The Embalmer’s Apprentice

                    i. In the Hall of Two Truths

I left the land of the living in the East
     to take my place among the dead in the West,
     where I make a killing making fallen stars
     look their best, martyrs cinefiled alongside
     archive prints of their unseen works, numbed by my
     hand’s unguent so their souls are denied all
     suffering, all sensation of final hurt,
     their unclean hearts washed of worthlessness so when
     weighed against a quill of truth, justice pens no

sentence discomforting to their conditions,
     mortuærial fauxtography flying
     over sin, layering over them silver
     tongues lying through dried teats
     spectacular apocryphal myths, telling
     of their uninoculated conception,
     beliefs of mortal rebirth conceived without
     protection from divine retaliation,
     those epidemics of epic pestilence

scourging to patchwork geographies their bare,
     arid bodies unaware of who sees them
     from birth to burial, I weep not for these
     constellations, but my third eye’s second sight
     tastes of tears scraping my mind’s coffin deep from
     inside, sorrow tumbling like diamonds cut
     along a ravine, and cast down deep into
     a river of a flavour I recall from
     being there, my own origin, death’s sweet kiss

sticking to my lips with tasteless, tenacious
     grip, as though astral strength could not be shaken
     from a child’s ecstatic existence, climax
     pyramidal as from its summit a young
     man falls into the abyss, his mouth lifting
     like a curse removed by a high priest’s forearms
     raised heavenward in a blessing, my mouth fit
     like a perfect capstone upon an ancient
     monolith, adjusted to bring together

my grandfather’s monumental balls, crowding
     another hollow soul as I recall hell,
     swallowing in the present what I did then,
     in the old kingdom of my youth, awaiting
     pity’s crown, awaiting deluge as I weep,
     salt and spirit keeping moist flesh I tremble
     to bandage, no more a master of my Self,
     than I am a slave to my flame’s memory,
     a man merely an embalmer’s apprentice,

     a wretch graven by unsympathetic touch
     to live this, an image fashioned without love.

                    ii. Going Forth by Day

I made the first cut in the torso and so
     I run like its blood does, rushing from wounds, words
     of abuse as attendants cheer on the crowd,
     others in shadow shout out incantations
     to ward off what damnation prayer can, and fast
     through old streets where ritual and chaos meet,
     I am chased by this violation, my soul
     all deserving of such just punishment as
     strangers see fit with which to greet me, chanting,

‘He corrupts immortality! His fingers
     slice open shut eyes, interrupting what rest
     we purchase with our counterfeit sanctity!
     Kill him before he butchers our afterlife!
     Kill him before a sign of the end-times falls
     from the hill! Before angels rearrange his
     name’s letters and litter our pantheon with
     them to glorify him! Kill that mortician
     lest he fells heads with his axe of contrition!’

their pulsing galaxy of milk-ivoried
     eyes following the desert of mine, I find
     refuge finally, falling at painted toes,
     those sauntering swift-footedly through the shrine
     of a deity whose wrath they each incur
     whenever they hurt her petitioners, and
     since incense is the body odour of gods,
     I sense sanctuary as does the riot
     pursuing me, fools none so defiant as

to try prophecy, and so fast I return
     to work performing post-mortem augury,
     finding in fleeting fame’s fiery remains
     warm ashes speaking in brash, crackling whispers
     of abuse that caused vital organs to crash,
     reputations to shatter, curdled moonlight
     to gather at the crevices of curled lips
     like coagulated milk, their violence
     extinguished like cigarettes, silence speaking

of how stars burn out, how mummification
     acts as the only route back to heavens ripped
     like a wilderness tabernacle to shreds,
     idols smashed to shards, as if throwing back up
     what gods hurled down could restore to unity
     a firmament so torn with differences,
     its tired planets stop turning when men attempt
     to touch them and cannot, cold lightning without
     electricity imitating the bold

     futility of their frailty, since even
     eternity itself is impermanent.