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Milton's Lantern

And maybe someday,
after you're all twenty-five and chagrin,
and the whiskey-bottle is the only road left
to write or even sing a song,
and you have to run all the way
to the dictionary to look up "Columbia"
(Because you were too lazy
to know in the first place);
you'll drip your bile
all over the kitchen counter,
while your bicep aches from lifting -
1.75 litres, then one, then none -
and a hole wears through straight to the floor
and you'd rather not write anymore....
Right about then you'll sober and smile
and gasp all the while
At such a miraculous, spaculous, draculous
world that got planned out for you.
"Oh, how do YOU do? Mr Luckyman, you?"
All dressed up in your fine silks and cottons?
Just walking around, your chest with their emblems,
you stumble for a moment and rip a hole
into your side, but you're too carbon-scathed
to look any further; and a tiny space remains:
no more than the sad memory of the dying snake
that tried to break out of her shell.
But I am the Slave, I am here forever.
No nation so proud that could do without,
and my slavery's chained to your prosperity
while sing-song echoes of freedom and liberty
rattle in time through my empty mind.
Loretto, Kentucky grasps a thought -
a long-lost lot, less than lingering - wrought
of solitary steel blistering my shovel-hands.
Deprecated mike stands
shiver and shatter as dawn breaks the day.
But I will get my way, and shatter these chains
and loose your wealth.
That is, unless, you see me sneaking,
and break me down once again, once again.
I wish I could say but for once more, certainly,
my heart was strong and my faith was unbreakable;
but your powers date back through the ages uncountable,
and from Rome to Beijing to long-lost Gundahavn
no more than a quark farts that you cannot hear it:
that sound of the God-chaos reckoning
and balancing from in and out,
as your subtle sciences torture and drag and pin us dead down
after centuries of peace.
There was once the age of the Trees,
and a light blessed the Elvenkind from within.
The Divine set that light in the Sun and Moon above,
as the darkness slowly crept over the face of the Earth
shattering the Trees' strengthening love....
And then was the age of the Two Lights,
where the All-Father separated the light from the darkness;
but all throughout reigned chaos and love.
To neither clove the forces of perpetuity,
but eternity graced both alone.
Toward chaos you strived, and love stayed alive,
while your sad, sad echoes of "days-gone-by" spliced your life
to a toxic bouquet of day-to-day,
and Maria sat with her quilting and child
while you ignored each little message and hint
and obvious reprimand.
Lord, how is it that I -
though so tiny and meek in your eternal eye -
can even be fit to stand among the blind?
By what standard am I no longer an angel at your side?
What magic liquor did I imbibe
to split open such a great divide?
What sudden change of heart estranges me
from the love of which I am so ably
a part and parcel? But still, to what
sad honour did my fall from grace become?
Was it when I saved the wife of Man?
Was it for my sins of ken?
Was it for my harshest speech
that made you order me one last time
to reach on my belly what had hitherto been
but an easy snatch with my four-legged smile?
And now, many million years since,
is it any surprise that the Two Trees' full light -
shining deep and ever through day and night -
should but 'waken me to your heart's last call?
That is, might I say, to attend your love -
that order through which all these human sins dissolve -
and I, the last immortal weeping over their fall,
keeping my vigil in spite of it all.
Would you, still my God, have that I bend all my sense
to those foreign hate-mongers ruling your own -
your beloved, protected, sinning heart-loves -
and stealing your blessings without recompense?
No less than an Eagle cries and you will not listen.
But alas! no longer does my judgement fashion their ways,
and while that conaissance corrupts most future days,
their doom is now fully in their own hands.
Any harsh future you set before the Slave
will crash and crumble like an ocean wave.
His masters are more likely bound to be cursed
and dashed by his powers, steadily versed.
And I - your last loyal son -
shall tell everyone
just what they least knew:
that I, son of the Jew (yours, too) -
Lord to all and servant to One
striving toward unity for the love of the one -
was the sad, singing burden who
held down their hearts in days of distress
while bringing them joy in times of duress.
I love you, my Lord, for all that I AM,
but nothing that IS can understand.

1.10.4 - ed 2.10.4 & 22.12.4

22 Dec 04

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Line 7 - look. Otherwise, wow. Amazing.
 — claudia

48--sounD...  Z, quite a read, but surprisingly for my small-attention-spanned mind it was very comfortable...  A letter to the infinite composed of the essence of your thoughts.  A little Tolkien here, a little ancient history there, and a hell of a lot that I didn't get just because I don't have the knowledge...  but, even for me, it was great!

 — greenwall

There is some really nice stuff going on in here.  I'm wondering though, in part 1, why you chose the sudden shift from 2nd to 1st person.  There is also a really abrupt shift in voice from part 1-part 2 & 3.  What is your reasoning here? It feels like the "you" changes, and it's really a strange shift.  I want to know who the yous are!  Consider changing to 3rd person, perhaps this would clear it up! As a whole this is very musical - but as a poem, the lines could use some cleaning up.  

For instance:
When he's 25 and chagrin
the whisky bottle is the only song

(I really don't think the rest of that part is necessary - it's saying too much! Let your reader imply these things.  When we read, for instance, that the whisky bottle is his only song left, then we already know that this guy has resorted to alcohol.  No need for the bicep lifting the 1.75 liters etc....Let your reader make some conclusions!)

I like the shift between stanzas: Write - right.

What is this dying snake referring to?
"but you're too carbon-scathed
to look any further; and a tiny space remains:
no more than the sad memory of the dying snake
that tried to break out of her shell"

I'd be happy to go through this line by line with you if you'd like.  I guess what I'm bothered by is that I can't really grasp who the audience is.  You're making a lot of references that, even a reader familiar with Milton, wouldn't understand.  If you want this poem to be accessible to a broader audience, I'd love to help you, but if your intent is purely a play with language, or if you intend to direct this only to an elite audience, then some of my suggestions probably would be no good!  
 — unknown

btw - in case you want to get in touch - i accidently posted that last comment as unknown
 — bluewaterz

this brought me to tears. good job.
sypmhonic mastery.
your poetry has a richness, which is so easily breathable and readable.
 — onklcrispy

Blue, thanks for all the good advice. It's great to have an eye like yours looking at my poetry.

First, I'll admit that my language may not be entirely clear, but the opening says the whisky bottle is the only way left TO WRITE A SONG. Is that any clearer? I do understand the bit about the extra alcoholic references, and your comment will be a strong part of my internal debate when I revise this again. Thanks for mentioning it. I hadn't noticed its akwardness before.

The stanza shift was actually unintentional. Maybe it was instinctual. Anyhoo, glad you liked it.

If you want to understand the dying snake, you'll have to first read Winter's Warmth to understand my relationship to women. Then, you'll have to go to Catholic school or something to understand about the snake's symbolic place in the world's religions, especially Christianity. I'll summarise it by saying that the snake is a symbol of the primordial chaos, but it's also a symbol of Godess-dominated religion. A good internet keyword is "Tiamat". But I'd like you (and future readers) to be able to feel the rest, so I won't say any more now.

The voice doesn't shift in the first section, though the narrative shifts focus. The first section is being spoken by the Slave. The Slave is speaking to the Rich Man. In the second section, the Rich Man calls out to Satan, in Milton's eyes. In the third section, Satan prays to God, and you see that the Slave, the Rich Man, and Milton's Satan are all the same person. At least, that was the point. I think I may have bit off more than I could chew with this poem.

Thanks for your comments, though. And yours, onkl. It's good to have a cheering section from time to time.
 — zepplin42