Aurora and Tithonis

This is the ikon that shows them, side by side,
joined at the hips, the head, sharing everything
but their souls; I could tell at once
that these were some kind of monsters
with which it would be necessary to contend. They laughed,
however, exhibiting their true selves
for just one instant. And then I knew:
They were molecular simulations,
DNA flashing subliminally on the board,
like old coins cascading flashily over some super falls,
encyclopedic bits of ancient information
developing in the deepest darkest hippocampal resesses
Oh, I flipped
in abject terror when those photons struck,
and stuck there like a glue amidst the rods and cones: O Maiden! O Man!
or God knows what! How, in heaven’s name,
shall I address you?
A glance.
They did some sort of dance.
I wept for humanity’s sake, its futile chances. Their legs were like vines,
and intertwined. Like twisting Maenads in an Orphic Bacchanal.
I watched the tree leaves turn, from gold to black, to a kind of ash.
The air froze solid. Below zero absolute
another world appeared, as if by chance.
It swam, like salmon, against time’s current stream.
Heads rolled. An axe flew free. Trunks
of tall trees fell, slow motion-like, through mental space,
and sloughed, slipped, bebogged; became at once
the beginnings and the endings of a race.
Who knew the sound of guns? We lined
them up against a wall, and spattered blood.
Guilt and innocence. Innocence and guilt.
The crimes continue, nonetheless.
They coyly smile for each camera’s flash.
And then they sacrifice a bird.
For us. A stupid bird.
We sit cross-legged on our stools: stools for Kings; stools for fools.
We gird our loins with lampshades made of skin.
A time to wait; a denouement to anticipate,
but the labyrinth stretches onwards like a grid.

This is a time to wait.

So Sing. It is your right: You are gods and goddesses;
Shout, above the noise of tram and cars,
and passing helicopters overhead.
Raise your voices ’til they’re hoarse;
and overshout that gibbering crowd, those suits and ties,
close-shaven primates with delusive traits,
those so-called scientists who implicitly know
they have the most exclusive line
on cosmic etiologies and the fates,
sealed as tightly in their seal-skin coats from Searle
as that Switzer Ice-Man in his glacial pearl.
Like fossils before their time,
base pairs unchanged
they cannot evolve,
cannot be part of what’s to come.
O, may you never know
when you are beat, when all you’ve got
ahead of you is bog;
you may never know, until it’s too late
to titilate your cells,
to mutate them all into something new or weird.
Who is that whistling in the wind
(is it you, or is it me?) wound up
for winding down, ostensibly ready
for the Marathon, who side
by side by side, like rolling dice,
are ready to jog the entire course,
each struggle a fight to stay ahead,
each nose imagining its winning thrust?
On the other hand, perhaps we are starting to devolve.

How long do we have to wait
until we hear the trombone’s blare, and ukeleles in an endless strumming,
until the tom-tom sections of the local band
percuss our ears, and its baritone chorale
penetrates each fragile bone with humming?
How long before we hear THIS music of the spheres?

How is it now
that we can so easily apply
that apt and homo-sapient ingenuity,

to cut and paste, to cut and mend and bend
each microlength of telomere,
and without an ioticum of waste
make applications of telomerase:
thus play the game of genes with perspicuity,
and live an extra year, a saving grace,
with monkey kidney, or turkey spleen,
and live in luxury without the fear
we’ll be undercut, or laid aside….
while all the while, wherever else and when,
there are children who die, through no fault of their own, of AIDS,
and starvation
walks each continent
with a grimacing smile? Oh,
something about that’s obscene.

Listen! We’ve taken
in the Trojan Horse, and therein
we dwell

That is the sign: a machine that hears, records:
the countless conversations with which we fill
our dining dives and our cocktail bars.
No hair cloths here. No sense of clutter, like in the East.
No sere, desert beast, nor scary moans to disturb our sleep.
Our gardens are finally cleared
of stones, and that which flows is more
a cider than a wine, though it makes us high.
There are no negatives in this world of ours.
Everything, but everything, is peachy plus.
So Sing O Bacchus and celestial Ceres!
We’ll dedicate this: at least one meal.
For you we’ll pluck
the turkey’s gibbet from its flesh; for you this feast
in which
the ramifications of the years
will echo to the moon and back.
For both of you we’ll light a log and spin
a weave; we’ll clothe our walls
with tapestries of sound and sight,
and reams of fact to compensate
for our very lack of what is true, or right.

This then’s the way the tale proceeds:
What you wish for you may receive,
and what you get, to your regret,
You may imagine
you would have wished.
Tithonis, a kind of hero, for example,
thought his stars were more than ample;
and so he pushed his luck.
It was like waiting for a flush,
but more like being the winner
of some really major wager.
You remember him, so long ago,
standing on the redoubtable walls of Troy
beside his brother,
who was king, and thinking, thinking,
“I’ve almost got it all.”
And then it came, as if
the treasure were his by birth.

Hunting early,
he felt a glow, a touch
upon his lips, a rising
in the East, and then a thrust
of warmth, and his heart was full.
All too swiftly he was in love
with this personification of the dawn.
So, when he ran,
all shadows fled, like prey
with nowhere to hide, and like a deer,
full-blooded, young, he flew into the sun,
And Aurora was there beside.
His leap was like a leap of faith.
His cry of joy (or was it surprise?) was like an echo in the wind.
Mountains rose, verdant valleys spread.
And what most his eyes observed, absorbed,
he made his bride; and so he ran
from civilization’s discontent.
And Aurora was there beside.
His eyes her eyes caressed.
Too soon he was consumed,
obsessed. Whatever it is you have
you think you will forever own.
And Tithonis was not the one to analyze,

as long as what he thought, he thought was true.
For now, however, the hand was there to help,
and if his missile so slightly swerved,
she’d change its flight, and make
it right. So it may therefore be observed
that no man had a truer mate
while Aurora ran by his side.

Soul of the morning
Sound of the light
This is the meaning
of endless delight.
As long as the sun
will rise in the East
she leaps with the feeling
of a delicate feast.
Though fauna and flora
will change with the day
the lovely Aurora
will still be at play.
What she sees in Tithonus
is another bright toy
which has devoted its Reason
to each variety of season,
whose totality of emotion
serves her absorption of joy.
She’ll therefore run with Tithonis
dance with Tithonis,
as long as his will
to keep moving, keep laughing,
and dancing, remains with him still.
Such is the attribute
that this goddess cannot refute:
Blind passion is what makes her flash;
the race’s meaning is in the final dash.

Understand then, that enemies are not hard to find.
If they are not actually in the nest
they are surely close at hand:
so that of better is often best;
that of fine, sublime,
and the wreck of good, is the perfect-est.

Thus now he saw that in between
her world and his,
there sharp wiry thorn-things swung;
barbed wires hung, as inappropriate
as decorations out of season,
thin as innuendos,
tenuous as a spider’s web.
He saw that Time would take
him on the fly, and like
a cormorant with fish,
would have its meal. The play
would end. He’d die, while she’d
be born again each day.

His heart, at first a feather-weight,
grew awkward, odd, ischemic,
grey as late autumn weather,
sharply disparate in character, sort of anemic,
as sedimentary and pulseless as a stone.
Aurora, goddess that she was,
felt its heaviness,
and pled his case before the gods, her peers.
In some kind of court, where even jesters
may have their way, Apollo
was the advocate
for his daughter’s mate. He swayed
that jury with his arguments, jerked
their heartstrings
’til they complied. He sort of won. When done, they ruled
Tithonis immortal.
So there! He’d made it,
he thought,
through that essential portal.
Now I have it all;
I have it all.

So how many days must pass?
When night is done
we see the forest: Achaians
trampled on the shore,
churned seas to foam, sent their Wooden Horse
to play its game.
Beginnings and ends.

They tore down the walls
and set the streets ablaze.
They made a mound that the world forgot;
and then they left.
The people scattered
like cracked, brown leaves, reduced
to dusty fragments in the wind.

Tithonis stayed, and played
the peasant with Aurora,
hunted until his hands grew stiff,
his eyes too dim
to see to kill. He tilled
the soil. Ate roots.
When the days were dull
she did not appear.
Her reasons for wanting him near
were not now so clear. And anyway,
the world is wide,
and many a land
needs a dawning bride.
People, like plants, soon wilt.
If not weather that does them in,
there’s always some pest
that works its way into the cells,
and eats its fill. Aurora now
would say, as if too sad, the Earth, it tilts,
and I, perforce, must journey onwards to the West.
She went. Sailed out on some big ship. Did not return.

Tithonis thought,
there’s more to life than not to die:
Like old encyclopedias, full
of feeling, but obsolete,
whose pages, browned, are more like rust:
brittle, unreadable,
you come away, somewhat impressed, but uninformed.
A vague sense there is he can’t repress,
that this kind of living is not so great.
He shrugs. I’ll make the best of it, he thinks.
But that’s not so.

Not so;
For Time comes scratching like a cat.
And like we said: The Earth, it tilts.
Volterra blows.
The Romans come. Then go.
The bay by Ephesus gets filled with silt.
Populations shift. They move from shore to ship like rats.
The Empire falls to Turks.
The Viennese resist.
In the West they rebuild Rome.

And in Coney Island there is a nursing home
where wretched oldsters sit, each wracked
with some internal pain, and twisted
like a tattered rag;
where one such as Tithonis is skin and bone,
his body sagged,
his eyes like dusty windows
that look
opaquely out on weary streets.
The games are stilled.
The engines of joy reverb no more.
The Cyclone’s cars have been sold for scrap,
and Luna Park sells no more dreams.
How much can one remember to forget?
How much information can you store before you lose?
This mind, these eyes, from the universe are separate.
A cataract of floating film is in between;
And for that alone, and much much more,
this one has been condemned, and sent
up to some Attica
where in solitary confinement for the years,
he must wait in silence for the bell.

There is no end to this.
Who buys must pay the Devil
for his due.
Who has not scanned for ships
though the ocean’s empty?
Wisps of mahogany smoke
rise imaginary as daggers,
stabs from the heart at earth’s center.

We searched the tea leaves ’til they dried.
There is no grail. Nor ought
there ever to have been one.