Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Abandoned City (Jan. 11, 2005)

Beneath wide miles
of Guatamalean jungle
sleep the ancient
Mayan cities, palaces
and temple heights
and market squares
all empty, eviscerate,
drowned for centuries
beneath deep seas
of green. No one
quite knows why
these cities emptied
out and disappeared
from history (theorists
suggest overpopulation,
deforestation, disease).
What remains are
elegant and extravagant
ciphers now fast asleep
beneath the jungle’s
riot, human motions
where only stone remains
and only ruin endures.

Southwest of Cornwall
a mile down the North
Sea’s wash toll the merry
bells of Ys, that fabled
town the sea reclaimed
where split ships rest
on the rafters of the
Mermaid Tavern and
the cathedral’s south
entrance is blocked
by two basaltic boulders,
wedged there by Manannan
perhaps, or dropped down
from the surface when
Uranous lost ‘em to the
scythe of Cronos in
that red spume which
passioned forth Venus.

Here in Florida there
are ghost-subdivisions
of half-built houses
soaked in monstrous
sunlight, the properties
sold by scammers to
fools and believers,
the land untenable,
water-logged, inaccessible,
impossible to build on,
much less house,
and so age into
decades of stillborn
waste, roofless grey
timbers souring
back to black, unpaved
roads sprouting veins
of weed, a lone gator
dozing blissfully in
an empty pool this
subdivision’s main resident.

These necropoli attest
to fearful entropies
which riot to ruin,
the vital humor like
some vitiate dragon
who, once ridden to
the extreme, ebbs
to a ghostly emptiness.
I have visited these
ghost-cities in my dream,
quiet miles of towers and
streets which have
lingered empty for
years and millennia
and aeons, no trace
of the hands which
raise these walls or
waged lives in them.
Walked for miles around
the stilled citadel as
through a tomblike
labyrinth, bare even
of the epitaph the
last resident wrote
in blood upon that
lintel she walked
out and forever away.

So too that ghost-bed
you woke me on
in a crash of merry foam
and spray, singling
me out for eternity
and then forever washing
away. Each day I linger
at the memory of that
bed, lost for decades
now in a suburb
I’ll never find again,
the morning light still
etched in every window
like a golden filagree,
one curtain ruffled on
a breeze that froze in
place when you gasped
O Yes -- and then turned
your eyes away and
dove from that blissfully
split bed that was
sinking fast in the deep
blue water of a heart
opened full wide
to love. That bed is here
on every page I sail,
a ghost anchor hauling
my hand across and
down to every abyss
that opened wide
when love left the room.

I’m singing in the loneliest
town of all, amid the
ghastly oghams of a thrall,
the belfries still lucent
with their devil bells,
the streets a carnival
of wreckage form the
life -- whale ribs
and bent harpoons,
bosomy mastheads
from split galleons,
doubloons glinting
from the silt like
stars of a long-
fallen constellation,
necks of guitars poking
out amid ten thousand
whiskey bottles, upended
barstools and every
car to split into the
final tree on the
last mile to home:
In that city there’s
an unceasing blizzard
of spectral carnage
tumbling from above --
bits of flesh dropped
from the ravening
of desire, torn silk
tatters of your underwear,
poem after poem after
poem lost to the tide
which bears every curve
and smash of you
but cannot ever answer
my voice. It echoes
off every empty wall
and balustrade of
that city which you
abandoned lives ago
when I asked you for my heart
and you smiled and whispered
O No


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