Category Archives: Poetry by Zireaux

Tuesday Poem: “Song of Towers: The Ass from Leningrad”

'I mean those spheres / that every man alive reveres...'

‘I mean those spheres / that every man alive reveres…’

‘A soldier met my Noorya; chanced
to hear her sing. A brooding lad
of twenty (home in Leningrad),
he fell, at once, in love, entranced
with Noorya’s voice; as well, no doubt,
with her dark eyes, her sultry pout,
those lambent violet lips; and – let’s
be honest here – we can be sure
that he, like me, desired to pet,
to kiss, to suck those soft, mature,
and shapely orbs; I mean those spheres
that every man alive reveres
when perky, plump (in Turkmen, “stacked”),
and clipped and filed and red-shellacked

and in a sandal’s row arrayed.

Of course, our brooding Bolshy tried
to mask this concupiscent side
of his desire; and in the shade
of Noorya’s brow he’d read a book
to her. And she would sometimes look
at him. A page of Turgenev, he
would recite (from Fathers and Sons).
And often, quoting Chernyshevsky,
he’d ask my darling – “What’s to be done?”

“About?” I’d interrupt his teaching.

“About mankind. His overreaching.
His violent nature, lust for war,
his wrath toward things one should adore.”

“Excuse me, Comrade Ass.” The fellow’s
name was Asarov. “What sort
of things have you in mind?”

                                                           “In short,
my brother,” he’d say, “I mean the yellow
stone church, the garden arbors, Spring’s
ecstatic nightingales – the things
of simple country life. Why must
we swap the willowed ponds and trilling
larks for tanks and filth and dust?”

Said I: “A chance to make a killing?”

“Aw brother” – he used this stock appellative
as if he really were my relative;
and I was Noorya’s kin; and she,
my singing love, his bride to be.

“You see this face” – and here his fingers
stroked my darling’s brow. She eyed
his chest, his shouldered gun, then sighed
and seemed to faint. “If I could bring her
to Russia, brother, I’d unbind
these slender ankles, wrists — what kind
of cretins cuff such pretty arms!
Then we could see if she’d resist
the tender tendrils of my charms.”

He smiled as the hookah hissed
and burbled in my perfumed tent.

“More whisky, please,” he said.

                                                                     I went
directly to mother, and whispered: “Quick,
let’s feed this Ass some arsenic!”‘

…tbc
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Tuesday Poem: “A Troubled Hush”

'...that concrete flower / rose into a long-stemmed tower."

‘…that concrete flower / rose into a long-stemmed tower.”

‘You know, Arcady, what I most dreaded
— and most admired – those years ago
when I first came to Auckland? Below
a pink sky, our airport shuttle threaded
the rolling urban hills which lay
around the southern motorway.
Then as we neared the city, a weird
design appeared: A massive clam
with steely javelin spired – or speared;
or like those crowns of old Siam
that dancers wear, it seemed to us.
Then slowly, from our speeding bus,
with stamen stiff, that concrete flower
rose into a long-stemmed tower.

It rose! It rose! It drove its spike
into the sky. New Zealand, in
brochures we’d seen, had always been
an undeveloped place, less like
a country than some shrubbery
or parkland in the south-most sea;
a place unspoiled by vain ambitions.
But then — that high-rise bayonet!
I’m not a man of superstition,
Arcady, yet nor will I forget
how seeing heaven’s abdomen
impaled that way (a stab-omen,
your might say, or evil tropo-spear),
did prick and poison me with fear.

You ask: What prompted my foreboding?
Let me explain: Back during the Russian-
Afghani war, the sudden concussion
that followed screaming MiGs unloading
their half-ton vacuum bombs would cause
all time to stop. The birds would pause
in mid-air. The breeze would still. One’s mind
would marvel at this troubled hush.
The world would seem to stutter, rewind,
then try again; until the crush
of time became too much for it
and all Afghanistan would split
in half: the dead, the living – while you
remained compressed between the two.

It was within these sudden blinks
of mute eternity – these lulls,
these gaps, these eerie intervals —
that Noorya’s words grew most distinct.
And as the ripest fruits are lost
by misplaced snows or ill-timed frosts,
so too those unexpected calms,
in which my Noorya’s vocals filled
the shockwaves of those Russian bombs,
congealed my blood and froze — or chilled
at least – my loins. “What rises, falls,”
she’d sing. Gotmek the wyşka. For all
ambition ends in pain. Achievement
births its rhyming twin: Bereavement.’

He looked distressed, Sayeed, and spoke
no more than day. But when we awoke
the following morn, his mood was cheerful
his mouth revived, his words less fearful.
His song would prick the long cold hours.
You’ll hear it next: “The Song of the Towers.”

…tbc
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Tuesday Poem: “The World Inverted: A Prophecy” by Zireaux

Qutub Minar in Delhi: ‘…gotmek the wyşka – a phallic slur we / Turkmen know well. It means: “devour / the minaret,” or “fell the tower.”‘

Sayeed continues his story…

‘Of demons (dow) her lyrics spoke.
Of dark Aladdin’s cave from where
great sharks would fly, metallic Furies,
enormous monsters of the air
who’ll gotmek the wyşka – a phallic slur we
Turkmen know well. It means: “devour
the minaret,” or “fell the tower.”
Now, wait. I know what you’re thinking, Arcady.
The raving words of a mad slave-lady.

But no! She wasn’t mad. She’s not
mad now. My Noorya simply knew
the secrets of this world and through
her rants deciphered nature’s plot.
She sang of far-off islands, yes!
Demesnes where men in women’s dress
or male-resembling females reign.
A new – or tozey noohh (she mewed
the English, noohh) – unfairly gained,
noohh-land, noohh-world, with strange noohh food
which cooks so quickly when it’s set
in windowed cubes to pirouette
on lighted stages (yenil sahna);
noohh skies, noohh scapes, nooh flora and fauna.

And billboards tall as Qutub Minar
depicting woeful adolescents
in the nude; and incandescent
gambling parlors, closet-cars
that rise and fall a hundred meters
to eerie music; and groups of eaters
who dine with strange utensils, plates
of porcelain, daffodil wine, in seats
with sea-views, banquets that rotate
above the clouds! She sang of streets
athrong with teaming migrants, places
where every race of person races
from shop to shop – then stops, or stalls,
to pluck some money from the walls.

Of faces carved in filigreed
designs, she sang. Of men who feast
on men; and birds whose wings have ceased
to work for them. And sometimes she’d
divine a distant country cursed
with land that rumbles, boils and bursts
beneath a people so obsessed
with flashing totems, hand-held charms,
metallic idols which are pressed
against their ears, that no alarm
is felt; they do not hear the sounds
that boom and pulsate all around
just like – but far more dreadful, stronger –
a lover’s heart that beats no longer.

She spoke of desperate people throwing
themselves off precipices, diving
from highest bridges — yet surviving;
their downward progress somehow slowing,
stopping, even, Noorya claimed,
reversing direction, upward-aimed.
Bir dünýä tersi. “The world inverted.”
What could I make of her strange song?
All life bidüzgün, corrupted, perverted
by telbe myrat, desires gone wrong.

“Our lives,” she sang, “will be destroyed
by petty passions ill-employed.
By trash, by junk, by fleeting thrills
that over-cost and under-fill.”’

…tbc
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Tuesday Poem: “When Capture Serves as Rapture’s Cause” by Zireaux

commissioned  a clan of wrestlers, body guards  and hired guns to make her feel  more safe

‘…commissioned / a clan of wrestlers, body guards / and hired guns to make her feel / more safe…’

And yet despite all this – despite
the joy we gave (and felt in giving),
the love received, the easeful living
we made, the fact – to mother’s delight –
we soon acquired an air-conditioned
sedan for her to ride in, commissioned
a clan of wrestlers, body guards
and hired guns to make her feel
more safe, the fact we even barred
the bus’s windows, locked and sealed
the doors each night so we’d be sure
our fortune (Noorya) slept secure
within – despite all this, indeed,
despite the sense that we’d been freed

from penury and risk, that we
could bribe officials now, obtain
convincing passports, entertain
both old and new-crowned royalty,
receive – some six or seven times –
awards from DREAM (Dept. of Rhymes,
Emotions, Artful Musings), sing
for tourists, foreign dignitaries,
directors of movies, visiting
jihadists, church groups, missionaries,
hippies in Volkswagen buses – despite
the grand chateau and ambient site
of forest-edged, lacustrine lawn
amidst the hills near Sheberghan

and where our choral cavalcade
would holiday (what beauty, Arcady!
The hot afternoons beside the shady
swimming pond, our meals arrayed
on giant rugs with servants to chase
the monkeys away!) – a magic place,
a Dome of Pleasure, a Palace of Song –
despite all this success – and so
much more ahead! – something was wrong.

Perhaps it was the undertow
one feels when riding buoyant waves.
Or maybe thoughts of Noorya gave
us pause; for shouldn’t it give one pause
when capture serves as rapture’s cause?

If you’re not palpably, scalpably poor,
with dirty clothes, and nearly dead,
then Fate locks cross-hairs on your head.

But there was something else far more
disturbing, Arcady. Something even
now I’d rather not believe in,
out here, on this tiny isle, unkempt
and hungry, dispossessed of hope
or anything else that might just tempt
the world to fix us in its scope;
but which I can’t forget: The way
her cries (which didn’t, at first, convey
a meaning, as such, or something sensible)
began to sound more comprehensible.

Priestess of Delphi (1891), by John Collier.

Priestess of Delphi (1891), by John Collier: ‘…her glazy gazes / seemed perceptive…’

I mean to say, that slowly her wailing
began to make sense. Those languid lips,
serenely-lined (though veil-eclipsed
and often gagged) were soon exhaling
wisps of words, aphasic phrases;
and now, as well, her glazy gazes
seemed perceptive, as if what she
was singing was something we call haydys
in Turkmen – in English: prophecy.

And while our troupe performed their latest
songs and I half-napped amongst an
eruption of pillows (or laps of drunken
nymphs) inside my private tent,
or lounged with rose and olive scents

on shaded ottomans behind
our colonnaded palace porch,
I heard her words. I felt them scorch
the happy arbors of my mind,
and cloud my future with their smoke.

…tbc
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Tuesday Poem: “Chasing its Serenading Glitter” by Zireaux

'...our comet-coach... / , ...with dangling ornaments arrayed / around its rims, celestial made / and often tailed with children chasing /  its serenading glitter....'

‘…our comet-coach… / …with dangling ornaments arrayed / around its rims, celestial made / and often tailed with children chasing / its serenading glitter….’

Sayeed continued…

‘We rode, we toured, performed, inveigled
our meals and paid the driver well.
He bought a coat with huge lapels
and hired some cleaning boys, bedraggled
barefoot, lean, yet proudly dressed
in bellhop suits with fanning crests
atop their orange pugrees (what you
in the West call “turbans”). He painted the bus
a stunning, vibrant blue – a blue
as minty-cool and luminous
as Noorya’s burka when she’d sit
up top, above the windshield, lit
up by the morning’s ginger glow
and crooning to a crowd below.

That light! That morning sun! It seemed
throughout the day to follow us,
our comet-coach, our nebu-bus,
festooned, beribboned, tinsel-streamed,
with dangling ornaments arrayed
around its rims, celestial made
and often tailed with children chasing
its serenading glitter.

                                              We’d blaze
across the abstract earth, replacing
antique browns and bitter grays
with freakish prismatic rays of sound;
a streak of iridescence crowned
with instruments, and one blue gem
in front — my wife — inspiring them.

We rarely – no, never did decline
an invitation to perform.
We played in rain, in thunder storms,
in sleet and heat. We played in shrines,
in stadiums, for jugglers, dancers,
mystics, shamans in a trance, or
even once (I’ve sworn to keep
the place a secret, but near Kabul),
we lulled a baby prince to sleep.
To every type of mosque and school
we’d come, to every army camp
we’d drive, or sometimes park and tramp
up to some mountain rebel cave
to sing beside a martyr’s grave.

'...cinemas, picnics, wedding parties, / bloody games of Oglak-tartis /  (or “snatch the goat”)...'

‘…cinemas, picnics, wedding parties, / bloody games of Oglak-tartis / (or “snatch the goat”)…’

To camel fairs near Kandahar,
and poppy fields where tribal chiefs
would meet, and Mazar-e-Sharif’s
resplendent parks, and arms bazaars,
and cinemas, picnics, wedding parties,
bloody games of Oglak-tartis
(or “snatch the goat”) – to village zones,
remote locales, where we would score
the weekly movie on a lone,
anemic TV set, which poor
malnourished crowds had gathered round
(a chair for it; for them, the ground);
or where we sang for traveling actors
performing plays of dubious fact or

fantastical fiction, or both together,
with devils, witches, serpents, jinns
cavorting with mock Americans
in heels, lorgnettes, sunglasses, feather
boas, gloves and so forth – Arcady,
I tell you! In every trip we made we
found new life, new notes to play,
new compositions, states of mind,
new reasons to sing, new formulae
of beauty. Our bus became a kind
of pollinating thing, a humming
bird, a twitting lorry, thrumming
and nectar-sipping, tune to tune,
story to story, bloom to bloom.’

…tbc
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Tuesday Poem: “The Whirligig of Noorya’s Screams” by Zireaux

A manually spun Ferris Wheel of the kind described by Mr. Sayeed. Photo by Richard Alois.

A manually spun Ferris Wheel like the one described in the poem by Mr. Sayeed. Photo by Richard Alois.

‘Around the umbral shale, a dress
— with pink and purple thistles gemmed —
of courtly mountains river-hemmed
and cloudy wigs a powdered mess,
we gamely rode. Our flautist followed
on foot, but soon the landscape swallowed
his shrinking shape behind us. Later,
that eve, we met again, five miles
outside a twinkling Herat, where raiders
of Persian stock (quite nice, all smiles,
and courteous to Noorya) accosted
us gently, then stole our horses.

                                                                Exhausted,
we made our beds and ate our meal
in the wind-rocked cars of an old Ferris Wheel.

What noise, what noise that night composed!
Our rickety wheel a tambourine
for wild Aeolus to jangle between
my Noorya’s squeals. While contra-posed
to this, the swaying siren of
our piper’s flute (one cradle above
my mother’s, two from mine); and soon
there was more – more noise! A glumly yakking
harmonium; the strum and croon
of a zither; a pair of thumbs attacking
a tabla – our great shrill-mill, our gyre,
our rumpus ring, our compassed choir,
our disc of discord, so to speak,
gave symphony to Noorya’s shrieks.

What strange, what strangled sounds! A riot
of mangled music, notes like blades
upon a monstrous grindstone played.
By dawn our whirligig was quiet
yet filled with riders, musicians, like monks
in blankets wrapped, each in his bunk
– or wooden seat with metal bar –
ensconced in sleep.

                                             We travelled then,
my mother, Noorya, me and our
new troupe, an un-looped group of ten,
atop a tilting bus between
the camel-colored hills, through green-
lipped valleys, fertile mouths agape
with rippled rows of pear and grape.

Alfalfa fields; and apricot
in leafless tangled sprawls; and squalls
of dust cavorting round the walls
of some old fortress lost in thought.
We rode, we rode, and when our dour,
intemperate driver stopped each hour
for absinth tea, or when repairs
were needed, or army troops detained
us half a day, our band would blare!
Our drums would thrum! And Noorya’s pained
and plangent cries would slowly rise
– a kite of grief, a flight of sighs –
into the wild and frosty winds,
all strung to earth by violins.’

Sayeed looked dreamy here; the night
assuaging him with milky light.

…tbc
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Tuesday Poem: “On Meeting the Flautist” by Zireaux

The Flute Player by Marc Chagall

The Flute Player by Marc Chagall

‘By noon we searched our gear, unpleated
an old and flimsy map. My mother
calmly scanned it. We ate another
pomegranate; while Noorya, seated
behind me, shrouded in blue, repelled
our fruits.

                                 By dusk, a red-hot weld
of clouds dripped sparks of luminescence
upon the distant dale to mark
a village. We heard the sound of peasants
relating stories in the dark;
and further off, diluted in
the crickets’ hum, harsh violins
and drums and squabbling tambourines
disputed what a marriage means.

Then to Mashhad we travelled. A bright
and bristly sky – the flakes of snow,
on touching down, would quickly stow
their parachutes of white. Each night
my wakeful mother watched for spies,
assassins, hints of some surprise
attack. Whatever trace of guilt did
niggle her, convinced her, too,
one’s fellow cutthroats shouldn’t be jilted.
They’ll track you down. They’ll torture you.
And Noorya slept all tied and twisted
in scarves, her hands concealed, a fisted
bundle underneath her chin,
her mouth held in a scarf-bound grin.

So cold it got! So cold! Much colder
even than this cold rock, the breeze
from these refrigerating seas
which keep us fresh, Arcady.

                                                                  I told her,
“Mother, we need to rest, find shelter,
get warm.”

                                 Some fear, however, compelled her
to propel our horses on;
some angst aroused a new suspicion:
a merchant’s smirk, a soldier’s yawn,
a drunken minstrel’s disposition
when singing of the local ghosts.
While Noorya, tightly trussed, was most
distrusted by mother:

                                                    “Not even gagging
will stop a woman’s tongue from wagging.”

“But mother,” I begged. “My Noorya wastes
and withers away. Just hear her groans
and gasps; and how, in dreadful tones,
she shrieks her name, as if, misplaced
in time, or in her reason lost,
she can’t locate herself.”

                                                                  We crossed
into Afghanistan and slept
inside a wreck of rusted truck,
which several months before had leapt
beyond a highway’s bend and struck
a passing riverbed a thousand
feet below.

                                 That morning we roused, then
we dressed amidst the crocodilian
surface of rocks which by the billions

lined the winter-slimmed and mountain-
shadowed stream. Who’s there? Beside
our fallen lorry’s painted hide
(a mural of courtyards, neon fountains,
palm trees, huts, electric trains
and one enormous gorilla, planes
encircling his head, a busty, black-haired
film-star in his fist), we saw
a stranger huddled in furs and lacquered
in daybreak’s dew.

                                                      We helped him thaw
and found a weapon in his suit
of rugs and rags and wraps. A flute,
alas; a pipe of hollowed bone
which he, throughout the night, had blown.’

…tbc
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Tuesday Poem: “Noorya” or “A Peg of Hazelnut Liqueur” by Zireaux

Prometheus Bound, by Peter Paul Rubens, 1618.

Prometheus Bound, by Peter Paul Rubens, 1618.

‘And sometimes…or rather, once. Her name
was Noorya. Not mild or docile, like dozens
of girls we saved. Dull-witted she wasn’t.
But rather shifty in her shame,
farouche, perplexing, graceful, grave,
with nocturne eyes that cast their gaze
toward some akin-imagined star;
her features sharp and delicate, fair
as violet-tinted nenuphar
in dusky pond or swampy lair.

A blue-eyed deputy of mine,
a Salyr bloke named Nur, designed
to steal her from me, thinking she
adored him, so mad in love was he.

Now understand, he was courageous
and strong, this man, yet thoughtful, shy.
affectionate. Like a brother I
considered him. The nineteen pages
of his importunate letter, which quivered
one morning atop my slippers (delivered
by a blushing Noorya), deftly
netted each criminal thought, each erring
event that had stolen his heart – “a theft re-
gretted, my lord.” He wrote of “caring
for Noorya more than himself.” His love
for her was like “the sprouting of
my beard, my hair” – a thing he could
“shave off, great Prince, but not for good.”

“A thing that uninvited came.
When Noorya said she loved me, too,
I knew that I must write to you,
my lord, requesting her hand. Our names,
you must admit, good Master — so near
are they in sound, that when you hear
them spoke, you’d swear that fate betrothed
us at our birth! I know the sort
of man you are, your greatness. You loathe
deceit but honor honest reports.
And hence, my Lordship, I’ve here confessed
the truth. No more, no less.”

                                                                Impressed
at Nur’s good sense, I let decorum
prevail; to make things easy for him.

He chose the “Orchestra Pit” (a ditch
nearby, some forty meters deep,
in which the flies around a heap
of corpses strummed their strident pitch)
when given three options: “Tied upon
a rock for vultures to ravage;” “Drawn
and quartered by horses;” “Premature burial
in burning sand.”

                                                 My Noorya, possessed
by troubling trances, dreams, vicarial
visions of things to come, confessed,
alas, to fearing for my survival.

“Nur’s only crime is being your rival
in love,” she spat, her blood-rimmed eyes
serene, unmoving. “The men will rise

against you, surely.”

                                                     I said I knew
my men: “Their minds are tame. Their will
for mutiny mild.”

                                                 “If Nur is killed,”
she vowed, “I’ll hurl myself into
that putrid pit and there will lie
with him forever.”

Martyrdom of Saint Hippolytus by unknown artist, 15th century. "Drawn / and quartered by horses..."

Martyrdom of Saint Hippolytus by unknown artist, 15th century. “Drawn / and quartered by horses…”

                                                 “But darling, why
allow such drifting thoughts to pilot
reason’s course? I won’t be harmed,
I promise you” – yet when my smile met
poor Noorya’s eyes, opaquely charmed
with somber premonitions, I knew
I couldn’t dispel her fears.

                                                        “You’ll do
as I instruct you,” mother consoled me
when I recounted what Noorya had told me.

My mother’s cure?

                                                 The eve of Nur’s
appointed death, some fifty men
and I had finished supper when
– a peg of hazelnut liqueur
upraised – I stood and…

                                                         “Nur, old friend,
in poetry we oft emend
a faulty line, which once, in other
times felt right to us; and thereby show
mistake and wisdom both. My brother,
to your soft honesty I know
my reflex was too rough, too rash;
so let’s cross out my error, let’s dash
that stupid sentence.”

                                                 I’d done precisely
as mother had counseled: “Approach them nicely.

Put enemies at ease. Becharm
your men with fey contrition.”

                                                                    I smiled
at them, a grownup to a child,
and pledged that Nur would meet no harm.
And when I granted this reprieve,
what toasts they sang, what songs!

                                                                             Relieved,
my thankful Noorya, having many
nights refused, agreeably slept
beside me that night; with few, if any,
suspicions. And when my mother crept
into our curtained chamber and wrapped
– and bound – a rug around my trapped
night-angel, so pacific were her
dreams, our woolen sack didn’t stir her.

And when her muffled screams, at last,
gave voice to the convulsing worm
that was our bundled rug, held firm
with knotted twine, my men were fast
asleep – especially Nur, unfaithful
friend, who’d reached, no doubt, the wraith-ful
end of sleep, to put it tastefully
(mother’s poison having persuaded
his sleep to snuff his life).

                                                        Hastily,
we left unseen, unheard, evaded
the dogs, and to my moonlit horse
strung kicking Noorya. We set our course
to Pollux’s star, due south. By dawn
we’d crossed the hills into Iran.’

…tbc
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Tuesday Poem: “The Severed Head of Some Old Statesman” by Zireaux

Salome with the head of St. John the Baptist, Andrea Solario, 1506-1507.

Salome with the head of St. John the Baptist, Andrea Solario, 1506-1507.

‘You make no utterance, good Robinson.
Nor need you. Of all the men to whom
I’ve told this tale, not one has fumed
less foully here than me – not one!
Perhaps your thoughts, my friend, are tuned
to private channels – or worse, cocooned
in mad and muddled silence! – and you
hear nothing of my tale. Why even
then I know, great man, that you’d be true
to justice, and “eyes-for-eyes” believe in.

How beautiful my mother stood
in jeweled dress and armored hood;
and O how gratefully I kneeled
before her, and for her sword appealed.

This time I did not fail to slice
the sallow sagging throat of he
whose ulcers my poor bride-to-be
had died from. My sword was swift, precise,
and loosed the fluid of his labored
life; and as I drew my saber
back, now crimson-rimmed, exultant
cheers of fifty men (plus one
loud ululating mother) vaulted
round the ocher, orange and dun
dimensions of the cave and crashed
in one immense, galvanic flash
of glory in my drunken mind.
Such glory never again I’d find.’

Sayeed grew quiet, then slowly returned
to where he every night sojourned
upon a plank of wood, his bed,
with glory swimming in his head.

Next dawn, he carried on…

‘For eighteen months we camped within
those brittle Kopeh Daghs, the scree
and scrub and wild cherry trees
and hawks with circling discipline
forever polishing the glazed
and glossed azure. And on the days
we couldn’t endure another pot
of prune and weasel soup, we’d raid
the northern streets of Ashgabat
for jams and sweets and cold orangeade
from kitchen refrigerators, and I
– now loyal “Bandit Prince” to my
“Queen Mum” – would bring the severed head
of some old statesman who had wed

a bonny, tearful, illiterate wench
still soft with adolescence. Crusaders,
we were, with weapons our persuaders!
(How well disposed are men when drenched
in their own blood).

                                                 These poor young brides
who’d stand dumbfounded, zestful-eyed,
distressful-browed, a long dark braid
held tight within their hand, these child-slaves
to marriage vows and dowries paid
who my brave rebels fought to save
from lecherous masters – they rarely showed
us gratitude. They usually owed
their families money; and this would haunt them:
the terrible thought their parents wouldn’t want them.

These girls would beg us – “please! Please shoot
us dead! You’ve freed us from a noose
which held us loft, but cut us loose
above a pit of disrepute!”

And sometimes, some cases, especially when
these poor performing tragediennes
would tune their whimpers just right and wilt
their mournful bodies like a flower-
burdened stem, my men – by guilt
or greed or pity overpowered –
would plead with me to take one in.

And sometimes, to my men’s chagrin,
I might refuse; and when I complied,
the girl with me alone would ride.

And sometimes…or rather, once. Her name
was Noorya…’

…tbc
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Tuesday Poem: “In Never-Ending Sleep they Slouched” by Zireaux

'Not since that warrior, Nisus / slaughtered Turnus’s drunken louts /  have so few soldiers been able to route / so many!'

‘Not since that warrior, Nisus, / slaughtered Turnus’s drunken louts /
have so few soldiers been able to route /
so many!’

“For you, my son, did I recruit
these men and steal these guns. Yet I
knew well such well-armed men will try
to blow up melons for some fruit!
That’s how they are. They do not think!
They’d rather drink and whore (and drink
still more) and shoot their guns, than use
their wilted wits. I knew we’d need
a plan. I knew, without some clever ruse,
our prison raid would never succeed.
So I decided: Food! Yes, food
could fell your prison guards; and you’d
be saved, dear child, before the sunlight
appeared – saved, without a gun-fight.

But I was worried. The guards, I guessed
would feed you, too; and hence devised
my menu so it tranquilized,
not killed.”

                                She continued: “The moon was dressed
in bridal silver. It rose above
the dunes, as if your ladylove
(her cheek still spotted) had come to cast
her beams on all the blood we’d spill.

And how it shined, that blood! How fast,
unclotted it flowed, in glossy rills
down eyes unopened, bodies slumped,
as we in every forehead pumped
another deafening bullet. And those
we’d yet to shoot so happ’ly dozed!

A dozen men dispatched without
a fight, their brains like sudden creepers
growing on the walls, as deeper
in never-ending sleep they slouched
and briefly twitched and shuddered, their spinal
spasms a meek reply, a final,
weak retort to our atrocity.

This band of rebels, these men renowned
for crim’nal kindness, saluted me.
And ’mongst the prisoners we found
– and freed – some twenty of their companions
(some more await us in those canyons
up yonder). These men, as you’ll have noted,
are now to me – and you — devoted.

Dear son! Not since that warrior, Nisus,
slaughtered Turnus’s drunken louts
have so few soldiers been able to route
so many! And all because of my spices.”

We’d entered now the foothills’ heath.
The dust, the crumbling marl beneath
our horses’ hooves. The scattered thickets.
The slathering moss on gathering rocks.
A fret of sound and substance, crickets
and flies less keen on hearing the talk
of our approaching, victorious riders
than making us attend the stridor
of theirs – like children who can’t resist
recounting things adults have missed.

And in that swelling vibrant hum
of chirping ash and limestone-shattered
sun our horses climbed and clattered;
and heaved and huffed.

                                                        I said, “O mum!
How strange it was, the way the din
of your avenging guns resounded in
my dreams – ”

                                      “O son! So potent my potion,
on seeing you sleeping like that, I judged
you might be dead!” – and here emotion
contorted her sun-parched lips.

                                                                        We trudged
down thorny, hawthorn-clotted slopes
and reached a cave.

                                                   Inside, with ropes
tied tight around his arms and legs,
a man for my forgiveness begged.

…tbc
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