By TOM LOWENSTEIN.
IS IT THAT you have gone back to your tower,
your precinct, the territory you value as your own
and in which I remain a stranger?
I’ve arrived in the faltering dialect
of my own solitude. Listen, you may perhaps detect
the clank of what appear to represent
an idiosyncratic captivity of its own,
the miniature castle-keeps and prison courtyards
that I travel round within, but from which also I wave
on the battlements and make a display
of my soon-to-be depleted firework cache and long distance flares.
Some of these work,
but for the most part they produce little more than smoke.
This latter you will be welcome to inhale
in your own time. And the fumes have the capacity
to drift over walls and across boundaries.
But they remain, as media, unsatisfactory,
and will usually offer the wrong impression.
But since it’s what I’ve got to offer, you may still want to ingest some.
THE AFTERLIFE HAD already taken place.
And this was to happen before the upper world phenomenon of death,
with its customary substitutions:
cedar branches and a syncopation of ravens
with some lachrymose singing.
The moment itself, in a distinguished way,
had been harbingered, albeit no one could be certain.
And doubts, once there, had been expunged
through a series of rituals.
ORPHEUS MADE A rash decision.
It was one that also tempted others,
and this was to make the journey downward.
In the first place this was a territory he believed in.
It must have lain underfoot as a topographic reality.
This is hard to imagine from the agnostic view point
but it was one that gnawed the ancients’ upper air experience,
and impossible to relegate,
………………………invisibly yawning in subterranean darkness.
It was, in addition, silent, and therefore foreign to one
who was accustomed to circumambient noises,
if not, as in the case of the singer, to harmony.
No one claimed that Hades represented a geography of discord.
Even the clash of the unlike was an unknown quantity.
This, after all, was a realm of the deaf.
Dis himself could not have declared his passion for Persephone.
Nor could she do more than number the pomegranate seeds
………………………………….that she shucked all winter.
THESE DEMONSTRATIONS OF status
are perhaps not only a means of seeming,
but also a message of transcendence,
thereby leaving lesser beings in the evidence, even confusion, of their simplicity.
…………………A few of the elevated do remain
within the sphere of their exaltation. For the most part,
it represents mainly an escape from the humdrum,
since what is entirely ordinary is unlikely to go away entirely
and time continues as the equalizing medium.
HE REFUSES TO lie down. Still less, to hold his tongue.
Old fellow that he’s become, he imagines there’s been a mistake.
Time itself has bent its course from others who had mattered little
and picked him up accidentally.
This was not supposed to have happened.
and now his own skull’s been chopped into,
as though before breakfast, and exposed casually.
This, even as a joke, is not significant.
INSCRIBED, LIKE A cartouche, with hieroglyphics
which have been chiseled into stonework,
semi-legible to specialists, and to us amateurs, elegant,
the past, which contains too many images
for memory to reconsider,
has a trajectory we all travel round with,
tarred, for the time being, as a nautical pigtail,
but which remains dependent on consciousness of it.
Its nature, after all, is to be concise.
Nothing can be changed.
And yet nothing can be lost otherwise:
any sort of hair style being a temporary adjunct,
while the hieroglyphics erode in their own dust and sand.
MOUNT FUJI UPSIDE down in reflection
presented to the old man,
and suggesting perhaps that the artist, Hiroshi,
proclaimed the ambiguous reality of the upright.
Tom Lowenstein’s publications include Filibustering in Samsara [Many Press]; Ancestors and Species [Shearsman]; Conversation witth Murasaki [Shearsman]; and From Culbone Wood to Xanadu [Shearsman]. Three volumes of ethnohistorical material from Tikigaq, Alaska, 1990-2008, conclude with Ultimate Americans [University of Alaska Press]. His prose account of life and culture change in Alaska, After the Snowbird Comes the Whale, was serialised in The Fortnightly Review. The serial will be edited and published by Shearsman.