For everyone who died on September 11, 2001:
Saint Matthew And The Angel The Third for Caravaggio
The skeleton's womb is in the sea,
Its tears are the foam, exploding,
Incessantly, from remnants
Of their birth, waves rooted
Deep in the sooty balm of the earth.
And when the skeleton calls back
For that bosom in which it was made,
Its heart becomes the rocks,
The angular teeth of the cliffs
Shedding, every time a wave screams,
For the mother that forsakes,
Destroys its limp esteem.
But what womb would know,
The star that puts its blood upon a plate,
Makes the moon its fork,
The sun obliterating as its knife,
All to reach back into the bones
Grabbed by gouged eyes
From a worm who'd gouge our faces,
From the interstellar sea?
No womb, no skeleton, forsakes me:
I do not feel my bones,
I do not feel the sea,
I do not even feel the earth
Re-claiming me, my arms, my legs,
So I can finally dance, and see, the shadows
None can see, in the mirror of the dark!
Wreck me, so you may see my dead city,
The sighs and words have been annihilated
And I am Virgil, with no voice to guide,
My mother has died, but I am dead, too:
Medusa fixed her eyes upon a point
So the snakes would writhe,
And reach out from a concave shield,
The perspective your eyes might yield,
If you cared to see beyond their death.
I have no breath, I am no body,
My bones are buried with Shelley,
Off our Tyrrhenian Phalanx,
We are not shielded from dying.
And the waves continue to drool,
Until the drool becomes their foam
Dragging us into the loam
That bases all forgotten things.
But I have dug through the soot,
From beginning looking in
Took apart my very bones.
We are not shielded from dying?
At least we know the light
That is rooted in deepest black,
I do not want to go back,
Still something drags me to the womb,
And my skeleton falls apart,
Each bone inoculating the sea,
What beast will come of this unholy kiss?
I am the son of unholy trysts,
And the blonde reaper will not take my star,
The moon will not outshine its death,
For as it dies it is most brilliant,
Re-claimed by interstellar ash,
To be re-born, inveterate mass,
Verging into human skin.
You are grabbing me from without
To take me within, and your hand
Has all the flesh I have forsook,
But you at least see the spirit's flesh,
The spirit's skin:
Lambent tears, dying stars
Against a sky much blacker than ash,
Falling deep into the sooty womb
Of Demeter. For we are the lost daughter,
We pluck Asphodel in forsaken fields
And Hell feels much brighter in the light
Than the black tears from our distant Mother,
Praying, as she knees into the grass,
For spring to come and reclaim her child,
Her womb. And yet, you take me too soon,
And yet, not soon enough.
The columns at the entrance into Chancellary gardens are exposed by graffiti. Above shields, the stoic armor of men, who may or may not have been stoic, the names of lost comrades. In the gardens of the Reich Chancellery the bodies of Eva Braun and Hitler are burned and buried. In Oberwallstrasse the bodies of Germans and Soviets are decaying into ash the stars do not envy. The graffiti on the columns licks its wounds. It would rather obliterate the ash buried in the garden. And grow into beautiful weeds, destroying the flowers that were gutted from heaven and fed to hell.
Hell has skinned you. But, unlike The Gestapo, its fires will not touch the snow that buries your heart. It is your heart that will burn through and tattoo: the snow, heaven and hell, graffiti on the columns, an American solider in the Berliner Sportspalast stabbing Hitler and every ghost of Evil that isn’t really a ghost and not even light enough for the night sky in mock salute.
I see Saint Matthew and The Angel in a book. I look at Vandivert’s photographs and notes. (M) oldy SS cap lying in water on floor of sitting room. I laugh that the skull is almost obliterated, subjected to water and mold. And weep that Saint Matthew, a face you must have taken off the street, a body with a hide subjected to toil and sun, a man who may have been a farmer with deep black eyes recalling the soil’s lore, that this man must gore in his own haunted wood. We were never happy and never good.
Your angel overlooks Matthew. Places its effeminate hand over the hide of his arm. Peers at a book in which he is writing. I do not know what he writes. But Matthew is the earth, and if the Angel has been before his birth, has always been, it has not preceded me. For I do not see, cannot trace a question mark in the dirt laying ants and all their structures asunder, without looking at the night sky to wonder, does this dirt make to be?
My bones might rot in ash. . I do not know. Still, I go, where graffiti thrashes with gutted buildings. Skeletons, surrounded by the rubble of their very bodies. The hands that made them, long gone, maybe ghosts weeping that their blood should be mixed with a broken bust of the Fuhrer. And their skeletons haunt them. Reclaim them. Graffiti on the columns. Their song a throng of vespers digested by the air: I was here, too!And I am here, now, to reclaim them. . Reclaim you. I do not look for angels or saints. Only an angel can define a saint. I can only define my skeleton. My blood has been re-claimed by the earth. Where Saint Matthew and the Angel are both destroyed, and the graffiti columns restored, and all the rubble painted away, the ash too heavy for the sky never re-claimed, flowers gutted by noble weeds, a mock salute. Come to me. I can only look down. If I am the voice that might save you, you who stepped on the fangs of a snake, I will not look back. But the stars look back at me. Graffitied against an obsidian wall. My skeleton breaks. And I fall.
I'll paint a flower that thrives in ash,
And finds a sun in deepest black,
The sea evoked my skeleton,
Berlin up-heaved my reckoning,
Beckoning my bones' blood,
To account for the sea's flood,
The womb that bleeds anemones,
Has no will for enemies,
So maybe you reclaim my ghost,
To make a body I am its host,
But I know that the man I killed,
His blood forever from dirt distilled,
Haunts nothing not even night,
Not even the amber light,
That comes to preserve the first cry,
Even though we all must die,
Still your eyes have the sea's shade,
A blue moon with its heart shaved,
And tears will take you nowhere,
Your bones are not your despair,
You cannot see a shadow's death,
Berlin in rubble re-claimed my breath,
Then I will make you from my brush,
Into an angel Saint Matthew trusts,
For you know not angel but paint the saint,
Your songs bleed without restraint,
Rooted in a sooty womb,
You cannot see beyond your tomb,
And I see the color of Asphodel,
Smells like the apple that never fell,
You think we were never made free,
From everything we cannot see,
That demons lurch from haunted eves,
Of roofs from forests with black leaves,
I'll set you Angel in human skin,
You will gut the rind that rots within,
Your Saint cannot taste its seed,
So I will paint Berlin bleed,
You'll both be on an empty street,
No voice except where your eyes meet,
The Saint will be a newborn child,
Wrapped in a blanket bloody defiled,
The Angel will be in a black gown,
Its read mouth attachés a sinister frown,
They'll stare deep into each other,
The baby wanting its mother,
Its mother dead underground somewhere,
And this Angel holds the Saint without a care,
A rope that would easily let go,
Were it not for the ash falling like snow,
The Saint's skin will be light grey,
The sky on an overcast day,
The Angel will look like porcelain,
Lighter even than the snow's skin,
And behind this equipoise,
A city in the gutter's throes,
All mist and gutted bloodless too,
All rubble except an ash draped shoe,
I'll paint a flower that thrives in ash,
And finds a sun in deepest black.
The dirt’s blood is the motion of everything. When the sea came at the soil with her blue teeth, she put it into the air. And wore the wind around her thyrsus, which she stamped towards the night sky but could not reach. Until a star cried, because it was afraid of its luster for all luster means death. And put its invisible tears into the wind, where every spirit, from everything, would eventually dance.
Put down your brush. I do not care that the painting is unfinished. Because you and I have bitten the apple. We’ve divorced the Myrtle and the Cypress. When Virgil has no voice to lead will Paradiso and Liszt’s heaven be anything but restrained hyperbole? And now I am seeing a bloody rood. La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi Cathedral, locked inside. But I don’t care. I’d much rather be locked out and see the spires try and pop the star’s tears.
I wear the rood. The blood has been so engraved; I wrap my long hair around this thyrsus, just to hide my graffiti. I do not want to read what it says, but I think it might say: your spirit has been stolen, your battle horse is too swift, you do not even rein Eden in the summer and spring, and your kidneys wear scars that will never heal. The pills that keep you alive are the Hemlock Socrates took. The pills you stopped taking, to stop the voices and avatars from hell that treated your spirit like a changeling, made you another Conrad Veidt in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. And now you must pick up the ash covered shoe and murder the Angel and the Saint. They are back. The stars’ tears will keep to themselves. There never was an Eden. There never was a Hell.
So go. My sacrilege was in giving your ghost a skeleton. And letting you feel the flesh, again. My roots will not even touch the air. I looked up at the sky, just now, and saw a formation unlike any other. A sliver of clouds shredded by shark’s teeth. The cerulean tent did not faze me. Because eleven years ago my city was murdered by rubble. And it wasn’t a shoe made prominent in ash, but people I’ll never meet. Crying tears that tasted like Ambrosia to our new Hitler. Still, I meet them in the cloud shredded by shark’s teeth.
My tears belong with the stars’. And I cannot touch them. The wind tries to blow my hair from my thyrsus. But I keep it wound. Black Ivy shining under a spring rain. You will not escape this rood. My eyes are blue dahlias. Locked in a glass cage. They see the graffiti maybe all of us fear:
I was never here.
September 11, 2012