness), her very fingernails radiated the searing intolerable anguish which is DEATH.

   And I saw:
   A lion with the wings of eagles and the mind of Man.
   A crouching bear between whose teeth three ribs were being gorged.
   A leopard with four heads.
   A ten-horned beast of indescribable proportions - its teeth of iron, its claws of bronze - crunching and devouring and trampling underfoot whatever it encountered in its path.
   These were only reveries of course, induced by hunger, weariness, an excess of familiarity with war and death that leaves behind a certain numbness in the soul. Yet they were real enough: the crows on their high branches, stripping the trees bare; the soaring eagles; the bright red corpses on their wedding-beds, emptied of their vanity; the fields of poppies; the monstrous anger of the guns; the voiceless falconers. All, all of it, as real as, real as, real as... Lord, Have Pity On These Your Wasted Generations, Who Lacked The Wherewithal To Honour And Fulfil Your Law.

(this fragment continues with "Though you have walked...")

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Copyright © 2016 David Prashker
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