An epic poem, Inspired by Khalil Gibran's The Prophet, which meditates on the idea of a single glance which sends someone on a lifelong journey from which they eventually return, unrecognizable.
Once, so terribly long ago, your eyes
Alighted on me, and in falling cast
The die of my whole life, showed me the prize
That was to be won if I could hold fast
Against the howling gales of mad fortune
which flung my vessel to the farthest reach,
held me locked in piteous extortion
No pity then to find on that scorched beach
Upon which I’d wash up, a world away
from that familiar rut I called a life
Another, and another dull today
So occupied by self-directed strife
In that brief moment, we began to dance
My soul set free, imprisoned by your glance
That dawn came angry, hard and cold
The fault, I must admit, was all my own
I drank up all my farthings, and was told
to meet the Mordant, but to come alone
The captain, such a stern man, needed hands
And, desperate for berthing, I agreed
Perhaps believing his pledge of new lands
Despite the wicked folly I did read
Upon his craggy, execrable face.
“The winds are hateful,” he whispered through his teeth
And so began the unannounced race
To some forsaken place that lay beneath.
What secret bound us, I could not be sure
Some fetching madness did his aims obscure.
II (First Meeting)
We met amidst the stacks of books
- or was it, then, the market stalls?
Of some pacific, coastal town
whose name, in highest reverence
will go forever unspoken.
“The mayor’s daughter,” someone said;
I cursed my pristine foul luck
That I would fall so hopelessly
for the child of authority.
We were so young then, and so free
- free for one last gasping moment.
Seeing my decrepit state
And my need of sustenance
You handed me a piece of fruit
- or was it, now, a luscious book?
Slowly creeping infection
have you corrupted memory?
I didn’t think to smell for poison
But then it would not have mattered -
You would have hidden it too well
with perfect, silent stealth.
That wondrous laugh - so light, so soft
a buoyancy that sought the clouds
and yet, in lifelong retrospect,
A smashing thunderclap of ruin
Portent of my destruction
harbinger of utter doom
and yet also a sweet foretaste
of my most cryptic salvation.
Some angel’s breath fell on my ear
But oh, that angel - in disguise!
Face hidden behind a mask
and that laugh so well transformed
by some dark ancient magick.
If I had known what lay in store
I would have prayed for this, and more:
Merciful God, wash out this stain
this blasted mark of endless pain!
For when, soon hence, I’m laid to rest
I will have been both cursed and blessed
to bear the scars of adoration
nurse the wounds of dedication.
Vast love, triumphant defeating
arose (by chance?) from that first meeting.
III (The Captain's Secret)
The captain, for the first few quiet days
Contrived, upon pretense, to let me rest.
He cried with an inebriated zest,
“Before too long you’ll work a thousand ways!”
The ship, though small, comprised a maze
And, he let slip, one berth contained a chest
Which, locked thrice, he, scheming, did attest
Would damn its opener into a craze.
“If you should breach those locks,” he, wide-eyed, swore
“I’d have you drawn, quartered, then burned,
and spread the ashes to the farthest ends
of this defiled earth, and hex your friends,
your family, and anyone concerned,
and worse, much worse, for you would lay in store.”
IV (Powers, Principalities, and Hosts)
And then he spoke the terrifying word
that haunted me the rest of my long days.
The wrath of some fierce beast I had incurred,
a fiend who only blackest Dark obeys.
“Your suffering would only have begun
For my terrific powers lay beyond
This world, for I give worship to the One
Who to my deepest pleadings did respond.”
I dared not ask for him to give the name
For even in the hearing, it would turn
My ears to dust, my flesh to scorching flame
And yet, for more defacing would I yearn.
The Powers, principalities, and hosts -
These he had mastered, in his haughty boasts.
IV (The Truth You Hide)
But how, dread Goddess, could you ever find
yourself, so perfect, powerful, in love
with this mere mortal, of the basest kind
Allow him your so precious heart to move?
Ridiculous your protestations vain
Deriding all your haughty laughs, for show
I know that in your heart do you sustain
For me a love as strong as cruelest blow
As strong as mine for you, but how is this
That you, the princess, for the pauper fell
Upon my lowly lips bestowed the kiss
That cast me down into the deepest well?
The answer? Poetry itself, you see
For Gods that curse bestowed so well on me.
V (A Tramp, You Say?)
You feign disinterest, you cast your gaze
Upon those many well-appointed other men
Whose costumed regalia lordly pays,
Flamboyant, spending for my single ten
But though you let them shower you with gifts
Receive their visits, publicly display
Affections where you condescend my thrifts
I know that in your heart a slut, dismayed
Discredits all these purchases bestowed
Demeans herself for selling maidenhood
Within her breast, where girlish virtue glowed
A tree of innocence so proudly stood
Now there is only hatred at yourself
A soul, packed out of reach upon the shelf.
VI (You Give Yourself Away)
How do I know you love me? This is why:
My whole life I have been consumed;
You let me follow you without a cry
Of terror or alarm - you have presumed
to think me worthless, in your haughty schemes
and yet I know you love me most of all
though you could never, in your wildest dreams,
admit unto the world, or self, your thrall
to my unworthy person, beggar chap,
unwealthy flotsam floating in the foam
of dire humanity, discarded scrap
rejected, unwanted, without a home.
These crooked lines enslave you utterly
Your soul they render, willing, unto me.
VII (And now…)
And now, the glance
It was always going to come to this
After all, it’s in the title
And oh, that glance, that merest casting
of knowing eyes upon my depths
an in a finite moment of eternity
A hundred, thousand, million, billion
Cycles of the cosmic self-wheel
Exist for this, my brilliant, precious jewel
An object of all striving, knowing, haunting
Sine qua non of my very breathing
beating, flowing, consecrating
And yet, am I holy? Surely not
At least not on my own, but with you
the sacred lives in our every moment.
VIII (So What?)
And so what? You love me and I,
of course, love you commensurately.
But to be fair, you started the whole thing
with your coy, yet most artful, dramatics.
My obsession began, as they all do,
unexpectedly, and with no fanfair
(other than the dazzle of your stargaze
upon the ripples of my blue lagoon)
I had not expected, nor was I seeking
a new love, or anything like it. My heart,
so tattered, and uncared for, wanted only
to be left alone, to nurse some well-worn wounds.
And now I realize the exact moment
you first fell, utterly, for my subtle charms
“A teacher?” you always repeated, after I
disclosed that education was my passion.
After being so long abused, I had forgotten
what it’s like to recognize The Feeling
in The Other. But now, thanks to you,
I gloriously remember, and have returned.
You seemed so lofty, so far beyond
the reach of some anachronism
like my debted self. How could I ever
expect, or dream, that you’d want me?
But want you do. And how, you ask
do I presume to know? I’ll tell you:
Your breathlessness, you schoolgirl you
“A teacher?” a wise one, you must have asked
So many times, to yourself, in secret,
For if we’re honest, you are still not free
To love me, because you have agreed
to love, and remain, with another.
And your fidelity, despite the odds,
In the face of so many challenges
Is where my true respect begins.
But will not end, without the meeting
Of our lips, our souls, our selves,
In some world-ending cataclysm.
The Wise One says fear not destruction
for it’s Love, remaking all Creation.