Prior Poetics (An Abbasis)

Prior Poetics (An Abbasis)

Imagine, an orphaned infant, genuflecting,
Within the womb of wilderness, naked, poised,
Upon the brink of an age of wandering,
In wordless wondering, begin to cry
In desperation, only to recoil
In fear of its own alien sound, and fall
Prostrate with an ear upturned to hear
Ululations echoing against some distant mountain,
Flood with hope, extend his hand to crawl
To an inarticulate but kindred call.
So a poem sets itself in motion.

What historian could then recall
Which path would chronicle his first inclination?
His travel as inaccessible to reason
As the wandering of a child’s imagination,
His outset was to be as inauspicious as the change of seasons,
His journey confusion in comparison
To a swallow’s perigean migration
Yet not as random as the bee afield.

Across the motley palate of the plain he moved motivelessly,
Pressing in it’s sand his prints, removed unnoticeably
By inland winds upon their seaward journey,
Unfolding in the sky mauve maps of clouds.
A bird above unfurled its call aloud
Which billowed in the light as long as heaven would allow,
Only to fade and fall below unheard.
Although the senses in the child conversed in many senses of the word,
The world without awaited yet a word.

The bird, sole witness to this genesis,
Progressed to the horizon’s recesses anonymous.
The words within the world awaited witness as
A poet’s pages spread upon a desk in idleness.
His eyes were at a daisy’s height to see
Portentous colors of the seeds to be
And hosts of vibrant insects trembling in a sonorous monotony,
Reverberating in his ears as in the chambers of that petalody.
In emulation of them now he hummed,
But fell short of their floral melody.

What geographer can now describe
A land unrolled before him as a scroll before a scribe
Who sits, pen-poised above the blankness, awaiting manuscript?
The newly risen sun looked on behind him.
The shadows of his movements stretching out before him pleased him and enticed him.
He strained to grasp their strange, elusive features,
To understand these alien suggestive creatures.
He reached to touch them but was touched himself amid the sand
By his hand’s shadow and the shadow’s hand.
His arm extended, palm upon the ground,
He found his body’s balance too unsound
To pause and dwell upon the shadow’s gesture
Until he’d drawn his knees beneath him and advanced himself an equal measure.

What philosopher is there to give this question answer?
Can an infant be construed a hero
On pilgrimage in such chiaroscuro
Who is, and is not, author of his actions
But is unconsciously both the creator and beholder of attractions
Which beckon to him in no language but by innuendo
Intimate to him the way in which to go.

The artist, first as artisan, creates
A sentence. As he reads it, it dictates
Succeeding sentences. And he must wait
To see what subtleties he may impose
Upon the language as the poem grows;
And seek perfection only in repose
From composition, repose from artistry;
Stand back as mere beholder, in order to see.

Inland, beyond the littoral, the shore,
In this uncertain wilderness, obscured
In rolling plains which imitate
A moment in the ocean’s attitudes,
The sun and infant moved and, as they moved, composed
Their motions in the shadows as emotions in the spirit are composed.
In a sonnet which would speak to a beloved and addresses but a rose.

Zenith-ward the sun ascended as the infant ambled in the plain.
The plain beneath him was a palimpsest
Of scrawls from every traveler who came
In bygone times upon a journey west,
Converted on their way, to seek a shrine
Within the bosom of the wilderness.
Some said the shrine bestowed upon the faithful youthfulness
While others held that there the deity of ancient wisdom made repose.
And so they travelled, spinning amusing myths along the way,
Traversing half the distance every day.
Dusk would find the shrine within their view,
But dawn would always find it more than one days walk away.
Their myths became a shroud to hide the truth.
The shrine became apocryphal and yet its deity became more real.
A journey somewhere so became a journey for journey’s sake.

Along this path of pilgrimage the infant’s shadow led him unawares
As waves of insects swelled at his approach
And trailed behind him, glinting in his wake,
He was undistracted in his shadow play.
A brother he had found, begotten by the sun and earth;
Child himself sun-sired and earth-begotten.
A shadow sibling is a silent thing,
Thing not even, shade of one unborn;
A pale penumbra of reality.

The sun was now directly overhead.
Returning to the place from which it came,
His shadow fled from him into the plain.
Alone, he looked about him once again,
And at this moment it was by a flood of color that he was attracted.
A cultivated alien within the wilderness
Perhaps descended from a bouquet which a passing pilgrim had discarded
Or fallen from an unrequited lover’s forlorn hand,
A citadel of fragile beauty
Stormed by the barbaric and unruly,
All around besieged by weeds, a flower, held its ground
As would an antique empire in an epic,
Its intricate mosaics yet unsmeared by carnage,
Endure an epoch only to be sacked
By wall-less nomads, smashing art for shard.
A rose had taken root and had endured.
Red petals, delicately folded
About a pensive, orange and yellow bee,
And green leaves framing indigo horizons
Between blue skies and distant purple mountains
Presented to his vision an odd spectrum
Of all the hues in his own countenance.
Fatigue encircled eyes of blue beheld this sight; entranced,
Aged eyes, so out of place within an infant face,
Beneath, a brow now creased in admiration
Of this image, now pinched in trepidation.
These linemants were shimmering about a pallid bruise
Which matched a smear of clay upon his nose
And set in contract pursing, cherub lips
That hinted at a word they could not use.
He craned his neck as if to kiss a face just out of reach
Because the flower’s fragrance drew him,
Drew him as a story draws the teller to its close
While every listener yearns for further speech.
His forehead met the flower as his breath sought out the source.
His inhalations dimmed the odor’s power,
Foolishly, he forced his face beyond the blossom’s stem
To know again that first intensity.
Between his eyes and down his nose the petals passed,
Tickling. Mouth agape, about to laugh,
He grasped the stem. Pain turned the unborn laugh
into a moan which never reached an ear.
For agony now made the moan a scream;
A scream to spread across the rolling plain,
Competing with the shadow of a cloud;
A scream to mute the distant peal of thunder.

“Think, what sound intrigues this gnarled ear?
Is that the mild call on high
Of some winged thing, unlikely to appear?
A stray fowl sending forth it s sigh,
Escaping not my hearing but my eye,
A melancholy bird which haunts my nights
With painful dreams of family and city?
The name I seek. The name eludes my tongue,
Just as the little beasts on which I prey,
Drowsy at the dawn or dusk of day
Or when they are abandoned in love’s play,”

The old man flinched, his hand flashed to his lips.
He gasped mid-sentence and continued,
Hear my footfall and elude my grasp!”
The old man paused and pondered silently,
“How many months since I last spoke aloud?
Now would I ever hear my voice, I vowed,
Lest God afflict me once more with that passion
Of prophecy, which proved to be my ruin”

He voiced these words in something like a croak,
Clad only in a patched and crumbling cloak,
The old man limped, and leaned upon a staff.
His limpid, green eyes danced about his face,
Seeking out the author of the sound,
His glance flew up and all about the clouds.
His eyelids fluttered in the rising wind.
Then, his gaze descended to the ground,
Alighting on what first appeared a mound
Of sod erected as a monument
Which some wayfarer leaves to mark his passage,
His failing eyesight so construed an infant’s naked breast.
The old man drew near and beheld in wonder
This mound of flesh heave with a scream
Which floundered in a second clap of thunder.

“No mound of earth, but flesh, sounds cries”,
He mumbled as he hobbled to a stone beside the child.
He sat, a king athrone before a subject lowered in obeisance.
And with a condescending manner thus consented to an audience.
“Whose child are you?” His only answer, silence.
The old man was confounded by this reticence.
He spoke again, his manner free of pretense.
“My name is Abba.” Filled with innocence,
The child’s eyes met his. He now discerned
The cause of that first utterance he heard.
“Abba!” He declared. “Ba Ba”, the child echoed.
“In truth, you are a baby! Now, your name?”
“A Ba A Ba Ab”, the infant babbled.
Delighted, Abba’s’ old frame shook with laughter.
“You call yourself Baab and it is Baab I shall know you as hereafter.
A name without etymology for one without genealogy.”

Thunder sounded somewhere. As they listened,
The rain, disguised as wind, came,
As it fell upon their heads it christened
An infant, of uncertain parentage, who had no name.
Upon the baby’s brow the water glistened.
The droplets gleamed upon his face like stars beyond a known astronomy.
Abba’s hand erased the smudge of clay
And brushed away from Baab’s lips the carcass of a bee.

With these words, ancient Abba’s tale concluded.
In opposition to him by the fire,
Deliberating what next to inquire,
Young Baab stared into the flames and brooded.
Abba’s patience soon began to tire.
He raised his voice again, and so, intruded
Upon the thoughts of Baab. He alluded
To their silence, hoping to inspire
Another question. “Old age has so dulled
My vision! I am blind in this dim light.
I cannot see you. Tell me, does my sight
Affect also my hearing? Has it lulled
This sense to sleep beside it on this night?
Or have these many words which I have culled
In composition been too often mulled
Above our fire? Do you find them trite?”
Baab,startled by his words, withdrew
His vision from the flames. He watched the face,
Its every feature vivid, yet not trace
Of an expression in that pallor. “You
Have often told the story of the place
In which you found me. Would you give a true,
Account of where I came from if you knew?”
Abba’s visage now revealed a trace
Of melancholy, irony, and dread.
He did not speak of what was on his mind.
“Anciently there was a tongue, declined
With endings as those languages now dead,
Whose similarity made all speech rhyme,
And prose a difficult and somber deed.
Perhaps a language such as this I’d need
If such an answer you would have me find.”
Before Baab’s response could pass his lips
The darkened night air quivered with a sound
Of some small creature, huddled to the ground
Whose fragile voice’s beauty could eclipse
Baab’s thoughts and Abba’s. Neither found
The will to speak. Each placed their finger tips
To still the other and, as something sips
Nectar oblivious, each one drank down
To its last note that precious melody.

(circa 1970)


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