Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Very Old Poem

Source of the woodcut 
 FROM THE BEST OF CARACOA. "The caracoa was a war vessel plying the waters off Mindanao and the Moluccas in the 16th century. The rowers stayed close to the hull, while the warriors stood with their spears on a platform. The poet sat alone at the far end of the boat, manning the rudder. He was neither rower nor warrior, yet he decided where the prow should point. His own thoughts knifed through the immense sea of his solitude, though the waves kept him company. In him was rower and warrior; he himself was a double-decked vessel of grace and irony. He was far back, yet he provided direction. At times the caracoa lost its way. No matter. The sea would still be there, and the shoals would still be duly recorded." 

86 Proof  (The Steersman Sings Before A Skirmish)

I have seen their kind before:
they who kill slowly
with the licking of their tongues.

They flaunt their blades before my wounds;
my bones, their arrows' perfect prey; 
they shape their baits for my curved assault.

Dipping a foot into every pool, kin of rain,
they pick on buds where blood occurs,
hurling laughter at the fork of my root.

Cells explode to cells, my mind's swelling
will not define the theme of skulls, the inner scream;
I am a pearl sleeping in the hymns of boulders.

I drink unknowing where water springs from,
what sap of earth a stone reveals;
their dance are the lamps in my hood of oblivion.

They chant of chrism on the palms of saints,
to salve the tongue, the gleaming cusp of desire,
the tree waiting for a miracle to cleave the land.