THE GOLDEN FLEECE

The final three sections of my poem sequence The Golden Fleece. The earlier parts can be found here: Jason 1, Medea, Chiron. I suggest you start with those (in that order).

HERCULES

 

1

Apples. Bread. Wine. And the camps

are the least accidental features

of a foreign landscape. No sweat

or, at least, the temple is what’s

sliding like greased lightning on

the waves, who are silent as if they

could not even be arsed. But I want

to know. The white flare of his

buttocks disappearing in the water.

He might as well come back gold

as be dead or living in No Place I

can muscle into, as fast as a rat

shoots off into its own space,

letting the bulky air thrust out,

taking its illness out to the stars.

O lyric density! O blindness!

Impossible fruit in the dank soil.

We just drop it in and pull it up,

surprised at the effervescence of

spring water, and the clean bright

buckets that surround us, pitched

in the well, pulled up and drained.

 

2

The density of a muscled travelogue

or a worksheet. I want to know

what gives when we are all

descended from gods. As for that,

the creation of a nervous system

should cast a new, more viable

taxonomy into their mountain

home. Crab apples upset the baskets

and the entire market’s in a holy

uproar as though it hadn’t bargained

with theft already, as though my

strength were not the dirtiest

sympathy it would ever know. I’m

no more clever than the man I

left with the whole fucking world

on his shoulders. Its bright

striped canopies where gods sleep,

a pouchful of their still profiles.

 

3

Raiding parties. The mystery is

that I happen so often among them

and do nothing but act the fool

as though I were being paid

by someone else, my ghostly

brother, the merchant. Raids on

the blanketing and divine air

that starts at the groin, flows

up, and out. I want to know if

your prick can lift a man as high

as that wave can deceive the

temple’s grip on our sopping wet

earth. By the breakers, an army

is wondering if to set up camp

is like cracking a fertilised

egg into a jug. I say it is,

and start as fine blades start

from my follicles and (the moon

is high) break wind into a fist

and breathe (the sea is high)

and take off. I’m talking about

the real world. Labour. Raiding

parties on the chick’s sticky yolk.

 

4

As love shoves its fingers up

the cute boy’s nostrils I work

the dank groundsheet from under

his sweating rump, the silky

bundles of sequestered jewels,

and a tube of surgical jelly

squelches between my fingers,

a cross between light itself

and its passionate entry. All

credit for that. Strictly,

nothing can be had for nothing

is how I’d explain it to Mr

Atlas and his million disciples.

But it’s ecstasy, and how it

bubbles into muscle becoming

spirit! The effort of spirit

to work it loose enough to

enter’s a neat question about

theft, darkness, the market,

the loved one dragged under

by compliant hands, the rush

of blood, the chartered world

on those aching shoulders. I

bite, weave, break on the ride.

 

5

Legless, the bloodied, rescinded

quest held up against a small

and glittering unit that reels

around the campsite, talking of

the work it has to do. It traces

its life from the hand and into

the vein as a picaresque reverse.

By the splash and drip of blood

I shall be known. The red curl

of the foetus, comma, a grammar

easing its shoulders between the

hard polished surfaces where a

god resides, smiling at nothing

as, easily, I drag the temple

into the shell, stunned by that

slipstream of gold that shimmies

out. Buckets. A count of 100 and

I surface, gritty eyes and empty

arms, unweighted and blind.


ORPHEUS

 

1

A creamy mallow light and me, crouching, calves and thighs together like the two halves of a clam. How things occupy themselves! in spite of our wearily fixated loves.

 

2

The first half of coincidence is a turned-up ace. Three more aces in the pack and everything down to luck.

The elegiac number, one.

3

Down here, at Mission Control, I’m expecting a call from my wife.

4

Embarrassed by loneliness I ransack a city for images of the single life. The wailing of all those cows with distended udders in the meadows of the known world. I shall circle the city with their stripped hide? That one’s been used.

 

5

Inside the clam is edible. I begin to yield. Somewhere another hungry clam will eat me, then I’ll eat him. I’m not as popular in my peer group as I used to be. I’ll have to find another gang of do-nothing creeps. The single life

Brr-brr Biberkopf.

 

6

One way of not doing things. The light so opaque you can’t see out. Inside a small room a smaller room. Hello. At last – I seem to have found someone to listen to me.

 


CHRYSOMALLUS

1

The foreground’s filth is bleeding.

I think my mother is a loaf of bread.

The magic is in the dispersal.

 

It destroys the distance between places.

All of the pieces were buried together.

I think hysteria makes bones and meat.

 

I think my mother is a loaf of bread.

The leaves are beckoning the wind.

The magic is in the dispersal.

 

The foreground’s filth is bleeding.

I think my mother is a loaf of bread.

I think hysteria makes bones and meat.

 

2

They put down the box in the meadow

and taproots around it cried

Mirror, tell me your name.

From the dark heart of the cream

the handmaiden beats a necklace

and I am priceless.

 

Each object must tell its own

story and be damned

Mirror, tell me your name.

 

Break out in the chatter of glades

and heave me across your back

and I am priceless.

 

3

I think hysteria makes bones and meat

imitate a god.

 


JASON 2

1

With my address tattooed on my collarbone I’m a stranger to my body. Indian ink is blue. It settles in waves through which my own blood weaves. Its own red fades and when I want to go home I shall be blocked. Not by a dam, but by a channel through which the flow is graduated and the wheels made to turn. I could watch them all day.

 

2

When I came back with trophies I let them speak for themselves, recording devices built into their filaments. The king’s initial awe was rapidly tempered by scientific curiosity. The domes of the city were razed before they could fall.

 

3

Each sensation is exploratory now that confidence in touch is divorced from the fingers. The cry as the golden fleece is born away, involuntary and inarticulate, makes sense in spite of itself and its wary hoofed grandfather. It turns into a syllable and then a word. A new tongue is born out of petulance tented on pain, drawn fabric through which the whine of gnats can be heard.

 

4

And if I am thirsty shall I not steal from the steps of the Town Hall, the Observatory (my starry-eyed darling), the Ordnance Survey buildings? Now I’m reduced to knowledge those iguanas recognise my tread. Acres of flesh respond to its office as though our concern had been simple annotation. An object already there whose origin was mysterious. Il Mappamondo, large as the world.

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