A Short-Story in Verse
The Timeless Meets the Timely
The shadow of eternity falls painfully
On the moment that craves immortality.
Memories fortified into cold marble
Cast a pall of nascent experiences
Seeking to shed their wind-starved wings.
The Timeless gods so unfamiliar yet intimate
Are a forest, labyrinthine and unkind,
That guide us to the morrow
By making us lose our way.
Like Christ on his Golgotha surrounded
By the good and bad thief so we
Are mounted between eternal yesteryears
And futures tantalising yet agonisingly untold.
Though our instinct may point us forever onwards
Our steps can only tread heavily for the shackles
Who knows whom has cast around our feet.
What evil bastard is born into our lives
When, oh beauteous horror, the past seeks
Conjugality with our youthful, lustful present!
The noblesse of ghosts haunting our mind’s pantheons
Meeting the adventurous, creative spirits of newness;
Their union, though a poet’s triumphant ode,
Can only serve to write the first line
Of the elegy we will never succeed in hearing.
Though these union be a predatory chimera
And its marital conflict tear our dew-starved souls apart,
Therein lies an addiction no questioning author
Can resist; any more than the sun can resist
The beauty of its own predestined eclipse.
The Father, Son and David
As I stare upon the towering David hewn
From the earth’s most lyrical marble,
My son holding my tensed, uproarious hand,
I feel a weight upon my shoulder so tiresome
My knees can barely hold my frame,
As if Atlas himself was shirking his duty.
Though my life has been free of ill
Mine eyes have witnessed a gulag of deaths
That now pass in piteous procession before my mind;
My grandfather’s heart-attack in his sweet roof;
My grandmother’s last cancerous breath
Surrounded by familial tears and a delirious, insulting sunset;
The miscarriage of my wife and butchered death
Of a daughter so innocent and trampled;
That, and of course it should be so,
Served as the worst stabbing of this now fragile shell.
To have a thing that had filled my mind
With fantasies of such future beauty and refinement
Be so murdered by the hands of time,
Deprived of the feast that is life and forbidden entry
Into the wilds of potential and the scent of immortality
– What can a man do but nurture, almost like a pregnant woman,
His own obsessive delirium with the necropolis we are forced to inhabit.
Like an inquisitor forcing the prisoner to confess
To crimes he never committed, so this train of deaths
Has forced me to confess to dreams I never owned.
Dreams that rise to the tip of my consciousness
After being given notice of their finite nature;
When a man is made aware of the sands of time
His life tends to beat at a much faster pace.
So I am here now, beneath the figure of a sculpture,
Born of the same fear of death and censorious oblivion
That similarly moves and maddens me, thinking;
What have I to sacrifice to the Fates of achievement
Other than the son whose hands I so selfishly hold?
The resurfacing of dreams – under pain of what torture –
Of a youth that I had buried beneath the vicissitudes of living,
Has cast a pall upon the fleeting successes of the life
I claim to have lived. I look now upon the visage
Of David and I can reflect not upon my years
As esteemed professor of art, critic, father, husband;
All his jellyfish eyes – as if jellyfish could be made of marble –
Seem to speak to me now are of those dreams
I had dared forget; this Firenze and the life of an artist,
A fertile life of Epicurean heights; Tuscan wines,
Semi-divine (for still so earthy) bisteccas;
Evenings beneath the Duomo’s august gaze
Discussing poetry, arts, the age and the ages
With friends versed in timeless conversation.
Oh, when spoken thus, spoken from the lips
Of a man so past the age of folly and youth,
How pathetic and irreverent and out of touch
With the pre-agreed modes of living they sound!
And yet, as I turn to my son, I think and wonder
That if he were to live a life such as I,
Orchestrated by some unknown societal common law,
Choreographed every step of the by way,
The only happiness permitted being the happiness permitted,
I would let go his hand and beg him run, run from me
And this insipid legacy I am forced to leave you!
Better by far that my son is raised caressed by dreams
– Not his father’s of necessity – but dreams of his own making,
Dreams as old as David but as invigorating as the restless horizon.
Whilst I feel all hope dwindling for me, I can only pray
To the unfettered, day-blind stars, that my son’s life
Will be cast in the same Carrara marble as David himself.
Though all this I do openly admit, a confession
I must endure myself to exhale rises to my lips:
Who am I to inspire this son of mine;
Just as a prince has no divine right to doctor
So I, an unliver, have no right to preach
The labyrinthine arts of living, not even
To my own son whose veins roar with the deafening
Gurgle of my own unknowable flesh and blood.
Thus I bade him, so careless and unworryable as he is,
Accompany me to the city that hosts not only my dreams
But the name from whence were conceived and gestated
My own unearthly dreams: a Beatrice of my very own.
A former student, an honours student in art, such as it was,
Heir to a great legacy; her father a composer her mother a painter;
Raised in a Tuscan villa worthy of a Medici demi-goddess;
By age ten well-travelled in the finest skylines of the Old World;
Now, a student that has surpassed the master that holds no strings
– A painter living quietly and luxuriously
Here in this mother of all we know, Firenze.
Though I dare not ever speak to her or commune
With that soul that is more ether than flesh,
As real and yet as out of reach as Michelangelo himself,
Still I follow her every step, like a satyr accords his nymph,
Through the only means the age allows me: technology.
Perhaps, if we, my son and I, follow in her steps long enough,
He will be enthralled by the exuberances of living
As captured by the pupae art of this crowning era.
And perhaps, something of my dreams can be rekindled
Alongside his; all in the (vain?) hope that one day
When my own mortal coils come loose and unravel,
I can look day-shy death in the eye and wink with defiant pride.
Unless, perchance, the age we live in, has one last gift
To adorn me with: the curse of fame, and the attention
Of a Beatrice who has not yet fallen into annunciation.
The Stalker Longing to be Stalked
Time is short, a photograph lasts forever.
All these dreams I once faithfully harboured
Never had I given them serious commitment
For I allowed myself to wallow in my curse of curses
The inability and idleness that bars men of great potential
From ascending the heights of greatness.
Potential is a war not a battle, and those, such as I,
Without the stamina for the long road fall by the wayside.
But the laws of immortality and renown
Long ago written and decreed in the annals
Of Socrates and Homer, are altered and distorted
In the act of taking a photograph and pasting it upon
The mortar-less, unsteady walls that streams rivers of pixels.
Just as in the quantum level what we know of physics
Is undone and muddled, so purpose and achievement
Are unwoven at the level of the Babel of photographs.
I realised cruelly in Firenze, on my son’s maiden journey,
How a certain behaviour and photograph can lead
To a taste of the dreams and hopes I once cherished;
And it all requires such an effortless route.
My Beatrice, the young artist I once had the honour
Of teaching whatever it is I have to teach,
Worships at two worthwhile altars:
My own beloved altar of Art
And a novel altar unfamiliar to my mind’s eye:
The altar of communal, think-last justice.
As I stalk whatever thought she breathes unto the ether,
Hoping to catch a glimpse of her location
So that one day my eyes could gaze on the
Sweatless, unblemished skin of her so young
Without being filtered by cheaply stained glass,
I notice her dedication the righteousness of the times,
Her dedication – though I often suspect it is a dedication to self –
To the better angels of our nature, the plight
Of those history has deemed plighted, of the injustice
Of those the contemporary has baptised the perpetually-wronged.
I see as well, for how can I not, what golden crowds gather
At these statuses of humanitarian loveliness,
How – what pitiful injustice in itself – rather than the crowds
Celebrating my Beatrice’s soft-spoken, trembling art,
They instead place a delicate halo on her untouchable head.
How vexed must she be, I suspect – for I know you, Beatrice –
That the sighs of her most Romantic and Glorious soul,
Those timely creations that pay homage to the Renaissance
She and I both intimately revere; all that goes ignored
For the sake of a moment’s rant upon the grievances
Done to those whose addicted to the milk and honey of grievances.
Why, then, do you not cease your political lamentations,
Sweetest Beatrice, and let only your art speak to the world?
Oh but I know you Beatrice, for I am you:
What gaping hole does the crowing of the crowds
Fill in that Edenic soul of yours?
Are you like me, desperate to cling onto the skirts of immortality,
Even if it means tearing off a single weave of cloth
In return for a sinking of one’s own dignity,
Purely because of some distant failure, such as I have known,
Or perhaps due to some other breed of well-veiled narcissism?
You know how well I know you; though I have never
Touched your flesh, your soul is a daughter of my ambitions,
And so, perhaps, if my words, though insincere,
Ring as loud and reach the same crowd as yours,
Perhaps then you will remember my existence
And stalk me as I, in the service of beauty, stalk you.
It is a slippery slope to walk down, especially with my son in tow,
For the louder the self-righteousness
The louder the plaudits of the crowds,
And so the addiction to second-rate immortality
Deepens and afflicts the heart until there is no distinction
Between cause and its remedy – hard to tell which is worse!
Is this a lesson I truly wish my son to know,
That if your dreams seem a battle-field and lightyear away
Should you settle for second-fiddle scraps
That masquerade as tantalising fixes but in truth
Are the pangs of gluttony that afflict one and all?
I aspire to nobility but alas nobility in these days
Takes on a myriad of forms; finding the truly meaningful
Is like trying to find the dying fly amidst a haystack.
I know how this tale will end: I will go too far, son,
And then I will revert to the dreams tear-stained with true beauty
That I have once known and Beatrice herself embodies.
In the meantime, as time is short and the photograph irresistible,
Hold your father’s hand, watch him and be ready to forgive him,
For even as he maniacally stalks and masochistically longs to be stalked,
He does everything so that you may know
The true nature of beauty.