Tag Archives: Kamal

“Kamal, His Greatest Love, and the Santa Ana Winds”

NASA diagram of the origin of the Santa Ana winds that often spread fires across Southern California.

NASA diagram of the origin of the Santa Ana winds that often spread fires across Southern California: ‘Saint Ana, dear – a great big breath from you please.’

While Los Angeles — where Kamal is set — lacks four seasons as such, the Autumnal Santa Ana Winds sweep down through the deserts of Southern California and across Los Angeles just as they blow through the stanzas of this first canto. (If you desire a more traditional Autumn poem, please read “My Autumn Ash“).

A quick update on our story so far: We’ve met our narrator (“Be Clear My Throat“) — a middle aged writer named Arcady who, as yet unknown to the literary world, is determined to tell the story of Kamal no matter what.

We’ve also met the hero of our story, Kamal (“Innocent Kamal“), a happy young man who lives with his parents on a beautiful, sprawling estate in Bel Air, California, where he spends blissful days chasing butterflies (and painting, as we’re about to learn). He loves his father, a famous pianist. And he adores his mother, a rich but faded Hollywood film star.

We will now learn about his greatest passion of all.

Content Warning: Certain thematic elements of the following stanzas may disturb some readers. But you must trust your poet, his muse, and the work of art that is Kamal.

Tomb Raider

‘…but now exalted some Raider / of Tombs who had an even bigger bust.’

O blessed young man! With naivete so great
your inner world reformed the world outside
and made the vulgar poetic, the crooked straight:
That drive you had in the Benz – your mother sighed
(in traffic on Wiltshire) and softly sneered, ‘Just wait,’
while spying a billboard which once displayed her
in bloom but now exalted some Raider
of Tombs who had an even bigger bust.

She asked:

                             ‘Is it true about Time? Can we trust
it to do unto others as it has done
unto us?’

                             – and you, her adoring son,
assuaged her: ‘Done unto you? But mother! Time’s spared
your beauty!’

                             And just like that – the world repaired.

Such words were all the more poignant because they were rare
(and heartfelt). Kamal was not a talkative fellow.
He listened well, and yet you’d almost swear
some key cognition absent from his mellow
mien. In truth, his thoughts were never where
he was. Contorting to any shape
(a demon artist of escape)
Passion can’t be easy caught
or fashioned into what it’s not;
and Love, that greatest magician
of all, served as a private optician
to Kamal – converting what offended
others to flirting forms and visions splendid.

He painted these lovely sights in vibrant acrylics
– a visual artist, our Kamal (though all
the senses help enthrall ecstatophilic
natures). His mother’s servants would recall
the way, at dawn, he’d find someplace idyllic,
erect his easel, his three-legged stool,
and – while others went to school –
paint masterpieces! Every stroke
a reverie of color evoked!
‘Traffic Rage Red’ and ‘Tangerine Smog’
– colors not found in catalogues;
and brush-strokes mighty winds couldn’t help but envy.
Not even Saint Ana could paint with such frenzy.

Olive Trees by Van Gogh

Olive Trees by Van Gogh:…’The way the olive trees would pitch / on skateboard shadows…’

Everything he loved, he loved to render
on canvas: The way the olive trees would pitch
on skateboard shadows and yet would never surrender
their balance; or how the hummingbirds twitched
in emerald chain and ruby-hooded splendor
before Queen Fuchsia – like Knights of Air,
deftly moving from square to square.
He painted such things, and more – much more:
the servants from El Salvador
who painted the tennis courts green,
or corrected the aim of a serving machine,
which fired blazing comets toward a man
who guided his student’s racket – and her hand.

He loved and painted the world beyond the gates,
though he knew little of it, our Kamal
(apart from silent movies a car-ride creates).
While his mother shopped at Highland Mall,
he liked, with pencils and colored pens, to wait
in the Benz and sketch the passerby
until the lamplight swallowed the sky.
He loved the freeways – the pure, seraphic
joy of being stuck in traffic!
The rows of sitters holding still
for Kamal to observe and sketch at will!
Unlike me, my hero never watched TV;
never read the papers; was tutored privately.

And yet – for I’m about to reveal his greatest
passion of all – he preferred to stay at home;
and not just for the purple dahlias, those straightest
of pinwheels; not just for the scented foam
that overflowed the spa-bath; or for the latest
movie screened in their private hall,
with popcorn soaked in alcohol;
or for the classical scenes he painted
of ladies lounging (some of them feinted)
outside, or bent above a mirror,
so close, their noses could go no nearer;
or for his mother’s parties, the games of Twister
No! Most of all, my reader, he loved his sister.

Blue Morpho Butterfly

‘…her eyes / as blue as Morphos butterflies…’

And now my hands are shaking! I need a muse!
When I say ‘loved,’ I mean – well, what do I mean?
Love, I say! A word of many hues,
but for our hero only the most pristine
of tints will do – the kind of love that views
its object as an extra limb,
detached, yet still belonging to him,
making it even more vital
to keep possession; to claim its title.
Her beauty made him weep; her eyes
as blue as Morphos butterflies.
Her tresses cascaded like honey – almost drinkable.
A fairer, creamier flesh would be unthinkable.

How did he know? Because he touched it, of course!
They often slept together – so what? Who cares?
The separate rooms they had could not enforce
their sleep-time habits. And why must taking shares
in bed-space guarantee an intercourse
beyond the realm of words? Or dreams?
(For theirs shared common music and themes).
That’s not to say his passion lacked
turgidity; or that the act
of touching gave no special pleasure;
but rather, that love, to Kamal, lacked measure.
’Twas infinite. Impossible to contain.
It owned his mind – so why, from touch, abstain?

Her name was Imogene. You’ve seen her eyes,
you’ve sipped her hair; but what about her mind?
As time in this poem now starts to materialize,
we find her aged sixteen, and thoughtful, refined,
and like Kamal, inclined to fantasize;
a youthful spirit, as it were,
as happy with life as life with her.
And yet – as pretty as people perceived her,
spending a day reading books most pleased her.
To everyone but Kamal, her face
was a glossy, veiled, book-covered place;
and while she sometimes glimpsed the servants admiring
her body, their gazes, to her, were uninspiring.

A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honore Fragonard, from the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honore Fragonard, from the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.: ‘…as pretty as people perceived her, / spending a day reading books most pleased her.’

She was, in fact, a model of pudency;
her tasteful clothes exasperated her mother.
Only Kamal ever saw what boys shouldn’t see;
which was, of course, because he was her brother,
and he loved her, she knew, so why couldn’t he?
She, too (like Kamal), adored their estate.
She adored her parents, and stayed up late
to read her Joyce and Tolstoy scored
by her father’s piano. And she adored
her brother. O reader! I hear your question:
‘Adored? Not loved? There’s no suggestion,
is there, of romance morals might forbid?
Did she feel the same as he felt?’

                                                                           She did!

Saint Ana, dear – a great big breath from you please.
To blow away these credits, end this montage,
and stir our story forward…

…and speaking of gusts — a roar of readers, a tempest of tweets, a great frenzy of followers is what we need! I’ve told you of Kamal’s true passion. But our story is about to take a dramatic turn when Kamal reveals this passion to his mother’s “guru,” the fellow we met briefly in “Innocent Kamal“; the same fellow, incidentally, who holds the hand of Kamal’s mother in the tennis lessons above — a talented retainer, / and chef cum chauffeur cum fitness trainer / cum handyman (he works like a pun!) / cum guru-shrink-masseuse all in one.

What happens when Kamal confesses his secret? I’m ready to tell you (and will), but please remember this:

However much I wish to weave it,
my story can’t live without eyes to receive it.

See the complete index of episodes from Kamal, Book One


Filed under Kamal, Book One, Poetry by Zireaux

“Innocent Kamal!” Let the story begin…

Julia Gillard

Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard: To you, great Empress Muse!

Welcome new readers! Flipside and Jess,
Bruce and Hatt (with his cat), and — oh yes,
a name to make one’s musings throb:
a certain Mr. Goblin, Hob.

I know, I know your minds are busy
with so much news, a tweeting tizzy
about the latest fear or farce,
like Germaine Greer on Gillard’s arse,

or things that make one whelp or wince,
like Seal on Heidi’s “help”, a prince
in Vegas nude
, Dotcom’s affair,
Clint Eastwood raving at some chair

I know! But still, I ask: A jot
of thought, a moment of mind allot
to me — or lend an ear on credit!
I promise you, you won’t regret it.

Now let me introduce Kamal...

Last week — in “Be Clear, My Throat!” — we met our narrator, whose name is Arcady. He opened the poem by describing his determination to tell the story of Kamal despite his, Arcady’s, lack of fame, or poetic credentials, or his advancing age. (We mustn’t confuse Arcady with me, of course).

In this scene, Arcady introduces us to the hero of our story: Kamal…

He was raised, like me, on a large suburban estate
near Hollywood – but that’s where we part ways.
Artists can no more shape their hero’s fate
than parents, in children, can themselves portray.
But to ensure my critics don’t equate
Kamal with me, notice his skin:
a Bedouin brown, a melanin
I’m lacking. His mother’s Pradaen dark,
but that’s Apollo’s brutal mark
from hours naked on beaches and lawns,
or in the booths of tanning salons,
to keep in vogue an actress whose age now stalks her
more than her fans.

                                            (My mother was a doctor.)

And Kamal’s dark skin?

                                                       ‘Thick-headed son!’
his mother once answered. ‘Some long-lost ancestor –
big deal! That divorced Kidman bedded one
last week and all the tabloids cheered and blessed her!
Like angels blessing a long unwedded nun!
They’re great in bed (that I know).
And they didn’t have EC pills centuries ago.’

These strong words sweetened Kamal’s heart,
which always managed to keep apart
his mother’s feelings from her spielings.
He found such pedigree appealing,
to think that he, like Pushkin, might have hints
of African blood from an Abyssinian prince

Nicole Kidman

Nicole Kidman: ‘”That divorced Kidman bedded one / last week…”‘

He adored his parents. His father, a composer
for movies, was nearly deaf, and nearly deceased,
and angel-white from head to toe. ‘Your clothes, sir!’
Kamal would shout, delivering neatly creased
pajamas. The door would open, the dark enclosure
release from its sepulchral belly
a creature like that beast from Shelley
(Mary, not Percy, of course), stinking
of the gin he’d just been drinking,
and pale – yes pale! A vessel of alabaster
emptied of its blood! The master
would smile. And thank his son. And claim his dress.
Then vanish back to wan unearthliness.

Rich and famous, his father – or rather, his name
was known to ranking members of AMPAS.
(what actors call ‘The Academy’). His fame
was touted at that exclusive shopping campus,
Rodeo Drive, amongst the wives who came
to buy ‘some knickknacks at 2-2-2’
(Pierre Deux) and Kylie Minogue’s hair-do,
and a thousand and one epiphanies
from diamonds bought at Tiffany’s.
His wealth belonged to Kamal’s mother,
who gave her husband a room; and another,
attached, to bathe in. For him two rooms were plenty
to care for, considering his wife used twenty.

Her chef, by the way – who also served as fitness
trainer, and driver, and guru (and a role
the retinue of servants loathed to witness) –
would prepare a dinner in a bowl,
with a spoon, and napkin, and submit this
soupy substance to the floor
outside his lady’s husband’s door.
The Steinway would stop its woeful whining,
(informing the house its maestro was dining).
The music would start again – revived! –
precisely one hour later. Kamal survived
on its sound. It helped him sleep. No Oscar award
exists for dreams, yet Kamal’s were brilliantly scored.

Kylie Minogue

Kylie Minogue: ‘…”some knicknacks at 2-2-2″ / (Pierre Deux) and Kylie Minogue’s hair-do…’

But see my rhymes! How they kick and leap
and try to toss us from the saddle! Where’s Beauty’s
taming hand to help this poet keep
his story straight? To follow narrative duty?
I mention Kamal’s skin; my verse then sweeps
us to his dreams! And misses the route
I meant to take! The part about
his feelings for his parents. How purely
he adored them – immaturely
in fact, for a boy well into his teens.
But that’s just it: one kind of gene
had darkened his skin, another bleached his mind.
To both forms of distinction, he was blind.

Innocent Kamal! His parents, to him,
a perfect match! Like sun and earth; like Jones
and Douglas! The clamor from his mother’s gym
would mingle with the Steinway’s mournful tones,
composing a sort of private hymn
to matrimony! His father: Gentle,
wise, old and sentimental.
His mother: Younger, and far more ambitious
(eliding the tabloids’ ‘bitchy’ and ‘vicious’),
although aesthetically unreflective,
was cosmetically quite corrective,
and – like intoxicating perfume – enchanted
Kamal with botox injections and breasts implanted.

Behr’s Metalmark: …’streaking across his private park / to net a sample of Behr’s rare Metalmark…’

Kamal loved all of life. Those gated grounds
were paradise to him – the apricot air;
the sculpted lawns and fountains; the mating sounds
of meadowlarks (those well-groomed birds who wear
a black cravat); and the distant browns
of St. Monica’s Mountains, like coffee spilled
on orange Aurora’s gown, delighted
Kamal – the hills were bleachers filled
with bugs and butterflies alighted
on each seat of grass! And speaking
of butterflies, he was always seeking
them out, streaking across his private park
to net a sample of Behr’s rare Metalmark,

or a feeding Morning Cloak, a yellow jewel
adorning the sticky breast of a surly oak.
Beauty in everything! The lake-sized pool;
the greenhouse designed in gleaming Italian baroque;
the six-car garage, its heady scent of fuel;
the wet-bar in the reading room,
where drinkers and thinkers could consume
a wide array of vice together.
Kamal didn’t drink, but in a leather
fauteuil he’d read through party hours
and relish aromas of whisky sours,
his mother’s Chanel ‘Allure,’ her guests’ cologne.
Kamal was as happy with people as alone.

But Kamal has one love bigger than anything else — and I will describe that love in the next stanzas. Warning: The content may disturb some readers (but you must trust your poet!). And please spread the word. One thing it is, my reader, to write / and finish a great work, but quite / another to ensure the work is read / and understood before its author’s dead.

See the complete index of episodes from Kamal, Book One

Interesting to note that Pierre Deux, the famous Beverly Hills furniture store mentioned above at 222 Rodeo Drive, closed all its stores last year.


Filed under Kamal, Book One

“Rebelling Against Obscurity”

The dying Werther, from Goethe's  novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther

The dying Werther, from Goethe’s novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther

A welcome to the dVerse poets and readers.

From the last canto of Kamal, Book One

I promise you, Kamal, that I will give
you all I have – and love – so you may live.
And that by telling your story (and telling it well)
I will against obscurity rebel.
For I’ve been desperate to be heard! I’ve feared
not that my dreamed-of epic would be jeered
at by the critics – no! But rather Kamal
would never have a listener!
(Then Sheela came, as you’ll recall,
and that is what I couldn’t resist in her:
Her audience – addressing all
those ears!). One thing it is to write,
to finish a great work, but quite
another to ensure the work is read
and understood before its author’s dead.

I’ve promised to tell you, reader, the story of Kamal, one of the great stories of modern American literature. I introduced the story the day before yesterday — with “Be Clear My Throat!”.

To my readers — “rebellion big in spine and mind”

…I must first acknowledge, before I go further
— not books from my college, Poe’s Raven, or Werther,
or mentors, or teachers, their kindly reviews,
or even (though O! How I’ll need her!) my Muse —
but readers! Dear readers! So faithful…and few!
You’ve given to me; now I give to you:

To Mary and Brian — exemplars of loyalty
(change “readers” to “leaders,” “loyal” to “royalty”);
Across the tumultuous Tasman, yonder,
there’s Lowe and Helen, Pearce and Ponder,
Penelope, Raymond, Claire and Bell;
there’s Harvey and Welsh, Janis, Michelle.
And here in Australia, Compton and Penny,
Marsha and David (I’ve missed some? Or many?),
oh yes, there’s Gemma — but why this insistence
on listing by regions, or countries, or distance?
There’s Claudia, Great Griff and Green,
antipodal Jones — from Tim to Kathleen,
and Becky Kilsby (from the UAE!)
Susan, Chazzy, a reader named Tree,
musicians and poets, and some who write prose,
Ms. Funster, Ms. Punster, and Karin’s large Nose;
Shawna, Rallentanda, Brendan, Glenn,
Aaron, Belinda, Ginny and Zen,
Marilyn, Venessa, Martin, Colette
— poetry, forsooth! — Sarah Barnett,
Mohana and Anna, and Garden Lily,
and Kling and King, and someone named Chili;
and Leary and Hedgewitch and Semaphore
and Zongrik and Orchid and several more
with lovely names, like “Daydream,” “Tashtoo.”
And if, my reader, I’ve left out you,
I’m surely to blame. An innocent lapse.
Or — you haven’t yet registered, perhaps?

(Please do)

To all of you, I thank you all!
My following — it may be small
but it is big in spine and mind.
We’re bound together, fates entwined,
and we must grow together, too!
Help spread Kamal to minds anew.
We don’t need Tinkerbell’s ovation,
but rather, a simple recommendation
to a friend — to stir my story’s heart.

Just three more followers before we start…


See the complete index of episodes from Kamal, Book One


Filed under Kamal, Book One, Poetry by Zireaux

“Be Clear, My Throat!” — The Story of Kamal, by Zireaux

I'm going to tell you the story of Kamal...

I’m going to tell you the story of Kamal…

My dearest followers, friends, subscribers, re-tweeters, and most of all, my good readers and listeners:

I’m going to tell you the story of Kamal — one of the great stories of modern American literature. I’m going to tell it through a combination of clear, explanatory text and rollicking, evocative verse, in a much abridged version of the original (the first book alone is told in 5,472 lines of structured rhyme).

It’s a story I know you’ll want to hear.

I begin with you, my small and most loyal following of readers. But of course, for Kamal to succeed — for the story to live on — it will require more readers as we go. Which means, if you’re enjoying the story, kindly request other good readers like yourself to join Immortalmuse.com as “followers” (or enter the email address in the left sidebar, or request to register here) so they can participate in the story as well. Users can unregister at any time if the story is not engaging (but it will be engaging, trust me).

I dedicate this telling of Kamal

to M.

…and to my father

Voltaire at 70. Engraving from 1843 edition of his Philosophical Dictionary.

Voltaire at 70. Engraving from 1843 edition of his Philosophical Dictionary.

In the opening stanzas, the narrator — whose name is Arcady — describes his determination to tell the story of Kamal no matter what. Even if he, Arcady, is unknown to the world, or lacks the poetic skills, or the artistic angst, or even if he sings off-key or gets his words wrong. Even if he’s past his poetic prime. Because nothing is more important in his life than the story he’s about to tell…

I – echem – be clear, unthrottled throat! –
I do not seek to hail the Muse of Epics.
I’ll sing this tale even if my notes
should make dogs howl and editors dyspeptic
and readers seize the DVD player’s remote
to watch more handsome heralds in action
(A-list artists like Lucas or Jackson,
whose instruments are loud and long
and far more profitable than any song
I could pipe!). Because my story’s ripe!
I cannot wait for that perfect type
of angel! I’ll settle for a spirit more modest
– a muse for a poet who’ll never find a goddess.

Depiction of Russian firing squad, 1849. ‘No firing squad (concoctor, it, / of Dostoyevsky’s doctorate).’ Dostoyevsky was condemned to death, lined up to be shot, and at the last minute, issued a reprieve — an event which perhaps gave birth to the intellectual.

Never? O surely I could search the Net
for inspiration – ‘scarlet AND lips,’ etcetera,
a yearning Humbert ‘Googling’ his lost nymphet
(nymphomaniacs, most cyber Jet Setters are!).
But what if heaven’s website tried to get
my own details? I’d frighten off the Sirens!
They want deformities, like Byron’s
foot, or synesthesia in childhood,
the taking of drugs and lovers like Wilde would
and friends at The New Yorker! I’ve never
been published. I’ve never been told I was clever
by courting agents. I’m married, happy and rich.
A life too tame for muses to bewitch.

A life devoid of those credentials
which writers require – the Yale-at-sea
which Melville had; or that essential
diploma of wit – the jail degree
which made Voltaire so consequential.
No war. No firing squad (concoctor, it,
of Dostoyevsky’s doctorate).
I’ve never even smoked! My name,
Arcady, itself evokes the tame
suburban streets and shade-smeared grass
which I, like Virgil’s hero, alas,
would one day flee – O what a claim! I sought
to find a richer Bucolic. Aeneas I’m not.

Robert Graves

The poet, Robert von Ranke Graves (1895 – 1985): ‘Is it true what Robert Graves once said, / that any poet over thirty’s dead?”

But hear me out – I near my autumn years!
The sun shines low upon the sea, which heaves
beneath its silver breastplate. A south wind clears
out summer’s comfort and chills the yellowed leaves
that hang like badges on trees – those brigadiers
who’ve never fought wars, but hearing
the rattle of distant canons, and fearing
their forces won’t respond to commands
untested by battle, would rather stand
tall and be slaughtered than be retired!
Perhaps my ‘sell by’ date’s expired?
Is it true what Robert Graves once said,
that any poet over thirty’s dead?

And was I ever fresh? I was! Like Spring
I was! I swear that no one’s felt more loyal
passion for her Highness Beauty! To sing
until she wept! To kiss her pink and royal
cheek! To hold her hand, two wedding rings
enfolded in our fingers! I knew,
however, these visions wouldn’t come true.
I was like the peasant who –
though well attired – must jump to view
the Princess from behind the throng.
My dress was right. My lineage wrong.
Her carriage crushed my roses. A Moses or Milton
I’m not – but nor will I sing for Paris Hilton!

Lord Byron Paris Hilton

Lord Byron (1788–1824): “. . . I’d frighten off the Sirens! / They want deformities, like Byron’s / foot . . .” Paris Hilton (born 1981): ‘A Moses or Milton / I’m not – but nor will I sing for Paris Hilton . . .’

Yet look – my story’s bucking in its chute!
My hero on its back regardless! Dare I
leave imagination bard-less and mute
just because immortal maidens care not
for a star-less suitor of scar-less repute
– and the kind of life, in truth, like an ad
for life insurance? Adventures I’ve had
in youth were mostly on computers,
or televisions (those deadpan tutors).
Professional parents; the sort who wish
their Jewish brood were less Jewish.
Their parents worked hard so we could have it all.
I thank them. Now let me introduce Kamal . . .

See the complete index of episodes from Kamal, Book One



Filed under Kamal, Book One, Poetry by Zireaux

“What Sad, Seductive Music!” by Zireaux

Kamal Book One by Zireaux

‘…our desperate hero feels / the sting each soulful half-note deals…’

What Sad, Seductive Music!
(Stanzas from the first canto of Kamal, Book One)

To M.

In this scene, Kamal, disowned by his parents, is about to leave his childhood home forever. Just then he hears the sound of the piano coming from his father’s room (his father is an Oscar-winning composer of Hollywood movie scores).

What sad, seductive music! At once
a balm, a palliative that blunts
his pain; and yet, just as an actress
you’ve adored but who in fact is
found to be — when you, elated,
are led backstage by well-intended
parents to meet her (as was fated
to happen to me at 12) – less splendid
in the flesh, an unrelated
creature, in fact, all stink and sweat
and “dying for a cigarette”
— just as her voice can equally stir
emotions of love and disgust at her
disguise (so you were Juliet?),

The 'Gates of Paradise' from the Battistero di San Giovanni in Florence, Italy.

The ‘Gates of Paradise’ from the Battistero di San Giovanni in Florence, Italy. Kamal’s father’s door ‘. . . loomed in Kamal’s untarnished / mind as splendid and ornate / as any bronze and Bible-garnished / Florentine portal!’

so too our desperate hero feels
the sting each soulful half-note deals,
the prick of every minor chord,
the raw arpeggios which soar
straight through that threshold’s door – a gate
which once loomed in Kamal’s untarnished
mind as splendid and ornate
as any bronze and Bible-garnished
Florentine portal! But how that great
majestic door transforms from gold
to varnished wood. And how that old
and saintly force which once composed
the soundtrack to his daydreams grows
so distant and so deathly cold.

And worse, far worse! For more of course
now changes. Not just the source
of magic, not just his patron muse
— but all the world appears a ruse
to our deceived Kamal. A stage
of secret devices. Trapdoors. False-walls.
A box with mirrors. An iron cage
with rubber bars. And as it dissolves,
that wondrous illusion, he seeks to assuage
his pain, his loss. The Steinway ascends
in volume and feeling. Kamal attends
its call, and clasps the doorknob, raises
a fist – but then, as if it appraises
his presence, the music, at once, suspends.

A horrible silence follows – jumbled
with Spanish banter, birds, the mumbled
mantras of machines outside
(when planes and mowers coincide).
His shoulders convulse; his fist now falls;
a sob grabs hold his chest and hurls
him back into the steadfast wall,
from which he bounces, lurches, whirls
past movie posters, and to the squalls
of sunlight in the grand foyer…

and out he goes! O terrible day!

Published as part of the dVerse poetry group.


Filed under Kamal, Book One, Poetry by Zireaux

“The Bombing of the Houston Astrodome” by Zireaux

The Houston Astrodome, Opened April 12, 1965.

The Houston Astrodome, Opened April 12, 1965.

The Bombing of the Houston Astrodome

From the first book, fourth canto, of the novel, Kamal:

My reader, maybe you are multi-tasking
and have no time to ride my rhymes.
I’ll summarize what I am asking:
Apply the rules of life each time
you ask what happens in a story.
No book can be all-revelatory!

So many witnesses, so many
reports and so much evidence,
survivors, wounded, dead aplenty
— all members of the common sense
that when I give my own rendition
of what occurred (the ‘demolition,’
or ‘terror strike,’ or ‘accident,’
or ‘metaphysical event’
that turned the Astro into Ash-tro
and launched the world into war),
I’m sure to meet a seasoned corps
of criticasters and their cash-flow.
And every fact I write will be
dismissed by those who disagree.

And some will say that Houston’s bombing
was good or evil, smart or dumb,
defensive, vital, terror-calming,
or just ‘performance art’; and some
will say the witnesses are liars.
And some — the ‘Astrodome Deniers’ —
will have the solipsistic gall
to say it didn’t occur at all…

And some self-righteous ones will nod
and give all credit to their God.

But all that matters is what happened
to my darling son, Kamal.
You think this climate we’re all trapped in
considers how our urban sprawl
affects its temperature? It scratches
an itch, another cyclone hatches;
and if the world’s at all concerned
with us, perhaps it thinks it earned
our spumes of waste through some imperiling
behavior of its own! And we’re
the bleaching coral reef, the queer
mutating frogs, the data heralding
the end of rare Sirocco forms,
endangered winds, Auroral storms.

But you and I, Kamal, we share one fate.
For all we are is that which we create.
Published here as part of the Tuesday Poetry group.

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“Feral Child” by Zireaux

The following stanzas are from the third canto of Kamal, Book One. They describe how Kamal was raised, a kind of feral child, amongst the wild sounds of poetry (recited by his beloved sister, Imogene) and the music of his father’s piano.

I had planned to post the opening stanza of Res Publica, Book Two, which — I noticed upon re-reading it — includes an interesting metaphor in which the narrator describes his versification as what might be called Tarzan-esque, that is, swinging from vine to vine, or line to line. This metaphor, and the idea of the poet as a kind of civilized savage, reminded me of this ‘feral child’ passage in Kamal.

I will post the opening stanza of Res Publica, Book Two as my next post; and perhaps allow the story to carry on from there.



'A real Tarzan's habits, nursed / by apes, could never be reversed.'

Feral Child

was raised in what Rousseau might call

a ‘savage state’ of fantasy; a child
fed at feral beauty’s breast. Those wild
boys and girls, abandoned orphans found
in forests, cages, hen-coops, kennels, attics,
suckled by bears or she-wolves, gagged and bound
in sheds –- they all, when caught, reveal dramatic
symptoms of aphasia which astound
their doctors. Our brains, it seems, are most fanatic
when young. A real Tarzan’s habits, nursed
by apes, could never be reversed.

He’d never read. Nor speak. The slightest grin
could take him years to master; and had there been
a wedding, Jane would get, at most, a grunted

            Kamal, however, uprooted
from his natural state of bliss, confronted
with the world beyond his unpolluted
realm, emerges not a kind of stunted,
mutant mute. He may well be unsuited
for this world, agreed. A true misfit.
But in a way that’s opposite.

He talks, of course, but in those flushed, rhapsodic
tones he learned when Imogene’s melodic
voice recited poetry; when on
his bed she’d softly serenade him, wake
him up to see the spill of saffron dawn,
the palms like starfish on the hills, opaque
and still. Romanticism’s paragons:
from Keats to Shelley, Coleridge, Byron, Blake.
She’d read them all, while he half-heard,
attentive more to sights than words.

Half-listened to the voice he so adored,
and which their father’s muffled music scored
from dim sepulchral depths -– it was, for him,
a wondrous native state, as Mowgli’s1 forest
howled with monkeys in the tree-top limbs,
which to that man-cub always seemed a chorus
made of sweetly singing seraphim.
Naturam expelles furca,’ says Horace,
tamen recurret.’2 So, too, one’s native past
is like a spell one can’t uncast.

1Mowgli, raised by wolves, is the protagonist of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.
2A slightly truncated epigram from Horace which translates as: “You expel nature with a pitchfork, but it just returns.”

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“Big Hips and Breasts” by Zireaux

Siren (real name, Amy Guy) from the TV show, American Gladiators

Siren (real name, Amy Guy) from the TV show, American Gladiators

From the second canto of the novel-in-verse, Kamal, by Zireaux

Celebrating the completion of the first canto of Kamal, the narrator dines with his family at Orbit, a revolving restaurant atop Auckland’s Sky Tower — “a place for doughty eaters / spinning a hundred and ninety-two meters / above a revolving earth….” While there, he meets a television celebrity from America and begins to wonder if he might be attracted to her.

Now tell me, disciples of Darwin: Are you sure
new life is born of struggles to endure?
That Cupid’s bow, precisely drawn, impregnates
us with love to spawn seraphic playmates?
Perhaps creation’s not so “pro-“ as “re-.”
I mean — those markers of fertility,
big hips and breasts, are said to stir
men’s loins because they help ensure
his healthy brood. But is that it?
The future’s good; hence, we commit?
Or might desire’s crystal ball
be backward-looking, and thus recall
that rousing primal spasm of the senses:
the throb and thrall of life when it commences?

Could that first ecstatic tingling twitch
of long-lost babyhood be something which
— because it fades with time – will always tease
the aging, ever-dying man who sees
a swollen breast, or large, enlivened eyes,
or cherry lips around a Hellenized
and polished column of teeth –- because
these sights bring back what life once was!
No skating board or bungee-fun,
no dive or flight or climb; not one
of Sir Edmund’s grand activities
can match in sensitivity,
the thrill-ride of birth! And once it starts to slow
— the coaster, the slide — we crave another go!

Chart on Male Mating ChoicesZireaux’s comments on this poem:
The following (including the graphics) is from “The Evolution of Human Mating,” by David M. Buss, of the University of Texas, Austin, in 2007:

“Evolutionary psychology provides a powerful theory for the evolution of standards of female beauty—whatever observable cues are linked with fertility (immediate probability of conception) or reproductive value (future reproductive potential) will evolve to become part of what humans find attractive in females. These include cues to youth, such as full lips, smooth skin, lustrous hair, and a low ratio of hips to waist (WHR). They also include cues to health, such as clear skin, absence of sores, white teeth, and symmetrical features. Beauty, in short, is in the “psychological adaptations of the beholder,” and men value physical appearance because of the wealth of information it provides about a woman’s youth, health, and hence reproductive capacity.”

Cues that influence male mating selectionIt’s fun to play with, the evolutionary biology model — this newfound substance, a putty or clay that molds to any texture and shape. The problem, however, with books such as Geoffrey Miller’s The Mating Mind, or even On the Origin of Stories by our own Auckland-based Brian Boyd — books which seek to sculpt poetic subjects using evolutionary materials — is that they can sound so plausible and compelling, so theoretically interesting and eye-opening, and yet, in the end, add so little of beauty to the subject they discuss.

Although most evolutionary biologists continue to focus on “fitness factors” in human mating choices (see, for example, the work of David C. Geary, Jacob Vigil, and Jennifer Byrd-Craven University of Missouri-Columbia), I should note that several years after writing the above stanzas in Kamal, I was pleased to read, in a reputable science publication, a proposition very similar to my own.

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Canto Two, Listen for Free (for limited time)

To hear Canto Two, click the image below, then click the play button. We’ve also included episode three of the first canto. If you like the tracks, we’d appreciate your purchase (and positive review!) of the other episodes. The audio tracks can be purchased for as little at 99 cents at most online retailers. Thank you!

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