Azure & Or

     A Song of Ascents, After the Manner
          of the Psalmist and Minor Prophets—

True of voice, may no
shadow arise between your footsteps
and your will. Unity follows
those whose intent knows no
doubt. Should you have fallen
into the snare of a
grave, been persuaded by its
illusion to be consumed by
the flame of its painted
cave, jewelled humility of spirit
and bronzed temerity of will
shall uplift you and carry
you out, unscathed. Once you

have surpassed the soul’s dark
night, ravaged from the savage
desert all memory of this
test’s torment in your flight
from the diminished enormity of
your self-concept’s gargantuan myth, no
longer subject to its edicts
but not yet acquainted with
this unspoken truth which comes
to you crushed and broken
and burning in the light,
then you will have earned
the azure and or emblazoned

on these arms, the right
to which the struggle of
your inheritance confirms. You are
noble but only as honourable
as the trouble you can
afford to handle alone. ‘Show
yourself to the world,’* answers
the sun, pure of heart
and golden of tongue, great
of magic when born again,
emboldened as a trinity of
sphinxes escorts you toward the
mystery of your father’s throne.

Before he has gone, ask
of him some wisdom so
that your mouth might be
guarded against lies, and your
throat kept strong, when you
swallow bitter truths the way
herbs salve wounds. Repeat them
only as you have lived
them, as songs for the
Lyra Davidica Solomon bequeathed to
his son, and god installed
in his palace halls which
are the hearts of all.

Notate Bene:
☞ The armorial bearings here depicted are those of the poet, granted October 20, 2019. In the language peculiar to heralds, by whom such distinctive personal devices have been devised and designed for centuries, its blazon describes the coat of arms, from which its accompanying flag and badge are derived, thus: “or three thebans azure, per fess azure a sun or.” ¶ Heraldic law, which strictly governs the granting and use of such imagery, is rooted in chivalric traditions carried into England at the time of the Norman Conquest in the 11th Century. Its unique jargon reflects linguistic conventions and usages of that era, remaining a standardized terminology today, its arcane vocabulary ensuring the correct description and rendering of designs over time, without deviating from distinctive details integral to the intended symbolism. ¶ Heraldry recognizes a limited, controlled palette of symbolic colours and patterns known as tinctures, among which exist two metals (or, which is gold; argent, which is silver), five colours (azure, which is blue; gules, which is red; purpure, which is purple; sable, which is black; vert, which is green), and eight furs (ermine, ermines, erminois, pean, vair, counter-vair, potent, and counter-potent; each of which is a highly-stylized geometric variant of markings and shapes found historically on various animal pelts). ¶ The emblems which adorn and comprise the shield in a coat of arms are called charges, and often function as puns on the name of the grantee in addition to their function as visual metaphors representing deeper meanings. In this case, the poet’s coat of arms indicates his loyalty to, and fascination with, his ancestors, many of whom were also armigers, persons lawfully entitled to grants of heraldic emblems, which, contrary to popular misconception, belong to individuals, not families or surnames, though are often subject to hereditary provisions among other conditions and in many instances can be inherited. ¶ Passionate about his genealogical pursuits and proud of what his original research has uncovered, the poet’s coat of arms incorporates the ancestral “Borden colours” as its primary tinctures, from which the present poem derives its title. Representing this link to his family’s past, the three mythic beasts, sphinxes in this case, referred to by heralds as thebans, face the left, looking to the past not only for inspiration and guidance, but as ferocious guardians of the family’s secrets over which they keep vigilant gaze. Their number recognizes the three major migrations and resulting geographical “seats” of the poet’s ancestors, who settled in as many locations since their earliest origins. ¶ The union of opposing qualities, male and female, man and beast, gentle and terrible, terrestrial and celestial, pawed and wingèd, as well the positioning of the sphinxes in flight above the horizon represented bisecting the shield, affirm the poet’s Hermetic studies, beliefs, and practices, uniting what is above with what is below, and vice versa. In mythology, Œdipus was successful in solving the “Riddle of the Sphinx” at Thebes, the correct solution to which was “Man,” here indicative not only of the poet’s own mysterious dualities expressed as an artist, but his gender and sexuality he explores in his life as in his work. ¶ Notably, below the figurative horizon, which represents potentiality, opportunity, and new beginnings, an anthropomorphized sun faces the viewer directly, alluding to the poet’s focus on the present, neither his past nor his future, as well as his confrontational creations. In addition, the sun connotes the regal command and domineering yet radiant presence with which tradition associates its powerful, enduring appearance. ¶ The division of the shield, per fess, into horizontal halves, delineates the public and private aspects of the poet’s life, two sides of the same coin, as it were, while the sphinxes hint at Classicism, to which poetry as an art form, like the sun, at once ancient and timeless, belongs. The poet’s interest in ancient languages and philosophy is indicated by this Classical allusion. ¶ The flag and badge bear the same interpretations, adapted to more practical uses and functions as outward identifiers of the poet. In historical practice, the badges of armigers were worn by their household staff, as well as appeared on belongings such as carriages or luggage, or in contexts where affinity with ownership or service was to be visually articulated. For want of a better contemporary cognate, this is the poet’s personal “branding.”
*The poet’s motto, which appears on the scroll beneath the shield in his full achievement of arms, here translated from the 4th Century Latin of Saint Jerome’s rendering of “The Gospel According to John”, Chapter 7, Verse 4, in the Vulgate version of the Holy Bible.