For Peggy, on the death of her friend

Featured Image: Joe Netherworld, died January 2020


Do not call me Tiresias:  I am not that seer.
I am a mockingbird amidst nightingales, speaking in tongues
torn from others.  I have not seen that place
beyond the cold river and past the Gates of Onyx.
The crows keep their eyes for themselves.

Of course I have had heard the stories.
There are so many stories.  Melek Taus
surrounded by peacocks, World-Lord laughing
in a house of mirrors, throwing cards on a table
he raised from the dead.
The one who knows, who wills, who dares, the one
who lies silent in the thunder-struck Tower.
Winter did not keep us warm.
Spring will bring us no forgetting.


Came Melek Taus to grey Poughkeepsie,
to ashy sidewalks and great clanging trains
clamoring over steel bridges past the tombs of factories
pregnant with pigeons watching dull-eyed commuters
stare through the morning mist rising off the cold river
and the barrows rolling south toward the corpse of the towers.
Then Melek Taus
stretched out his hand and the brambles flowered.
The earth received his blood, his sweat.  Out of the ruins
arose a Netherworld.  Poughkeepsie was filled
with the raucous song of peacocks and the Bardovan shook
with the cry of the Mighty Wurlitzer.  Hell’s heart afire,
light shone in darkness.  Droogs danced with drag queens
and drove back, for a time, the devouring angel
who will not be denied behind his million masks:
famine, fire, influenza, cancer, senescence, suicide,
anoxia, apoplexy.


Melek Taus fell at the Feast of All Souls.
The night was unseasonably warm: the falling leaves
Wondered if there had been some mistake.
Sunrise brought the cold.  The peacock stumbled
and the angel fed.

The steel bridges kept singing.
Pigeons stared dull-eyed from the tombs of factories.
The cold river rolled past the brambled barrows,
And the rats scattered from commuters
Disembarking in the shadow of the corpse of the towers.

The fire burns hot in the greatest engines.
Melek smoldered past the Solstice,
He held his clay like a falcon holding its meal,
beyond thought, beyond light,
beyond everything but hunger.
He rose, he fell.  Sunrise brought the cold.   He will not rise again.


Who would pray for Melek? He cared not
Himself for prayers, or for the lofty hopes
of resurrection.  For him this bier
Is fin devoid of commencement. 
Echoes fading in bone and sinew and tears.

The fire has died and now the light is gone,
Now Melek is gone and will never return.
The drooping staghorn and the hungry crows
scratching sustenance in the sere sunset
Are dumb as your planchette.
A train pierces twilight on the Hudson Line
Bright and hard as a Madeleine
dunked into coffee. Temps et âmes perdus.
Stars and angels and men all fall.
The darkness illumined by retinues
Brought down to earth by unalterable law.
And night descends like a funeral pall.
The peacocks call hodie and the vultures hamartia.

In my borrowed tongues there are no words
to break the Onyx Gates.  The dead can be stirred
But will not be shaken from their slumber.
Yet I have heard dimly the song of a celestial guard
Sung ab initio by the multitudinous quorum:
Sicut erat in principio,
et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum.

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