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Archives for June 2019

Carthage Nights

Nunc medea Aenean secum per moenia ducit
Sidoniassque ostentat opes urbemque paratam,
incipit effari mediaque in voce resistit…
– IV.74-76

I
This sword of honor leaves you unimpressed
And beds were made for peaceful war because,
My Dido, beauty bares a naked breast

Against the hilted scabbard’s fitness test,
These Carthage nights. But love at last withdraws —
Its sword of honor leaves you unimpressed.

You watch me, crucified by lust, but blessed
Enough to know. I grasp for words like straws:
“My Dido’s beauty bares a naked breast,”

I say as we, two stars the dark undressed,
Are drifting, driven, set apart by laws
My sword of honor leaves. You, unimpressed,

Sought to sound the distance with bitter jest:
“Carthage hides from light yet shines its flaws
In Dido. Beauty bares its naked breast

But Dido spreads her legs for any guest
Who promises to lie before he draws
His sword for beauty. Leave me. Unimpressed,
So did — o honor — bare its naked breast.”

II
Aeneas mistook her little black dress
For armor. Queen of cocktails, so precise,
This princess, green-eyed, was a hot mess
Amid the hors d’oeuvers and the cracked ice.
A royal battle ensued – he overdrank
Her lethal concoction of ruby lips
And slender arms until he failed to rank
His forces and dribbled out easy quips
About the night that glows like amethyst,
The whole city lit like a shaking torch –
Then let slip Carthago delenda est
Between kissing sips on her painted porch.
His word of honor left her unimpressed —
So Dido’s beauty bared a naked breast.

Serial Dreams

Look at the parameters of this mirror… – St. Clare of Assisi

I
The first, Italian Baroque, with its warmth
The kind you find in California hills
At midday – and in it, St. Francis speaks
Not as the Hallmark saint that loves the birds,
A daffy hippy with a crazy gaze,
But verging tears, wickedly specific
About my sins. A shadow falls across
His joy — like algae blooms in a fountain:
“I cannot serve you, king, who have no being,
For sorrow’s bread is full of murdered yeast.”

II
The second, like the first, but more measured —
With columns and clean form, as classical
As the staff lines of hemp stretching to catch
The taut tendrils a busy vine-dresser
Attends to, bidding fruit with sharpened shears
And grafting twine. In it, St. Thomas laughs
At me, part Falstaff and part Friar Tuck,
And more jolly than the dour word Summa
Might connote: “Ha! but to sell your body
At power’s price!” He lifts a cup and drinks.

III
Third and final, back to early music,
Choired voices chanting like a fresh pack
Of cards — no saints and no holy counsel,
Only a mirror from which Dante peers,
But not at me. The human hum of song
Mortars his meaning, cosmic as all flesh –
So modern souls may follow suit — now, today,
Hodie: “Gentlemen, time’s fine spirit
Winnows the parse of being from nothing
Doing.” I look again to see myself.