Working the Traps

selva oscura - freudian cowboy - open fight - yoga joe - Bulgakov

selva oscura

you’re a traveller

travelling through the forest

of doors

leading into gardens

arboretums, hot houses, log-cabins

and swiss chalets of the soul

you’re a traveller in the conservatory

and on the garden of forking paths

two roads branching in the woods

(there’s always a choice)

so you build you life on wood and sunbeams

on your choice of dreams

of where the Garden grows

and where the tree-tops reach the sky

ages ago, you scrambled down on branches

into the gorge at Olduvai

and sailed the ark upon the sea

two by two you mated into pine

and from the fjords battered down the gates of Lindisfarne

and built the slums of Londontown

setting fire to the sky

you did all these things inside the glade

of dreaming life and thinking self

a stick-like form that finds the knot

twists the knob and opens the door

to find yourself floating

swimming through a rope-world of kelp

and towering vaults of the Miocene

in the depths of a shamrock sea

open fight

you wandered through the trees

thinking of God and the flight to Qaf

when the hunter raised his gun

you quacked into the forest

and a chorus came back

ringing in your ears

you were in the cross-hairs

but now the ducks can see

the hunter and his gun

in olden times, the bow

in modern times, the law

but still we ask, What does it matter at all?

freudian cowboy

random fears

surge up from some dark hole

lasso them

give them a ride around the sky

and let them go

yoga joe

pose 1: the swan in the mist

yoga joe sees flowers along the edges of the carpet

impressionist paintings along the bare corridor

water lilies dripping onto the grey cement

yoga joe does not acknowledge the cage-makers

but stretches his hand into the lush jungle

and seizes a banana

pose 2: the barking dog

yoga joe gets a taste for the banana

its smooth and yellow charm

and then makes the mistake of thinking

that he can tell the cage-makers

where to let it grow

the cage-makers are furious

and tell yoga joe that they own the banana

and that they alone can say where it can go

yoga joe throws his banana at the cage-makers

and refuses to be told where he can and cannot eat a banana

which he now regrets throwing at the cage-makers

who keep it as evidence in his upcoming trial

yoga joe consults a lawyer

who tells him that the cage-makers have every right

to treat yoga joe like an animal

as long as he continues to throw bananas

that technically aren’t his

pose 3: the cat lapping a creamy plate of warm milk

yoga joe counts the bananas left in his cage

and realizes that if he resists the urge to throw them at the cage-makers

they will spare him the legal talk and threats

yoga joe turns his face from the cage-makers with a smile

two dozen bananas on the floor

next to a bottle of victory gin*

pose 3: the firefly at dawn

in his old age yoga joe thinks to himself

that bombay sapphire would have tasted good

but he has learned to swallow the injustice

and to believe he did all he could

the victory gin tastes sweet

much sweeter than it should


* Victory Gin is the grim drink of defeat in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. His description of it at the beginning of the novel is as grim as his description at the end: “Winston poured out nearly a teacupful, nerved himself for a shock, and gulped it down like a dose of medicine. Instantly his face turned scarlet and the water ran out of his eyes. The stuff was like nitric acid, and moreover, in swallowing it one had the sensation of being hit on the back of the head with a rubber club. The next moment, however, the burning in his belly died down and the world began to look more cheerful” — “He took up his glass and sniffed at it. The stuff grew not less but more horrible with every mouthful he drank. But it had become the element he swam in. It was his life, his death, and his resurrection. It was gin that sank him into stupor every night, and gin that revived him every morning.”


Bulgakov (After Reading The Master and Margarita)


Master of legerdemain, auteur de haute conscience

I salute you, Bulgakov

who beneath the subterfuge and the downtrodden

beneath all the writers crushed beneath the yoke of Stalin

Pilate, or Dionysius the Greek

and beneath the sheer unbearable heaviness of being

manage to transfuse with fitting words

what we fear, here on the lighter side

of the system's weight, but cannot speak*


* An echo from stanza 52 of Shelley’s Adonais —Die, / If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek! / Follow where all is fled!—Rome's azure sky, / Flowers, ruins, statues, music, words, are weak The glory they transfuse with fitting truth to speak.


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