Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cleaving Snakes


“And now nothing
but snakes”
—Sylvia Plath,

The Caliph—smokes his hookah
His mercenaries—put down their swords
The slaves—relax while the gods play

The magic carpet—is rolled out
Covered with—green writhing snakes
The old man—bows before the crowd

Behind them—mosaics crawl the walls
Calligraphy—neither human nor animal
Crawl up the ancient—palace walls

It’s time for snake-warp—snake-weft
The boy is brought in—with his basket
Out of his Eden navel—Snakedom slides

Snake-scales—cover him from foot to toe
There are no rules—for what happens next
Other than the old man’s flute—warming up

The boy’s eyes are—glazed and hooded
Asiatic Balkanesque—Jail Bait from Bucharest
He yawns—out squirms forked tongues

Soon enough—the pliant tunes of the pipe
Turn him from human—to Slithering Snake
As he readies himself—for Transformation

The huge undulating python—in the basket
Gently removed by—coiled around the youth
Hand around the neck—flickering tongue

There’s no hurry—the Egyptian light
Of a thousand gone years—crawls across
The stone floor—across the Persian carpet

The damp smell of the Nile—moves through
Cairo apartments—young couples become
Part of the world of naked snakes—snakes!!!

The carpet disappears—nothing but eyelids
Opening and closing—up and down the
Tree of Lost Knowledge—in that Garden

The sways and coilings—of the Master
Snakeboy—Bearer of the Forbidden Fruit
Gaia serpent—deep in the reptilian brain

(See how Pan slinks—beneath the wine glass
Snaking his way—across the Ouija Board
Sniffing out the Letters again—all 26 Snakes)

(Ted nods knowingly—Sylvia face to face
With him across the coffee-table—each night
A great frieze, Egyptian—perhaps Greek?)

(Soon the tables and chairs—elbowed out
By the demand for magic—tea-leaves candid
Clairvoyant seizures—predicting Pan the boy)

(What games are—being played with us
The boy of the hour—snakedancing some
Paltry scene—beneath the dark stairs?)

(The Snakecharmer—the Wordmaker
What do we really—know about him?
Wait he moves under glass—Pan is here)

(He starts again—dragging us thru frames
Plumage winnowing—against the moon
Columns of dazzling—Cobra Island jump-cuts)

(Obliteration takes time—shipwrecks get
Dredged up from—burning knotholes in the
Wainscoting—snakes behind the wallpaper…)

(Young gods too proud—to be chauffeurs
Sylvia pampers him—like some sort of
Psychic child—firstborn of our wedding night)

(Ted smirks—a bright young boy indeed
Prone to compose queer poetry—in apt iambics
If prodded by scoldings—by subtle praise)

(The other side—of what we may have known
His shouldering of words—stint of Sisyphus
Pumas in Tibet—Lamas in Zanzibar)

(Ted shrugs—He’s lazy like any adolescent
He needs a beating—now and then to
Quicken his—sluggard’s blood and tongue)

(You waste no time—revoking his manhood
or is the godhead you fear—gaining grace
with each go-between—angelhood session?)

(Why do we always—start out this way?
Beneath the artful glass—what if what he
Claims is true—beyond our cheesy psyches?)

(Don’t be so smart—if he’s god’s mouthpiece
then it’s surely your own genius—moving thru
your own fingertips—spelling sarcasm)

(The fibs contour themselves—across the board
Pan and his fine-sounding syllables—the beat
The gift is yours—the blood-heat of Wordage)

(Wormholes—through your wishful thinking
Pan’s prowess is—your own creation and
You are your own—sole nourisher of power)

(There’s a pause—wordy otherworldly chatting
seizes Sylvia and Ted once again—they smell
the decay—like the undersides of mushrooms)

(Snakes blacken the walls—serpentine shadows
slide through the cracks—in the oak floor
the livingroom breathes—dilating the wallpaper)

(The specter of—Pan the Snakecharmer
running through his—normal book of nerves
and noumenon—his manners slit-eyed obscure)

(Ted—Your hand, Sylvia, it’s cold as ice!!!
Jaysus christ—your eyes are burning dry-ice
Enough of this—unnatural Other’s advice)

(I promised to welter—with contending words
never to forget the labyrinth—or ignore the
manner of the young beast—dancing there)

(But Sylvia—surely you’re not saying you
Believe in some pythoness—breathing in
The gospel truth—fuming crevices tripods?)

(But it’s too late—the livingroom fades
into the usual—unequivocal wordy thicket
Breathing the god’s word—skein of voices)

(Dreams once again—cut solid shapes
through the air—glancing aside the table
and chairs fade into—the magic carpet)

(When the lights go out—Ted and Sylvia
are dreamers dispossessed—may their
counterintuitive decorum—sustain them)

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