The Stations (for Ordinary Time)

by Dennis Loney

1. The sunken day inherits me.

A levied head is perched atop a spear.
I knew of it: its voice struck even tones;
an oath occluded its eyes. The surroundings
denied its features; stripped the prickly burr.

Of what was he made?: abstraction and myth.
The heart is metaphor for now: it could be sand and ash.

I learned the arbiter is man
and when the verdict stilled my blood,
a limp relief distilled my joints. The caustic thread
was clipped, the one that stitched me to heaven’s hand.

2. The splintering shock of delivery.

A discourse gathered on the horizon.
The censors split my lips.
This sentence will have but one
meaning if nothing follows it. Trust me.

I never had a thought outside myself:
shadows circled the ground like bits
of carrion dripping from the sky;
an oculus of logic picking apart the backbone of another life.

A scene from the end-dream:
the sky unfurled like rumpled cloth:
blazing angels strapped to my chest:
a breathless descent while bodies crumble to ash.

In dreams, some will find an umbra of ash
blocking their sight, a gray chimaera in their brain.
But for now, the path is lined with skulls,
friend, and only one way off of it.

3. A vision blurred with mortality.

Red apples fell beside the chattering birds
and woke the shrunken earth. It grumbled for days.
The heavens penetrated a fissure, stabbed
the scraping rocks, discharged a fricative.
(All language is a failed attempt at truth.)

I sabotaged myself: tendered my mass
for diaphanous schemes and became
a supplicant for one: an ink-stained thumb.

My will rotted too: a clingy charlatan
locked in an empty, mirrored room:
receding like the tail-devouring snake
in a glacial pattern of concentric rings
until what’s left is nothing but a sense.

This body was an ill-conceived device,
a sentinel and nothing more, an end
of knotted rope suspended from the clouds.

(I feel the math of ages trickling down
my spine, a binary stream sweetly engorged.)

So how do I proceed with the grit of man
lodged in the recesses of my mouth:
a quarantined breath:
retreating toward the only vanishing point?

4. An intractable tether to the past.

A squall erupted about the periphery;
the center shifts. The same old bird
descends again but wears a different mask.
I’ve yet to speak to you my little dove—
coo, coo—tomorrow is a dissonant shriek.

Each path betrays its lineage. The earth
exacts a studied force.
I walked to where I was meant to walk, and now?
The cages ring with enharmonic sighs.

In shallow pools silverfish released
and gathered again to flames that flickered against
the words from all the books I’ve ever read …

What kind of putrefactive model might
that be? So all in all, what am I, again?
The sky blankly reflected its intent:
a harbor stained with chum.

O mother, please, I am exactly this:
a misshapen vision of a man, a wraith
slowly marching toward his death. So please.

I need you less and less, the specter says.
The mother says: I have already died.
Ascend O thorny beast so that I might ...

5. The burden is now solely yours.

Not long from now neglected birds
with plastic spoons lodged in their throats
will snap their wings in concussive waves
and splinter through the centuries. Who wears
the au fait ears? The years have been unkind.

The dead can speak and may be speaking now.
The changing light is you who will not move.
The shadows slide in predicative ways.

We owe so much to the systems we devise:
the tick and rumble of optical space,
a frequency of imaginary theorems,
patterns cut and stitched from cosmic fabric.

Fish mark time through an ancient luster passing over its gills.

My eyes were once carbuncular and scaled.
My flesh is stunned with delight.
My pain is all and stakes a modest claim.

So give me what is mine and retreat into
your dolor, brief as it may be. It’s known
and real. This body can only hold a moment.

6. The inaccuracies of reflection.

Designs thrust upon our minds,
cut tendrils of thought, denature
the standing order of things: a stitching hum:
a frayed system in desperate need of repair.

The threads are worn and synthetically made.
The dyes bleed and color the air.
The cloth betrays the image, softens edges.

7. A vision stripped of humanity.

So how do I proceed with the grit of man
lodged in the recesses of my mouth:
a quarantined breath:
retreating toward the only vanishing point?

(This lattice will unhinge and lengthen in empty space
until the structure is no longer clear.)

My dear, my dear, the strangeness is the first to go.
And what was said or done is scrubbed
by the abrasives of time and never understood, fully.

Or rather diluted and repeated by sycophants ...

The ground is strangely familiar and warm.
My body warms it with the sun. Extend
a welcome to the insects and worms, dear flesh.

This act must transcend not only this but those
that came before and all such future acts.

8. The coterie defines the thing.

The body is second hand:
paraphrasaic, colored by the minds of others.

Jewelers cut their stones in meaningful shapes.
Vultures close their eyes to carrion dreams.
A crowd will form when vultures swallow rocks.
Look how they wring their slender hands
and pick at the fossils beneath their fingernails.
Their bloated faces in familiar shades of gray,
will imitate your nervous tics, your gaping mouth.

My purpose is not your own. You are the voice
that resonates, are sacrosanct; and I?
a burden scarcely worth defending …

I kiss your cheeks neatly.
My friend, you’re all that I have, are all, I swear.

I know the whispering past spirits through your veins.
I am the bruising lilac dressed for death.
I am the breaking tide, the sounding sea;
the pilgrim singing with the caravan.

9. A vision as cosmogony.

It must, not only this act, but those
that came before and all such future acts.

The dying is not the death: the fetal maw.

An unhinged jaw sings of nothingness.
Come dance around the horns; come!
This flaccid form arrests the ground …
I hear a voice, a murmur, chalked and bent: an archetype.

The worms and weevils fix their tables.
Sarcophagus! conceal my features, crack the salient grounds!

I am a form shuffling among
the crush of flies that blot the sun,
the first narrative woven in their wings.

Red apples fell beside the chattering birds
and woke the shrunken earth. It grumbled for days.
The heavens penetrated a fissure, stabbed
the scraping rocks, discharged a fricative.
(All language is a failed attempt at truth.)

10. The platitudes are in want of clothes.

My tongue has failed me yet again.
It is brittle and deformed: a spore.

The nexal force plants its eye in everything.
I swim in oceanic and neritic waters, scrape the littoral sands.
I am the wind; you are its effect.

You wanted the truth: a platitude
or mathematical equation: coloring book designs …

I wish to cleave this skin and molt
a mutable shell, translucent in the sun.
The dusky foliage scrabbles through the vale.

Each stratum, each phyletic thread corrupts:
is code for something else.

11. The auguries of experience.

The sky burns bright with symmetry; the bridge
is sinking in the slough; the rusted gates
are sealed; my death should wish for something else.
I see things decompose into their baser parts.
I hear electrons sing.

Who finds me now in the wickets of my death
will see a gross untruth: an amorphous form
at odds with gravity, a fraud, a man whose life
was nothing but an illness: a collection of mistaken velleities.

12. To those who dwell in realms of day.

The shadows skip in merry fields
where man and beast in tandem yields
a soft relief against the sky
that drops delicious whips of light
on souls that act as Heaven’s shields.

The light bends round the ancient trees
and creeps through grass by small degrees
and floods the land like glistering seas.

And peals of mirth ring through the air
and sting each ear clarion clear
and strip away the muddy drum
whose beat disguised the primal hum
that radiates like solemn prayer.

And burning columns streak the skies,
and blinding paths where angels rise
and fall, attending to mortal cries.

In constant bloom the lilies are dressed
and streams flash past or come to rest
(a dalliance of infinity
where time is but a vicinity)
and lightness dusts the skylark’s nest.

And spirits wade in pools of joy
where sorrows float like a darling toy
that erupts abruptly for all to enjoy.

And bursting too is this perfect land
carefully stitched by a governing hand,
for one more frenzied and filled with fears
where one can’t know minutes from years,
and every vessel sails unmanned.

13. To wanting souls who dwell in night.

A studied force propels the age
though chaos reigns with equal rage
where skittish men who twitch and stamp
slink darkly through the damp,
tormented by their self-made cage.

And through their eyes the world is black
where light escapes and won’t come back
unless yoked to thoughts that further the crack.

And sounds ring round that never cease:
not those of happiness nor of peace,
but anguished cries for help or war
that cut the flesh: a violent score
that drapes the soul in a caustic fleece.

And mordant knights with rusted swords
design the flesh of insolent hoards
who wait for counsel with their lords.

Where shrinking asphodels can cure
low thoughts and rinse foul memories pure
(which makes the past a jubilee
to accent present misery)
and force all history to blur.

Where talismans attract low priests
who slither with their baleful beasts
to tables set with corporal feasts.

And yet this world has an earthly feel,
an intense malaise, a tired reel
of pictures slogging through the mind
like crooked trees in a blizzard-blind
field; a crow on a broken wheel.

14. For souls that sleep in beams of light.

And in the sky I saw a sign
of burning towns and burning fields
and soldiers marching by design
and children crying on their shields
and through the smoke appeared a face
whose mouth had moved but no words came;
whose startled eyes were stunned by grace
and wanted neither wealth nor fame.

And peals of thunder filled the air
and minor creatures sought high ground.
A rider found the blackest mare
to meet his god without a sound.
And in the clouds ran martyrs’ blood
and in their tears a sparkling flood.

And in the sky the sign was I.

And I was burning by design:
and I rumbled into sound,
then sound transfigured into a sign
like smoke concealing trampled ground.
And I became a paltry sum
of all things past for I am trapped
in the just-uttered continuum
where future’s door is securely clasped.

And in the end it is a word,
a string of symbols and nothing more
that all creation summarily heard:
an abstract thought on reason’s door.
Where frolicking lambs, et cetera
In beams of light, et cetera


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