All darkness did abound, as Time in all its motions
Contracted and expanded; the constellations flickered, then died.
A moment of absolute darkness, flashing the perpetual.
Then, from multitudinous sources
Stars, suns and comets did explode: the Heavens were aflame
With radiance indefinable, iridescence hanging
Like Aurora Borealis over the Pole.
Ice-encrusted were the caverns, snow-topped the glaciers
No heat, no flame, nor yet a name.
There, in perpetual chill
A diaphanous mind gave birth to human form:
Oh charms, oh incantations,
The blended voice of every nation.
What they in this chilly silence knew
Was but a question mark – New, Old and Never new.
Far to the South, volcanoes erupted:
The ice-floes cracked, their substance violated.
This question mark did hang above the polar foci:
What was this formless, nameless entity?
She threw in all her force and writhed –
All colours were suffused, diversified:
Then, from this melting pot of ice a mortal form
Without device or artifice, appeared –
A youth upon the waters
Rose from the abyss of mortal years.
His mother nameless and his source unknown –
Now thirteen years upon the water’s throne.
Laughter there was, that hung upon the air,
Laughter so gay and laughter so fair,
Oh maids and maidens everywhere
That do their temples share!
Their joyous exultations, wafting in temperate green,
Soothed by the Gulf-Stream balm
With blossoms round their throats:
They were Arcady’s children
Who knew the notes of Harmony and Peace –
Spared from the powers that gave them being
Or could have caused eternal grief!
They frolicked in life’s inner circle –
The young men did favour purple,
Deep of life’s wine they drank and sang
With love suffused, not noticing the darkness.
An eclipse they did not see – it did not last
Oh boughs of blossoms lowered down,
The sweetness of the nightingale
Then silence! An hereupon,
A legend for to tell
To Arcady’s children, who knew not Hell.
He who issued from the womb fully formed
And was, as sailor, cast upon the seas
Oblivious of tempestuous storms –
Poseidon’s eye upon him fixed,
Half-mortal and half-heavenly mixed
Until from this slumber her abruptly woke
To find a sea-shell scooped from utter depths,
Quite hollow, as a sacred conch.
“What is this?” He held it to the wind:
A tone of eerie pitch pierced through his thoughts,
Out-howling every storm – a Godly fanfare
To herald the Great Goddess.
Gelling from mist, fair Aphrodite stood
Amidst the foam and spray: his name she whispered:
“Meckelle: you may be yet as us –
Or perhaps an afterthought.”
He propped himself on one arm, to see this voice
Which promised well or harm.
He glanced eastward to the sea:
Her hair, long and golden.
Her eyes like turquoise, magnetised.
His mouth was dry, his mind was still:
It was he soul she had awoken,
The thrill of a thousand trumpets about her.
About her, radiance did grow
That beckoned her form, to and fro,
Could he doubt her?
She faded with the shadows that began to form,
Her crimson lips still silently did call above the storm:
“Your name – your name – Meckelle – new-born,
Born of darkness, ice and fire –
I, from the sea, my own desire.
In future times you may find
A souvenir to remind you of me –
Meckelle, of the wild, tempestuous sea.”
Phelisias, to whom the Sirens called,
Was strapped upon the mast>
His haul of gold and silver they desired,
But he was less than they
Who held the cold blue fire.
Their voices sang:
“Come, veer to us: your journey’s end
In sweetness, peace and light,
Your cursed duty’s agony lifted from you,
Your black Gods’ lashes healed.”
He, strong and vain, had scorned to dull his senses.
Stone dark the pillars, the rigid granite rocks:
Their weight upon him caused him to expire,
For theirs was the burning, blue-white fire
And he, all tortured, soul strength spent
Could steer no path
Between their jagged teeth
Being drawen by either, neither, thewn beneath.
And pliant to the song-foamed current drifted,
Foundered, all crew and captain lost:
But for Phelisias a darker mission,
to make another pay – at any cost.
His essence was swept into ethereal vapour
To permeate the just-named Meckelle
With blackness, dross of being:
His full malevolence Meckelle’s undoing.
Meckelle upon his boat did sleep, a fitless sleep:
From side to side he was tossed –
All visions permeating between foxes and sheep.
Black were the bands that surrounded his mind.
He grew in strength, heavenly sustained
By forces sublime.
On and on he went, beside him a convoy –
Whales, dolphine, sharks, fishes,
Mermaids and mermen managed him.
He grew by the minute, he grew by the hour.
This being, half-mortal, half-eternal
Created for his crucial but nefarious time –
Another clime came into view.
Now the the world’s roof,
Where tableaux were unfolded
By the spinning of rings,
By ancient voices,
By knowledges unknown but noble,
Where mystery held its sway:
The stories of pasts and yesterdays,
Futures they spun, and present time too.
Thirteen souls about a table drew;
Black were their cloth caps and gold their gowns –
In Time’s inexorable depths they were sure,
But not sure, of what they had found.
Gilded and barren, craggy the plateaux
And high the hills,
For this was the land of Tibet,
To be known and not yet known.
With the wink of an eye, the table was scattered,
Souls thrown into regions which might,
Or might not have mattered.
Suddenly, on a peak, a tree did arise,
Its roots in the earth, its boughs to the skies.
Fragile and scentful those flowers did gleam,
With morning and noon, with evening of dreams:
Crested and rainbowed, the branches displayed,
For this was of Eternity, and could never be o’erlaid;
With petty circumstance or inconsequential things,
These were the blossoms of queens and kings.
A shattering hell filled the voids with amber and ochres,
And sands which recoiled into sprawling deserts
Where neither foot not hand nor mind might impress:
Just a tree, on a hill, in a wilderness.
But one flower shone brighter than most,
Sustained by the Heavens, the Heavenly Host:
Magnolia white, the tips of the petals,
Crimson red the heart that was yet touched,
Smelted into metal: that which could never
Be discovered by any human kind,
Its incense rare, subterranean, divine;
The perfume so heady, to heaven it reached.
The roots of the tree covered the breach
Between dream and actuality.
Three stars it cast, one to the Heavens,
One to the earth, one to the oceans
Where Poseidon might find mirth.
Blown by winds, tempestuous and rare,
Not a petal moved, nor even a tare
In the fabric of this beauteous tree
That blossomed forth for thee and thine, and me.
Snows covered the peak, the sun burnt high
But always this tree,
With its roots to the bed of primeval earth
And its mind to the sky.
The oceans roared, a crossing of seas
That hit the stern persistently:
Spite and malice foamed on these waves,
A crossing, a chancing, a malevolent glare.
Mighty the creatures that swam from the depths.
Meckelle, in his dream, unperturbed as yet.
Then a cloud of darkness loomed down:
Phelisias his victim had found.
But Poseidon, with a careful eye
Guided the vessel home and dry.
Phelisias, in torment’s storm – a youth so beauteous,
Was made to mourn:
So his became the sorrow severe . . .
Meckelle to an island was cast – a sailor, naive,
Unperturbed, beached and dry
On a sandy reach.
Here he lazed awhile, grown yet older,
With a sadness to his smile.
“Twenty-one are you, my brother?”
“And twenty-one you too, my sister fair?”
“Do you not feel sometimes a longing?”
“Yes,” she answered,
With such a common sigh of despair.
“Oh let us then,” he quickly said
“Se what is driven from the ocean’s bed.”
Hand in hand they left their place,
Which somehow seemed guarded
By a thousand invisible, wraith-like ghosts and sprites,
Mentors in whom these two found delight.
“Shall we look for meteors?” she said.
“Oh no: for meteors are dead.”
They twisted and danced amidst the trees
Until unto the beach they trod
Their footprints filled with flowers,
All inhibitions they had shed,
Of Hesperus they had no need,
So happy hand in hand
They looked upon the sea and sand.
Until, from the corner of his eye
The boy did there espy
A vessel grounded, to the port-hand side:
“Oh look sister: a stranger who is abandoned
By this morning’s tide.”
She, in exultation did cry
“Come: let us see fair brother, whom this might be
Which Poseidon has cast to us
From the depths of the mighty sea.”
With silence, solemnity and sombre grace
Then she paused, and for a moment thought
“Should we, dare we, should we ought?”
“Ah! Waken the stranger,” he replied.
His eye glanced upward to the azure sky
And hers upon the waters cast
“Yes; yes: for all things come, as all must pass.”
They moved Meckelle gently, so deep his sleep,
And moved him with a tender grace,
Each one exulting in his face,
Like death before death, his final throes:
They knew him placed, as the snows.
And yet his heartbeat burst with a fierce fire,
Then, to them both a longing, a far stranger desire:
Weightlessly it seemed, they moved him from the beach,
Unseen hands helped them to learn, to teach:
Unto their abode they thence conveyed
This sleeping form from yesterday.
“Whence is this place?” Meckelle did cry.
“Who are you? Are you mortal,
Or in some myth disguised?
What? These vapours that surround you so,
And the perfume of the hidden snow?
You lay me upon pillows, where dreams are nought:
I do but half-hear you, who am but half-taught.”
She bent down, upon one knee,
She said “You were bequeathed to us by the sea.
Then, with a vengeance in his voice
“I belong to no-one: do not rejoice
In that which you do not know:
I might be ice, or fire, or snow!”
Fair, sumptuous fruits they gathered,
Filled him with nectars divine.
Upon a bed he saw them, in repose.
They rose, with sighs contented.
Then towards him they did come,
Their arms were beckoning.
“You may yet . . .” she said
“. . . Complete our sum”, her twin replied.
With every incantation in their souls,
Their seduction seemed him to enfold.
With palm outstretched he said “Come near me not!”
With his left hand he said “I sense your lot
Is not all to prosperity’s gain,
To wealth or wisdom, or immortal fame.”
His eyes as icy as the Polar Caps:
“Come no closer!” Meckelle did cry,
“For i have heard your island lullaby.
A borrowed stranger on a Stretch of sand:
You must let me depart,
For I’ve seen the bands of Eternity
In strange and foreign lands:
Yes! Something rarer, something barer
Than that which you would expose,
For I have seen, yet in a dream
A being more beautiful than two –
A Goddess, filled with the dew of longings
Which you would expurgate.
Her form and face tell me it is not too late!
Then I must to my boat repair
All for to seek this blossom fair.”
Dolefully, the twins looked into each other’s eyes:
“Oh, what a surprise you have given us, creature of the sea!
But from your journey’s quest we’ll not divert you;
Yes, we will fill your boat with fruit and flowers
And not pervert you.”
Thus the sentences did fly: Meckelle, upoon his boat
Did seek another place quite high and dry.
They bade ‘Adieu’, their sweet twin voices sang;
Upon the tree, a flower yet did hang.
He left them, looking towards the West,
The setting sun, a certain quest.
They waved farewell, until
A cloud of darkness, unknowing,
Covered them; for there was sleet and rain
And it was snowing.
The winds did howl upon their isle –
Embraced, they fought fear with Hero’s smile:
He did not cast a backward glance
Upon that isle that would entrance
Most of the mortal kind:
He did not see the lightning,
Nor the black cloud that his path had left behind.
The seas were smooth and turquoise green;
He feasted and drank, and in some dream
He saw again, within the water’s warm embrace
That golden vision, that breathtaking trace
Of molten sun, which was her hair:
Oh Aphrodite! Oh Goddess of love so fair
Oh Aphrodite! Whose tresses filled the seas,
Whose perfume on the breeze
Beguiled and overwhelmed him
Into deep, ecstatic dreams.
With his sails set, no compass needed he;
His passage yet was fixed without,
Was set within, the stars had reason –
This was their season of mysteries.
Within those dreams, he caught the sign
Of a scheme worn thin.
Not yet comprehending, he awoke early dawn:
There, by the starboard side,
He found a petal, shell and cone.
‘What are these?’ he mused,
The morning sunlight in his eyes;
‘Whence this perfume fair; it sets upon the air
As sails upon the seas.’
Gently he lifted them, piece by piece
A petal shining rare, a shell beyond compare
And a cone, which unto his ear he lifted
From right to left, some whispers it enshifted.
“Blossom, thou art fragile,
Palest snows about thine edges;
But in thy heart, something crimson glows
And with its spark, who knows?”
“Sea shell, from the ocean’s depths:
Cast me into other dreams;
This sea shell sings of other things.
Oh! Schemes and dreams of the impenetrable,
Yet, sea shell, you force me to quest
For that which is unfathomable.”
Then the cone to his ear he placed,
To hear a voice, melodious, beatific,
Without a face!
So entranced, he gathered in these three tangible things
Somewhere in the silence was the sound of spinning rings.
Little did he notice the cloud above the sails,
Nor the dark-feathered bird that traumatised the whales,
a nd caused the fishes to denude themselves of scales.
Phelisias, like a cloud, had lowered,
Premeated, with a malevolent power, Meckelle’s heart:
His expiration, Phelisias knew,
Would become his, Phelisias’s total salvation.
Meckelle, with gasps of wonderment and direct fear,
Heard Phelisias, who spoke the word.
“Death, Oh! Death. Life, Oh! Life:
My total sum of strife I bequeathe to thee,
Son of the Polar Reaches, Crown of the Sea.”
About his boat thunder did crash,
About him the waves did lash,
Upwards and downwards, in troughs and peaks,
Then, half-yelling, Meckelle did speak:
“Who are you? Your mission yet –
I am begotten, forgiven and behest
To do others’ bidding, more than this whisper
In the ear. I am as yet incomplete,
But my destiny is clear.”
For many a day and many a night,
He sailed and sailed and sailed with might,
But still a cloud did hover over his utmost point
(Philesias, who thought he knew the joint
Of knee and ankle, thence to toe,
Was as a darkened dove, a black-winged raven
Soiling the snow, was thwarted in his goal.)
Then suddenly, in silence, for all things were still,
Calm oceans and skies, storms down to nil.
Meckelle arose, and draped over the side
A frail net where fishes might gather.
‘Who am I? Am I product of the earth, the air, the sea, the sky?’
He looked slowly East, West, North and South,
His eye lit on some glowing charcoals set upon the prow,
His right arm he flung upwards, till it crossed his brow.
Emaciated was his state, then to the side he looked;
On both sides there were netted fish,
Caught without spear or hook;
towards the prow he looked again, fires burning – unknown thing:
Prometheus – thou of legend born – hast given to this youth
As yet a child upon this storm, his sustenance for growth.
Meckelle, with a heart, touched the nets and gathered in the fish,
Then smoking them upon the coals did find
A meal quite fitting for one divine.
Sustained by this transubstantiation
Meckelle did sail without trepidation
Towards the setting sun, upon a setting sea,
Dark ruby bands surrounded the dying sun,
The stars hard-driven in their run,
The moon was full and pearly white,
Meckelle was stricken, Meckelle was well,
Some being twixt Heaven, Earth and Hell.
Long burned the embers along the prow,
The oceans carried him, he knew not how.
All night he stayed awake . . .
Then, at one hundred and eigthty degrees
He saw through the mistry morn
An island, seat of a certain kind of kingdom
Upon the vast and rolling sea.
White were the sails that, lit by sun’s radiance,
Firm was the wind which permeated them.
With anchors cast and strength unknown, he swam
Unto an island, so magical and unbeknown:
No-one there, no-one to hail him the greetings fair.
With his footsteps on the sand
He hummed a tune, unknown to mortal man.
Then, from woodlands, dells and hills appeared a throng:
Were they nymphs, naiads, satyrs, gods, goddesses?
He cast them, side by side,
Turned his face to the morning sun,
For nothing did he have to hide.
These creatures in their garments white
Did drag at his arms and legs.
His footsteps magnetised by the early dwn
He strode on, no fright for Meckelle
Until he found a certain place:
No form, and no discernible face.
In the distance, the clamour rumbled on.
“You cannot enter here: you would never dare!”
But to their cries he was oblivious,
Sustained by things not obvious:
A few trees first, and then a few trees more,
Each hung with leaves – emerald, verdant, succulent,
Till in his heart he felt the word ‘adore’.
Dreamily each leaf he kissed, said to himself:
‘Enter I must, or miss the mark of my voyage,
My quest! Meckelle I am,
Who knows not Heaven, Earth or Hell.’
Into the grove his footsteps – fast, then slow:
This was a shrine – upon a tree, some symbol divine:
He sensed a presence he knew not,
But the spirits there had not forgot –
There is a guardianship, without heart or mind,
Or soul, or thought.
Branches stretched out, and roots too –
Shadowy forms from this opulence grew,
A wind from the north thsat gathered in force,
Stranger creatures, inconceivable, beyond the storms
Of the wild and willful sea, chased Meckelle
From this holy, but unholy ecstasy.
In panic he fled,
A purple silken streamer round his head.
Upon the beach were gathered those folk:
In their arms he finally awoke –
A certain need, certain desire
for had he not been gifted with golden fire?
He knew not how the months did pass:
The moons were quarters, halves, three quarters –
His advocates avowed him as their Prince
With strength to go where they had never dared,
Affrighted at the snares of that forbidden place.
Four months had passed, the fifth was due.
Upon one night he knew
That to his boat he must again repair:
Older now, darker of hair,
His complexion tocuhed by the sun:
He outshone its brilliance, one for one.
“Take me to where my vessel is kept,
You dreamers, who have not yet slept!
The dreams I have of nirvana, of mirth, of sadness,
Of rejoicing, of a still and silent birth.
Direct me, you who would call me prince,
To my boat: Long it is
Since my sails have been set:
Whether it is evening or morning – yet –
I care not: appreciative or proud,
I leave you with a blessing and a cloud.
Amidst the throng of candles bright
And mourful faces, filled with light
They led him to his steady craft:
Meckelle, Meckelle had come to pass.
Upon the waters gently rocking
Amidst the turquoise and the blue,
On board, he was again the captain –
No need for crew!
With sun-browned legs he climbed aboard,
And smelled the keen salt air he loved so much.
The waters’ fluctuating hue,
Emerald, sapphire and darkest blue.
The sands beneath, he studied them,
But there were none he knew.
With caution, and with measured stride,
He paced his craft from prow to stern,
From port to starboard side.
He turned towards the isle he’d left,
Then turned again, as though
By some invisible behest
He found some gifts upon the deck,
And embers glowing still,
Which Prometheus had left.
Another shell, another bloom: was this Aphrodite?
Sea-like essence, exotic perfume?
Into the dusk he sailed,
Face set toward the midnight sky,
Choosing his course by heaven’s eye.
All night he stayed awake, alert,
The winds blew fair: some fortune’s quirk.
Then darkest hour, before the dawn;
He drowsed a little – heart did mourn
For things half-known, half-seen, half-heard.
Thence, under the burning morning sun
His hand touched on a gift, unseen before,
Embossed, engraved; he picked it up
With silent awe: shaped like a shell,
Or the petal of a magnolia,
It was filigree,
Encrusted with gold, silver, blue and white.
Its handle fitted the palm of his hand.
He turned the metal to a mirror’s strand:
His face upon thye waters he had seen:
His visage now, like Narcissus, in a dream.
In wonderment, he studies the contours,
His eyes, his nose, his lips –
What had he learned, what had been taught?
Around the oceans still and calm,
Clouds roseate and hued.
He passed the mirror side up, so he might have a view
Of Heavens reflected, never old and never new.
Thence, once more to his face he lifted it,
It was filled with sea, sand, ice and rain,
Diaphanous things which ever shifted.
Hypnotised, he stared- transfixed:
Three stars he saw which changed and movewd,
And other faces became those things
Which Earth rarely sees and hell often rings
In disaccord with Heaven’s cry.
Then the winds, a gentle lullaby:
A young girl’s face came into view
So dark of hair, in beauty fresh and new,
All filled with mystery, with eyes of green
That crossed the placid sea.
Her lips moved, slow and grave;
He listened, as though his life to save.
“I am Mahra, come to me:
My island green you now shall see:
Other wonders there might be,
But song and dance I’ll teach to thee.”
Suddenly, a mist descended,
Then the sun broke forth:
There, at its zenith
The immortal Creator’s face appeared.
This was the Ancient of Days,
The beginning of Time,
And the ending of Years.
His gaze, so steadfast, stern, aloof,
His eyes were proof
Of all things that were and were to be,
But not a word did he speak to Meckelle
On that calm, melodious sea.
Winds billowed in from the darkening North
Then lifted, and changed its course.
It was a Sybil now he saw, whose haggard features
Caught him in fright, enthralled,
Changing from beauty into the grossest form;
Her voice was low above the storm:
Her parchment visage cross-hatched with age
With jealousy, anger, venom, rage –
A blot of darkness divine:
This face faded as dropped the wind,
His course was set – between goodness and sin.
He dropped the mirror, hand to his brow,
His eyes clenched tight, his hair blown:
With a trembling hand, his fingers he ran
Through the darkness of hair.
Suddenly, he looked toward the prow:
There, misty but filled with form
Was Aphrodite, Poseidon’s daughter
Beauty of the sea, in all its placidity
The sun set full into his eyes,
Rainbow colours about her danced,
He fell again into a fitful trance.
His boat journeyed, crewed by invisible elite.
Anchors were cast, fore and aft,
A hunger Meckelle felt, both spiritual and real;
The charcoals burned: those fishes,
Like some sacrifices to a sacred flame,
Floating on the waters, mouthing silently his name.
Replete with food.
He saw it was by a cove he was near,
The aroma of fresh fruit was sweet and clear,
Such as he needed now, with nectar’s dew.
He swam ashore, renewed, from trees he picked
Orances and lemons, bananas, mangoes coconuts,
Their milk the finest nectar.
His footprints faded from the sands,
But before the waters he did choose
To test his muscles, hard and strong.
Into the water he plunged again;
Back upon his boat he paused and thought,
Then with a dolphin he did talk:
“Oh Gold, Oh Gold,” the dolphin said,
“Lies down upon the ocean bed.
Come now with me, and you shall see
Some wonders of Eternity.”
Meckelle was feeling bold; the manhood he felt
Was that in which he was not young or old.
The dolphin dived into a space, and Meckelle followed;
This challenge to find some trace
Of antiquities and things so rare.
His body naked, his soul innocent and bare.
The dolphin led him to a spot six fathoms deep
And there, from the ocean bed,
A plate of gold he lifted so high above his head.
The dolphin led him back
To where sea meets sky, and looked at him
With a merry yet doleful eye;
Then as invisiable as the mist he became
A fine shower of warm, summer rain.
Meckelle, with his prize, swam back to his craft;
His face was joyous, but somehow grim, filled with wrath.
With ease he clambered back again,
Back to his womb, his home, his terrain.
A cloth he found, and polished hard
This disc of metal cold,
Scarred with time’s merciless encrustings
Until, bright as the sun, this golden platter
Revealed its patterns.
He knew not if he was extractor or subtractor:
He touched the edges gingerly.
For this was a prize, from the clamouring sea.
His boat became becalmed and still,
He studied the patterns that seemed to form a name –
Flowers and strange creatures embossed there,
Strange writings, unknown to him,
So quiet the ocean, so quiet and rare.
He placed the dish by the mirror’s side,
And rose tentatively to test his stride of Manhood’s growth.
Hunger in him rose again; no food was there,
The fruit decayed upon the islet’s trees,
That which he’d gathered came poisonous to his taste.
His mirror wafted to a glassy mere, wherein all Narcissus’ dreams
Became a smear of faces – some bright, but never clear.
A bell tolled from the ocean deep.
A wind blew up, he could not sleep,
With mystical strength his anchor weighed
And he was a stranger, feeling betrayed.
Knots, he felt, his vessel took,
Ever in circles but reaching nought.
Suddenly, after the winds had blown against his will
A gentle breeze carried him, to a harbour calm and still.
Cautiously, he paced the prow and there a figure saw
Who cast him a rope from off a harbour wall,
With practised ease, he tied his vessel
While a soft breeze blew and swayed.
Unto some steps he trod, and there a girl
With tresses black and emerald eyes
Whom he had seen, but thinkly disguised
In the mirror previously.
“Welcome,” said she, “to my island home;
I am Mahra, Daughter of the Emerald Isle,
Daughter of things fertile and green,
Daughter of the Earth’s own Queen.”
She smiled, with a childlike dazzling brilliance,
A gentle cadence to her voice,
And stretching out her hands, she clasped Meckelle.
About his legs a furry form did brush
And, looking down he saw
A small and welcoming feline,
Black and white, with emerald eyes
“Ah, this is Bahra” she said,
“Who may yet you surprise; come, you are my guest now.”
Saying thus, she took him by the hand
And led him from the harbour to her green and fertile land.
Bahra, with meows and purring sounds, tail straight up,
Led them with proud dignity
Alaong paths, through woods, now far from sea.
“Welcome to my home” said Mahra,
And, gesturing with her hand
She led him to the mouth of her grotto dwelling.
None such as this had he ever seen:
Willow, holly, myrtle, mistletoe and ivy
About the entrance hung.
Within glowed Pluto’s most precious rocks –
Green, russet, orange, gold and brown,
A temperate warmth did there abound.
Rippling like stalactites,
Long, luminous acacias draped
From ceiling to floor; beneath his feet
A carpet, springy, deep
And soft as grass – with perfume enhanced.
So sweet the flowers that round the borders grew,
Cushions wer scattered: velvets, satins, furs.
With a prance to his tail, Bahra turned.
“Perform for our new-found friend a dance.”
With a purr, this miraculous cat did a jig,
An Irish reel; he spun and whirled.
Leaping and stretching, ending his dance
With a lordly sweep of the tail.
Onto a fur cushion he leaped;
With gentlemanly finesse, his whiskers he twirled;
About his throat glittering diamonds,
Emeralds and pearls.
With courtesy Mahra spoke:
“Please make yourself at ease;
Refreshments I shall bring.”
After these words, he heard her sing
As she behind a creeper curtain moved.
Meckelle, in wonderment, lay back
Upon those cushions fine.
But in her words, he wondered if she’d sung
“Meckelle: You shall be mine.”
Her voice did rise and lilt, bell-like it rang,
For this was Mahra, Mistress of the songs
That men and women sang.
Presently she re-emerged, carrying dishes
Filled with meats, spices and herbs;
Fruits in bowls were in her grotto placed,
About her shoulders, a shawl of finest lace,
A strange serenity about her face.
With practised ease, she placed the bowls
On flat-topped, glowing rocks;
Two goblets and a pitcher she laid down,
Then pouring Adam’s ale she made a toast:
With swift dexterity she placed the bowls before him,
With dainty fingers morsels to his mouth,
And then her hand about his face did trace
A lover’s heart, a lullabye; then he felt sleepy
With a sigh, he nestled back in comfort’s bower.
Then, with a sudden spring, Bahra,
Balanced on his back pores, bore a lyre.
Mahra placed this on her lap
And then, with a gentle tap
Began a melody so light and brightr and clear.
“Meckelle” she said, “do you like that you hear?”
He, with a soporific smile, replied “I do.”
“Then, if for a while with me you’ll tarry
I’ll teach you melodious modes and strains
Which ever more as a gift you’ll carry.”
Time passed, in delight and peaceful measure.
But one night, as he lay entwined
About her lovely form, a sudden storm
Through his sleeping mind did rage:
Visions of mountains. a tree, fair Aphrodite’s visage.
With trembling lids, his eyes fluttered, awake:
“Oh Mahra! Oh Mahra! There is no hope:
I must away!”
And therefore, at the light of day,
With great sadness, his eyes filled with tears,
He said farewell to the girl
Who to him and grown so dear.
Days rolled into nights, the threatening winter storms
That had hovered, reared and roared.
So it seemed that Meckelle was a blot neatly covered.
Leviathan terrors o’ercame him.
Sea monsters groaned, reared and coiled about him:
Some turgid green, some nauseous speckled yellow,
Some with fangs. No moon or stars to guide him;
The cinders dull and cold, the sun always hazy . . .
This terrible fist about him clenched,
No food, sweet sea air soiled and stenched
With the rot of decay.
A dying bird dropped – heavy as clay onto the boat;
Ice bounded his craft, he could not sway
Those bands to move, purples and oranges,
Crimsons and scarlets, tongues licked his body
Causing wounds to bleed: What heed?
Salt rubbed into the weals and cuts,
Sucking vampires by nightr struck,
Blood red eyes deep into his very flesh
and soul did creep.
Sargasso weed in petrified strands
Clenched about his boat:
Bitter, cold and chill the thrill
Of voyaging in all its ghastly glory.
This was, too, a part of Meckelle’s story,
Until at last, a cracking of the ice –
The vice-grip severed, the broken sails,
Repaired with chilled fingers,
Stood to the blowings of a moderate wind.
The clouds cleared, the charcoals blew up again
Bright upon the foredeck.
Meckelle watched with wonder
The rigid wrecks of sailing ships
Which had been bound for aeons in this place.
Skeleton hands traced despair and blasphemy
To the seas: Skulls, with eyes open and ruby-bright,
Staring into every space, to the bottom of the ice
And to the skies – and, yes: even unto his eyes.
Skeletons strapped to prows,
And bones which powdered over oars;
Jewels glittered bright and clear;
Gold and silver bound upo in nets,
Corroded coins that laid no bets,
Tattered rags on tall, immovable masts.
Ropes thinned by ice and snow
Like icicles struck at his soul.
As his craft edged away
From this graveyard of the oceans,
Those relics of other days rotted,
Above them seabirds, who had been seen,
Caught, stranded, frozen in mid-air;
Frost crackling, proclaiming putrid despair.
His vessel bore him on some tide,
And flying fish leapt right inside
So he might eat afresh.
The Heavens opened
And poured tears of tenderness,
So sweet that rain that down sails ran.
In flew eagles, albatrosses,
Gulls and swarming terns,
Bearing tender balms
Through their piercing, flinty cries,
They did fly, as if to soothe great Zephyrus’s power,
To veer it from its thrall, fly high –
Away Poseidon’s cankered minions!
Planing full the wave-chops that issued forth –
Through black exhortations, evil elations!
Fighting through fangs and slime, the tide sublime
So now the tide was loving, the wake’s scythe
Swept back dark malice:
Fair aerial forms clustered
Above Zeus’s infinite palace.
With migrant swallows’ sense, they lent him wings,
On into somnolence, so he might sing,
Sweetening the horizon, laying blackness far behind,
As if great Pluto’s furnace paused for breath, to yield a glow,
A glow that slithered round the sea-bed shelf,
To rinse the charcoaled heavens, offering its wealth.
Dawn’s nurtured embers blown, kneaded by cloudy skeins,
They cast down their opaque slough,
Tortured with great searing pains.
The Gods’ most pure, transparent filter lifted up the Earth.
So that Meckelle could reach, in thought and sinew,
To lights and fires of truth, in sun and stars;
Reach on, his will for now his only oar.
Then, as the searing white rim of the sun twisted his glance,
His balance lost, he fell into a trance;
The sea’s fleeced purple membrane ribbed, encrusted
Lumps and pats of variegated shades, some rusted.
The wind sighed down to peace, the foam-caps burst and sank,
Yet with the air’s, sea’s stillness,
The boat all horrors would outflank,
As if those avine hordes had lent Meckelle their wings,
Airs, blessings: he, aloft in thought
Was spirited by springs – geysers, through spheres
To planes still higher:
This breath, a tempest-shaft, outstripping all mercurial fire.
Thence into the smoothest pools his craft did drift,
Perchance to seal off Pluto’s will, those aerial sprites to shift.
Fair blasts stolen from the sun,
His dream a feather from a golden erne;
It glid gracefully down, to join him where he was –
With landfall looming, he heard a parrot’s ‘Caw, caw, caw!’
Alas, darkest Nemesis engulfed fair Aphrodite,
The trials she had imposed to make Meckelle mighty
Were now on herself turned, so godhead essence
Sadly became a tortuous quintessence.
By Zeus’s edict, the harpies, fortified with strength centupled
Did sweep her from her calm, ethereal plane, uncoupled
From her beauteous nature, divine grace;
They did sweep her most cruelly from her place.
Their parchment-cordoned wings did chain her, fainting
Upon Vesuvius’s mouth. Her form turned to acrid vapour,
How she’s sighing for the South!
This vaporous change, in one fell swoop,
Dissolved the harpies’ boom,
Transmuted to a resinous ooze, and nurture plants of gloom.
Now Pluto drew a breath, inhaled the stench: it made him retch.
He’d changed fair Aphrodite’s essence, and now he felt a wretch.
Her beauty he desired, and yet was fired
With ovens of malevolence and greed;
He wanted her to fulfil his every need.
Then, within an inky cavern, with drops of Acheron,
Dank algae, slime, vile lichen and poisonous plankton –
Perching about her, leering, the Eumenides sneered and mouthed
Charged with a double mission: that of Pluto, that of Zeus –
Whole darkness, purest light.
By Pluto they were appointed, for one full moon,
For one great task, one which would surely cause
A gaping fissure in his mask:
clear-fronted when Divinities were in balance.
Atop that Cyclopean Chamber, there did float a pair of scales,
And in each pan, the forms of Aphrodite and Meckelle.
“By you he is outweighed!” So loud the jury chanted:
We must redress the balance, and see who has recanted.”
The scales sank lower, flagstones of the cavern’s seeming floor
Now parted, showing yet a deeper closet,
Down to which they bore,
Calling forth the thickest fumes
And the greenest sulphurous flames
In which the air did bare the total roster of their names.
Ghoulish guardians ran in cackling circles,
Each prisoner was bound.
Aphrodite to Meckelle did look, pure gaze, without a sound.
The chorus took to voice:
“Oh Aphrodite, from Sybil you took dark songs and spells,
Denying your Divinity, to mould and shape Meckelle.
Therefore with Sybil’s potions and our flames you’ll be restored.
You are Love, Meckelle is your familiar: all hatred is abhorred.”
She, knowing that the mainspring of her being was True Love
Made no struggle, jumped no desperate leap,
But merely looked above; so calmly she awaited
That great cauldron hanging there, both pushed and drawn,
Not dropping, as the scales were weighted fair
The leering shares then wielded high a gigantic bronze ladle
With runic signs engraved: what potion in this cradle?
She bowed, her mouth agape, to take in that vile, dread fluid,
Of reptiles, frogs and toads, of vampires’ bladders,
Enhanced by cruel incantations, murderous murmurings,
It flamed and coursed all through her veins, burning her insides.
All torment with the Hydra,
Strife with Nature’s sad excrescences
Suffused her entire being, qll pain in purest essences.
Her nerves, her heart, her spirit, did in resignation moan:
“It’s done!” she cried, “so now I go; so now I go alone.”
All of Meckelle’s escapes became her chains,
Alone she suffered all those tortuous pains,
She begged for no relenting, as conscious she remained;
The flames surged higher, keener, as she slowly was unchained,
Casting off her opaque dross till all the Aeons she did cross.
The shade of a calcium frame, girt with thin shadows,
Towered for an instant, then sank to the shallows.
Sweet vapours now inverted all the former cloud’s effects
Struck terror in Eumenides’ hearts, did force them to deflect:
To them all fragrance was anathema!
They scampered, cackling, screaming: now terror, not Euphoria!
And she, no longer pushed or blown, did rise;
Assumed a cirrus form, no longer Pluto’s fairest prize.
Across the cirillium-blue bolt of sky her form did fly,
With merest hint of human visage,
Beamed blessings on the brave Meckelle,
Who had almost come of age.
His boat mote-like beneath her, their mission quite fulfilled,
To turn Phelisias to his trust form – almost annihilated, nilled,
Wet, low-wormed cuttlefish, to slither with no point:
He who thought he had known every limb, nerve and joint.
Corinth, in splendid beauty, sparked pristine in the sun;
Tall and white the columns, stately the formal gardens;
To the river did run spacious avenues; gorgeous blooms did gun
Their perfumes, so that the air did almost seem to harden
Now in this balmy sweetness, this dreamy atmosphere
“Meckelle” a voice did whisper, “why are you not here
Where dreamers do proliferate upon the many tiers?”
This place shamed Babylondon with all its hanging marvels:
In Corinth there’s the multi-hued and all the purest marbles,
Making fine palaces from the humblest dwellings,
The pregnant earth so happy swelling
With fruits and berries, flora, fauna.
Along the river banks did run, nymphs and naiads every one.
A toast to wisdom, all mysterious things
To corridors, to avenues, enclosures, many wings.
A river delta spilled great silken floods,
Flanking the Corinth coast were fleecy scuds.
Here Meckelle ran aground, of ropes and anchors free,
Brought in on a friendly tide from the vastness of the sea;
He was lifte to a ledge, made faster
Than any mooring made by man.
He went to weary rest, upon a plateaued slab all gold and tan.
Ah! To dark slumbers he was drawn in such a beauteous place.
The charcoals burned, flared and died:
Then he saw Prometheus’ face.
Chained he became upon a basalt cliff,
He hung, spreadeagled, parched,
His heart did writhe in agony, his very soul seemed starched
As time and time again, a vulture scythed and stooped
‘Midst echelons of loving birds, then down the vulture swooped
With carrion lunges, talons splayed;
His liver all exposed, displayed,
Again and again with searing force
The sky remon sought its bloodied source.
Was this penalty imposed because he missed
The dark-spawned fang of deepest sea.
Must he now undergo the same ordeal
As like Prometheus he became,
On and ever-turning wheel?
That fire which had been stolen by Man’s friend,
Now Zeus’s enemy, his criminal eternally:
Was this fair, between Immortal and Mortal?
With what fire he had absconded, what the fact?
Stealing from the tree of knowledge, or some other act?
so why should he incur primeval wrath?
Perchance his very being menaced bridges
Between the gods and mortals, what the totals?
Meckelle a parallel ordeal must suffer,
Though spatally unbound, sent on the dolorous quest,
He who had been born of fire and ice
Who had not reckoned with behest –
His exile interwoven with his freedom:
Then suddenly it was gone, thing past, a thing beyond.
He woke, the hard thongs shrivelled, he could rise:
Before him, luscious verdure: beatific surprise!
From its midst he could deflect, for in a pink streaked cloud o’erhead
Fair Aphrodite’s splendid light all over him was shed,
Calling him to encounter and to treaty; he heard not:
An aperture to Acheron still seemed his lot;
He threaded between boulders, struggled, blind –
Misty remembrances clouded his mind:
And then a flash! An awful iridescence stopped his tracks:
A ghostly array above him, vulture row.
Eumenides from other days – what judgement? Was he guilty?
Was he slave?
Or was he noble, young and brave?
Meckelle thought he heard the words:
“The scales have now been levelled; the done-by now has done”
These words he heard, amidst a massive flock of flying birds –
“And each effect has gained a causal strength:
Now seem fulfilled your functions for each other
As mother, son, sister, father, brother . . .”
He listened to their whisperings with half an ear and dread.
“Do not try to mix your functions, or you may end up dead.”
Their voices faded: sweet Corinth’s airs were magnified
Once more he glanced to heaven, saw fair Aphrodite’s eyes;
He was awake now: break of sea, loud crashing brought him life.
He stood uprightthe sun full bright; as though by perfumes drawn,
Followed a river: that city, Corinth, was from marble hewn.
He needed no guide, wide had been his experience super-real;
The jostling town, the gaiety, did not overly impress him/
The gown he wore was that of authority: eyes scanned him with surprise.
Then said Meckelle in a commanding tone:
“Take me to a place where I might trace
Some history and mythology!”
A youth most radiant and dark
Pointed mutely to a palace stark; he led Meckelle
Three paces ahead, hos face cast down,
Perhaps a frown upon a superior one,
Meckelle of fire and ice and sun.
Amidst the jollity, the fun, Meckelle strode on,
Oblivious of all but the one thing he desired:
To travel the corridors of Time:
Through Space, Pace, Years and Hours.
The entrance to the palace opened wide:
There, bride-like, seven maidens stood aside,
Each holding lilies in alabaster hands;
Somewhere the music of angelic bands.
Seven corridors there were at first; then thirteen opened,
Like an astrological verse: Which to choose?
One, five, seven, six, three, eleven, or the unknown quantity?
As spider spun, he felt the Minotaur, some race to run;
The Bull Age he encountered,
With leaping maids and gallant youths,
And Ariadne, cast from all known horoscopes,
She of the midnight hour, yet of perpetual hope.
He watched their antics, prancings, play
Unconvinced by those the Minotaur did slay.
Dust, grime and gilded dewdrops fell,
And so he turned away; chose Seve for his neat array
Of mystery and magic; he had nothing to betray.
He saw them clothed with veils of moonlight,
Wearing shafts of gauze;
Beneath the temples of their triple-faced goddess
He watched their attitude and pose:
His nose perceiving, beyond believing,
The perfume of a starlit rose:
High was the pearly moon in heaven hung,
Loud was the hunt, Diana had begun,
Softly the turtle doves did coo, and from the bulrushes
The dew of fertile Nile
O’erflooded him with Pharaoh’s benign smile.
From the crab’s pincers to the scales’ arms
He went, soothed on his route by breezes’ balms
With light from cotton wool to coal in shade,
The golden scales did glow,
But neither gold not cross-piece studded held to him allure,
Of likes now past, his memory sufficed.
Mountains a-topped with ice, burning zones with desert heat:
He was of fire and ice, his being near-complete.
Suddenly the colours changed, the rainbow arc re-opened.
Then, with Mercury his messenger, he fled across the stars,
Passing Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, Mars.
From Mars to Mahra his thoughts fast flashed:
A lovely girl with a sheaf of corn,
Impunity and nonchalance with which she was adorned.
But from her hair red poppies fell, the damsel faded
Into the blue: for whom is the tolling bell?
A star bright, seven-pointed shone,
Meckelle looked, and looked again
To the island place, the twins he saw
Who were as one, but two in all:
A girl, a boy, a man, a woman?
Who could tell: what was the Summons?
Undecided as their age,
So could Meckelle really turn the page?
On many a page and story they danced:
For life in its duplicity, they knew it all inherently.
They were two, pretending to be one,
Or was it one, pretending to be two?
Msculine and feminine – this was their residue.
The tree upon the mountain shed
Some petals and some berries,
For those who had been born, living and dead,
From dawn until twilight, the petals unfolded,
Pinky, pearly white.
“Oh! what question here?” Meckelle did cry
“Give me back the sea, and its raging lullaby!”
Then, uplifted, like a bird he became,
A seabird, a tern, who wondered
Where to return.
He crossed the oceans on flights of thought.
His memory distraught – with abstractions,
Subtractions, dissensions, subjugations,
Then he looked hence:
The winged messenger appeared:
He was entranced!
“Meckelle, I am Mercury, the Messenger;
He of the winged feet: you who chose
To encounter the starry signs,
Remember Ariadne must not be left behind:
She came after the Bull, before the Twins,
The forgotten one,
With wings on her shoulders and feet:
Ariadne? Meckelle? Should I let you meet?”
Thence Mercury dispensed
With material images and words.
He left it to Mackelle to choose –
The cobweb or the herd.
The sudden roaring of a lion ,
A jungle, creepy, full of vines
Myriad insects intersecting
His fine and fragile thoughts.
The sun full bright, and then a presence
Like a glittering, elusive jewel.
A tassel-headed god-like figure
Did there beguile,
To see how canny was Meckelle.
No bonds, no blindfolds, yet he held aside,
Although in strength he knew himself outstripped
In every sinew, every bite and whip
Of mental presence and spiritual force:
Meckelle, from his imperceptible birth
Knew the force of things beyond mere mortals.
With a nod of the head, he twisted to the left:
“Oh roaring lion, cardinal fire:
What do you have to offer which I think I could desire?
I who was born of ice, of cold and steam and fire;
My mother imperceptible, my goal as yet unknown.
Your crown and ruffled collar do not frighten me away:
Me, born of ice and fire, who was Christened in the sea.
What questions might ye pose?
Perhaps, why does a rose hold a thorn?
The lion roared, his crown did slide;
His tail swung like a cat, bereft of pride.
“King of the jungle: the evergreen, the concrete,
The ever-being, the unbeing, the ever-will-be again!
You have little to say to me, beast of the ground,
The lion turned in its tracks, but for a split second
Its amber eyes flashed, from the Earth to the Heavens,
Then sidled away, into the undergrowth
Of tomorrow’s yesterdays -with a flick of the tail.
Meckelle then heard the sound of the pining whale:
“Oh thou, who lovest the deep[est sea,
Think now of me: white whale, pale whale, seal’s pup
They chase us, and what for?
The loving cup of blood and skin,
For we are killed, numbers depleted, almost extinct”
Cried the whale, as harpoons into his body did sink.
With his dying gasps the whale did cry:
“Oh Heaven, oh Mercy on thee that art
The holder of seas, suns and tides
Our bodies’ substances and coverings
The human lot desires: but we, like you Meckelle,
Are born of ice and fire.”
Then drifted far the voices of a million, million things.
Meckelle did hear the singing of all beings,
Within and out of reach his heart did turn
From fiery red to drearest bleach,
White as the sands upon which the tide swung.
Meckelle, Meckelle had listened to the death pell,
The mighty roar of those beneath creation to be undone.
“Oh mother, oh father! Is this the lair of your mortal selves?
Upon what shelves do you wish to stack the bones,
All dry as dust; as the ocean corrodes, and gold erodes to rust.”
He stopped his questioning and stooped beneath
The fleeing fleece of a lice-ridden lamb
“Oh Aries! Art thou now put out to ram
Against the buttress of sadistic will,
Like lemmings, their bodies for the oceans to distill
Into what substance?
What think sea-things of thee? They need not bone,
Nor bristle at the bottom of the sea.
He chased into a corridor of time,
And saw a goat, which first had sunk
But then had risen, with cloven feet unto an icy peak,
Its muzzle rested, to reach for earth-formed things;
Its eyes downcast, how could it hear
The tone of its death-ring?
Content it was, this entity,
A metaphor for human frailty.
Then, casting eyes upon the goat’s back side
Saw splinters of bone, and blood, and other things
Unwished for, which were beached
By an incoming tide.
Which parties now could be? Great Hera and fair Mahra – fused into one
Drawn to impulsive exile from an island’s bliss, fair Aphrodite,
Now free to answer prayers and supplications?
But for all their essential presence, Meckelle was in a labyrinth
Threatened by forces within and outside himself.
Could Ariadne be the last beacon of light?
Just as Meckelle observed all creatures on his quest,
So they observed him, and as they followed his stormy path
They seeped into his thoughts calling him back
To that fair island, tugging him with Orpheus temptation.
Yet they sharpened his soul to the here and now.
Another Orpheus mission, for through an arid waste
He must now wend his path – for forty days and nights
That he might know the total consequences of his being –
From Man’s beginning unto its end,
Full circle as the Sun, the Earth, the Moon.
He saw the relics of all graven gods.
Of wood and stone, of totem animals
More than human in their abstract grace;
And then profdound suggestions in great voids,
Sheer clefts and chasms.
Scorpions and locusts, so close akin,
As cousin-symbols of Man’s powers,
To maim, and spread small pools,
All clustered with tenacious wreaths of flowers,
Hanging for dear life beyond Man’s grasp,
The sand and rocks left after his ravagings.
He struggled on , until he found a thorny bush aflame
Sighing as if to speak. On it Meckelle sustained his gaze,
No ashes did ensue from its fair and constant flickering,
Yet magically it did engender
The spectre of a mirror, matching his own,
his blossom, shell and plate in leather pouch,
Hanging so closely to him. He took them out, displayed them,
And from their fair reflections great outlandish forms appeared,
Akin to bird, to beast, to reptile, yet made of stone
Or iron, brass and bronze; and strange but god-like fabrics,
They poured out flames, clouds, floods, great oozing rivers –
Foaming, splitting, throwing up vast meadows,
Forests, orchards – then razing them
To make vile, ashen plains; building foul temples.
Agglomerates of every mite of matter known.
Then creatures like the birds, so fearsome,
Emitting burning darts, for which massed infants cried
As if for food and succour, only to be gratified
With empty sockets, scarred skin.
The sea-monsters that did the same
More to each other: now Meckelle knew all!
The emptiness holds no more treasures
For mortal insight; now he must proceed.
His walking in a straight line has drawn him into a circle.
He counted up to forty and beyond:
Was he now stranded, quite beyond his quest?
Joy Sheridan and David Russell