Friday, November 4, 2016

The Lay of Ayishah (3)

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

She was a child among children
   a true daughter of Jerusalem

Lupus once said of her that
   when she grew older
      she would look like she belonged in a painting
         by the Douanier Rousseau
or an early sketch for a Raphael ‘Madonna’

For myself I always saw her
   in one of those Egyptian friezes
      holding an urn high up on her shoulders
         kneeling in the shadow of that
throne of burnished gold;

or in some Chinese tapestry or water-colour
   seated on a wooden stool
      or in the shade of an araucaria
         trailing her cape
            over the banister
   of a jewelled staircase

         by candlelight
   or the bank of a river
or standing on the sand at sunset

I was aware of an almost charismatic glow
               about her eyes
   as though the flame of sex
      had only then been kindled in her
   the virgin flame
      that has not yet been doused
   or nourished
      by the hot wax of experience -

and at such moments
   the desire to take her
      to initiate her
to consume
   and be consumed
      was positively overwhelming

Yet there we stood
               motionless as icons
   I leaning back against some wall or rock
         discoursing about Chagall or Giacometti
she picking out the kernels of the sunflower seeds
   and spitting out the husks upon the sand
      listening not to what I said
but only to the music of my voice
   its harmonies and counterpoints
      its cadences
         its beats and rhythms and staccatos -
   as though she were learning
               the score of some concerto

From the distance
   an onlooker could have discerned nothing
      deciphered nothing
         our faces disclosed nothing
   no emotion that could be named
      or commented upon -
only the impression of two statues
   set absurdly in a wilderness
      trying to illuminate some oblique intent

Yet beneath this
   in the mood we had created around ourselves
      the most elusive of emotions
         were struggling to take shape
emerging from whatever hidden or unknown source
   accumulating tier by tier
      like some impenetrable tel

                   but how to convey all this
   in paint
      in parable
               in poetry?)

She had
      at such moments
   a peculiar way of looking at me
not unlike the way
   she looked at herself in mirrors -
that slightly glazed look
   of someone seeing something
      that she cannot quite accept
yet knows for certain to be true...

Aye, but how far she had travelled
      before she stumbled on me -
                  and not merely physically

Across the wilderness our generation had disclosed
               (where the sun beats
                         and the dead tree gives no shelter)
past the cold and empty caves
     that swallow up the desert
over the steppes, Lupus
     the winding staircase of the tundra

Named and nameless
               known and unknown
     watched and stareless
          seen and blinding

Across the paths of her own strangerhood


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The Argaman Press

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