Sword of Samæl

Every thing possible to be believ’d is an image of truth.

          En route to the Oracle of Ammon
                    at Siwa Oasis—


Perhaps I’ve been afraid of being
burned away by love’s untamed flame, its
pain staining black the core of a red
fruit, a sting draining it the way, when
changed to a spade, it draws hard out of
itself anything left of strength with
which to take the game, this battered and
bruised heart of mine and I protectors


of some other treasure’s lustre sent
across time, exiled by some sun’s light
our dimmed eyes can no better muster
than its shine’s reflection our dime-store
illusion’s thin imitation has
mastered, tarnished starry messengers
falling from grace, from an horizon
lining a sky lying open like


the thighs of an erotic book whose
tired sighing lines are our demise’s
only well-wishers, fleeting fictions
sweetening the bitter, a soul like
a butterfly in a bag, vanquished
avengers clearing the air, our glare
alters everything at which we
don’t stare, masters of unkindness, our


blindness avers Van Gogh’s severed ear,
silences its critics so that it
won’t ever hear just how very near
mutilation is to genius, no
one knows this better than what fills us,
emptiness echoing self-knowledge
which, anywhere else, is regarded
as sacred, famous companionless


travelers in lonely places, oh,
how only these mirages know us,
gather the blood of the wounded from
fading faces, paints in the mind what
vanishes without any traces, out
of the incense haze dust beacons a
way, dissipates pain into breath, playing
games with our senses, caresses our


necks with unseen kisses, two serpents
untangle themselves from Hermes’ gold
caduceus to lead us out of thirst
to an old oasis, dangerous
father and prodigal son taking
us on to an oracle beyond
the Colossi of Memnon breaking
the backs of dusk and dawn’s lions who


guard the horizon, crying seven
orisons when sand flies locust-like
into the crevices of their carved
eyes and blinds them both from inside, souls
whimpering then whispering symbols
filling ears and trembling hands with feared
wisdom so long denied them our torn
organs groan as if their venom’s sure


and sudden guidance were violence
and our weakened flesh being broken
open beyond the experience
of being pried from our bleached-boned feelings
hiding deep beneath ill-fitting
clothing of borrowed skins we’ve burrowed
in for long enough, feathers of flame
to fan desire out of pain into


this hunger’s firebrand disastrous plan
immolate to smouldering more than
they can stand every phœnix which
dwells inside a man until his wings
no longer span the hand’s-breadth between
heaven and hell, recalling how each
one of us fell then, ravenous pangs
tangled in clouds of roses claw at


the gut and swell in the throat songs that
won’t come out, the sword of Samæl
pierces the belly of the camel,
splitting an orange at the navel,
a smile spilling a Nile of seed onto dry
soil to make it more fertile,
so that his heir can fill the valley
of their denial with its shout, drawn


to find what was never lost, anxious
caravans cavalcade along love’s
perilous route unarmed, cavalry
unashamed to carry their dismay
toward the open mouth of lust whose
grave consumes those of us who pursue
its tongue’s trust without knowing nothing
its touch says is true, this much I know.

1William Blake, “Proverbs of Hell”, Plates 7–10[, Line 38], of “The text of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: with an Introduction and Commentary by Sir Geoffrey Keynes, published at Oxford by Oxford University Press in association with The Trianon Press, Paris in 1992; page xix.