Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Bull Eclogues"

I've completely rewritten the last poem of the sequence, and revised a number of the other poems. I decided not to use as epigraph Nietzsche's warning about fighting monsters because it sounds too moralistic for an introspective and lyrical sequence like this one. So back to using Ted Haggard's words, which represent for me not so much biography as a common state of being.

Bull Eclogues

“There's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life."

The Cretan

You come out of the shower, warm and wet,
and towel your head with rough deliberation.
Those wide shoulders, untouched by a plough,
you wear like a smile, and the room smells clean.

I know I should have sacrificed you to God,
I should have raised the knife despite its stone
and saved its bullion in your bullcow heart,
I should have turned from fucking with a beast.

Instead I let you lash my legs to you,
haul me through contracting caves, and grind
into the ground the altar of my lust;

yet, stubborn, round and gold, deep from the deeps,
the violence rises, the pressure lessening,
as if a ship is dragged up from the sea.

The Island

From week to week I walk on water, fight
the urge to look down at the deluged faces
whose liquid fingers prod my stony feet
for telltale qualities of softening.

When squalls rise up and shake the longstemmed brain,
even the faithful look for land, and land
their bodies on the strong arms of a beach,
the grass of books, tobacco flowers, night streams.

Turned, blown, off course, I landed on this room.
For here the krikri leaps with the white hills,
the citron bubbles in the hand, the olive branch

presented to a beast is not so beastly,
but promises a civilization
of the sea within, though not the sea without.

The Drug

Did you offer it first or did I ask?
Or did this ecstasy fall from the sky
and pulverize to powder on the floor?
We snort into the brain dead snowflakes.

This liquid crystal slammed into the vein
like lethal waste pumped from cattle farms
is either nourishment or oblivion.
What speed does the blood crave, the heart endure?

Supernaturally heavy, hard and high
but collaring a name that’s not my own
I don’t confuse a zealous fuck with love.

I puff a cloud and change into a herd
my human senses and intelligence.
My soul roots for a cornfed meal, and squeals.

The Oracle

I want to tell you how the White House calls
for faith to light again the public square,
and fight the culture wars: because of me
God has a hearing with the President.

I want to tell you thirty million heads,
chastised before the altar of great change,
pray after me, Your will be done on earth,
and watch the fire eat the ballot box.

I want to tell you all that I have won
but how can I? Outside this hotel room,
I am the man with no accent but God’s.

Inside I have no language except lust.
Outside I shout, God bless America!
Inside my most authentic word is fuck.

The Maze

Some say the puzzle is the palace. Home,
its gorgeous wall hangings, gold passages
the hoofs stroll round, unable to kick down,
the kitchen an aroma of lamb stew.

Some say the world is riddled with tall caves
that beckon the explorer, strong and young,
deep into the intestines of intrigue,
and then the rectum’s private resignation.

Between the world and home I’m lost to shame,
having given up the old habit, guilt.
What is this spool of red spun through the maze,

I cannot say but see it to the end.
The ball shrinks fast. The pattern almost done.
Why does the wool look so much like a web?

The Cave

To be found out sounds like a sharp relief,
for godless enemies, and not for me,
the wide primetime report—ripping sheets
off private beds—of public sentencing.

Or else it sounds like holy disbelief,
confusion in the ranks, complicity,
on stony floors the awkward scrape of seats
pushed back, the quiet airconditioning.

At home it makes a smaller sound, like grief.
The click of a light switch. No mercy
in the darkness or the light the house repeats,

but hiding for a time, however brief,
in me, as in my den, I hear the plea
of an unfired bullet in the drawer firing.

The Brazen Bull

The thing I love and hate, the thing I killed,
erects a pattern for the spilling hours
and night that pours into the sprue and gate
sets round the thing I killed, the thing I love.

Breaking the mold, to see the thing I cast,
I see the thing’s resemblance to the dead.
I look again, and then the mask falls off:
I am the thing I cast, the thing I killed.

How artfully made is the look of death.
It is not an ending, the thing I hate,
but a thing hardening and hollowing.

Enduring is the thing I love and hate          
I enter as into my core and fit
and entering it, the thing, I close the door.



Eshuneutics said...

This is a powerful sonnet series Jee. I must confess to not "getting it" to begin with, but the poems now build to a probing analysis. The series here demonstrates how poems can spark off from one another...

Jee Leong Koh said...

Haggard is me, if I had not come out.

Eshuneutics said...

Ah! That explains certain elements in the sequence.