They ascend orderly, in rows,
Remnants of a titan whose battle
Over, fell quietly and slept,
And let his dreams bring lushness
To the earth, and she in gratitude
Eased the tired muscles on‒
To search, to merge with
Sandstone, to forget.
Time loved him, this nameless titan,
Urged the eons to take chisel in hand,
Carve the dark mysteries of his
Spectacle, caress and smooth them
Into tall, fossil encrusted rocks.
Or so I like to believe.
Ages ago a salt lake was here.
Waters receded, found rivers,
Drifted into seas.
I’ve walked where land was absent,
Cement colour avenues, storefronts
Displaying tempura paints on wood.
Evening time, lightly drunk and
Touching skin, but knowing to stop
As we turned the corner. There she
Was, tending her garden overflowing.
In the morning the light is green
Chasing fog from every hollow,
Shepherding fields in the valley,
Blessing cascades of moss.
Our climb to the peak
Is slow, tortuous.
A door ajar leads to the ossuary
Where I trespass into a library
Of skulls and eerie silence.
These inhabitants, once flesh,
I know were loved
And are loved still,
Their bones cleansed on feast days
With basil scented water.
Underneath its domed roof
The katholikon is lit with oil lamps–
Outside, a monk is ordering
Two cases of wine:
“Buy the more expensive brand,” he says.
My kind of monk, I start to think
Until a younger, ruddy one appears.
His beard is trimmed and from his lips
Escapes a voice melodic, clear and rich.
I don’t listen to his hurried speech–
Something about the placement of candles–
I concentrate on sound instead, and timbre.
“It’s wasted,” I mumble.
They sought out this remoteness
To build their fortresses upon,
Cocooned their lives from the anxious
World, till even their deepest wrinklesTook on the suppleness of silk.
Because a Christian he was tortured,
Because a Roman, he was beheaded.
He was torn to pieces by wild beasts,
Then he was beheaded. He was stabbed
Until he nearly bled to death.
A beheading followed.
They all lost their heads. Rejoice,
All were received into the loving arms
Of Christ, for all were pure
And all became saints. Vengeance is
Evident in the archangel’s face:
Dressed for battle, he wields
His sword of punishment.
Beware, is his message. At his feet
Are skeletons aplenty, assurance
Of his wrath. Amid the bloody
Carnage, one woman lies in repose.
Mourners and clouds surround
Her coffin, her son, nearby, is crucified.
Enough. Enough. If I place
My hand upon the walls ablaze with
These ancient renderings, will it get
Soaked in blood? Burned to a crisp?
Centuries later now, his skill and vision
Remain intact, the hagiographer’s:
Remain intact, the hagiographer’s:
Frangos Katelanos was expert in instilling fear.
Time stretches out, sterile,
Myrrh scented but shapeless,
Bereft of meaning and of answer.
I turn my back to the flickering light.
Despite the apprehension evoked,
No depiction upon the chapel walls
Has power enough to hold me.
I have been impious too long.
At the terrace I drink in
What lies beyond the
Charcoal hills I stand upon:
Wheat is ready in the valley, and
Haze draping the distance has left
A clearing along the horizon:
A threshold to augur from,
To gauge how temperamental
They may prove to be,
The variables of my unknown.
My lover stands beside me as we
Observe an aggravating silence.
It’s been delayed, the day’s argument,
And even in this heat
Frigid air hovers in our midst.
Hard to believe there was a time
When warmer temperatures
Took flight between us.
Now we rely on wrath, on fear,
And roll around smashing
What once we loved.
I’ve already chosen to walk
Upon another path, one
Which promises the sinuous,
The solitary and the rough,
One marked with detours, lending few
Opportunities for shelter.
Perhaps it’s a delusion trusting
There is a clearing at
Journey’s end, a welcomed plunge into
A fellow wanderer’s outstretched arms.
Perhaps my clearing is only fiction,
A daydream suspended in a fog.
Still, I’ve started a fire, cradle its flames,
Clear the ash falling below.
As evening creeps in metered stealth
I want the blaze to stay ignited
Ready to warm the infinite,
Unchallenged endlessness of two.