Fresh Poetry ~ “Engineering Nephilim”

Hieronymus Bosch - Engineering NephalimLet us undertake a thought experiment
to stretch capacity
of imagination: Submerging past
guarded gates & baited whispers,
in this wake
shadows of Eternity appear.
Still in the research phase,
consecrated amongst Masons,
the U.S led coalition
who inhabit Canaan—those fallen angels
lacking precision & despite the mystery,
control is unravelling.

When you know your Bible properly
it is said Giants
from the deep, billowing upward
who
benefit from Universal understanding,
went to daughters of man
like phosphorous fires
of a match on first strike.
Unchartered these children
of the sun,
forsaking the Lords of Flame;
dark-born beings
from their minds masquerade as Star-born,
anticipating the folly
of Adam,
holding a tablet, stylus or scroll—how they are rendered
by this craft.

What people have ever recognized themselves
deceived by fable?

In the rush of piracy
traditional winds are rendered impotent.
After surviving the flood,
under justice broad & clumsy,
devoid of the swift accuracy
of Sequence,
clever minds operate a hypodermic injection
altering human DNA.
The indiscriminate substitution
of pure & applied science
captures public imagination—secrets
of exuberant skulls keep
for
unusually loud symbolism.

The synchronicity clause
indicates that mastery
of emotion
will place universal energy at
ready disposal;
peppered by a noisemakers’ enthusiasm,
resurrection unfolds—the book of Enoch
provides.
Some memories are spotty:
Evacuate the coastline
& blah, blah, blah: you get the picture—
it’s real.

{Artwork by Hieronymus Bosch}

Quotation from Annie Dillard

Salem Press, Inc‘It is the shock I remember. Not only does something come if you wait, but it pours over you like a waterfall, a tidal wave.’

~ Annie Dillard

 

 

{Photograph from Salem Press, Inc..}

Maggie

Russell Lee(Maggie enters the playing area slowly — someone peacefully yet intensely lost in thought. In her hand, she carries two dog leads. She reaches the centre of the stage, where almost as an afterthought, she remembers and searches off into the horizon. Maggie whistles expertly, and a moment of anxiety arises, which she suppresses immediately. It is now she notices the audience and smiles a shy look before speaking directly to them.)

Maggie: Mother once said that wonder should be like Christmas decorations or playing cards — it should come out only at appropriate times. In spite of this sentiment, which I never fully accepted, I have been wondering lately about humankind. We hear so many stories concerning noble, heroic folk but is that truly an accurate representation of our species? Are we always so honourable and fair?

(Maggie pauses to whistle into the distance once more.)

My thing is dogs. I have never mixed well with people so have remained apart mostly. ‘Stick with the dogs,’ I remind myself and the loyalty I expect will return in kind.

(Maggie looks down at her muddy boots and makes a small show of cleaning them off.)

I love taking my girls our for a run in the fields but it is spring. Forget renewal, and the majesty of rebirth — all the poetic nonsense. Spring means mud — more than you can bear. Always makes such a terrible mess in the house.

(Maggie stops fussing with her boots.)

As I watch my girls till the empty fields with their racing paws, they raise ghosts along with the occasional jack rabbit. Easter is coming and that will make me think of family. Even though it’s been years since the girls and I celebrated a meaningful holiday together, it still takes me back. We’re all scattered now, across the country so it’s not always convenient to get together. They have their own lives now and I was no different with my mother — worse perhaps but I was quite unprepared for marriage. I didn’t watch much television or see many movies so I had what would be called a rather narrow view of the world. Things are different now, of course and I realize today that if my life had been like a television program, I would have been the one who cleared-up after the pigs and we called ourselves a family. I know animals — understand?

(Maggie call for her dogs again.)

If Mother were a dog it would have been a chow — she was fattish, fiercely loyal but easily confused by the expectations of responsibility for her position at the head of the pack. That was Mother in a nutshell — she didn’t have the guts to do it herself, but then attacked you for being uncertain. I had little support in my early life so I drew from animals, you see and what could be learned from their true natures. Cat or dog — what’s the difference? One is waiting, the other is not. With cats, it’s either love or hate; that endless game of approval and disapproval they’re so fond of. Cats take what they want and off they go. With dogs? Loyalty, all the way. I am loyal that way, like my dogs. This is the animal inheritance accepted at my wedding — dominion and the legacy of slavery that comes from following my husband’s impression of God’s word. My husband also gave me my first dog and I called her Sasha. What a beautiful Irish setter she was, and I fell in love with her instantly but honestly? The most surprising things was that I’d actually been given a gift. Looking back, I think my husband was the type of man who would give me things in his mind and I believe he was often very generous in his imagination but then he would take credit for it as if he’d actually given me the present he’d only thought about. It was a confusing marriage and I spent most of it not moving, waiting for his approval. Reflecting on it leaves me feeling rather baffled, though that is nothing new.

(Maggie calls to the dogs, promising treats if they return.)

More often now, loneliness sends my mind drifting out upon the sea of time, where it flows into the undertow of the past, pulling me to places where I am dared to remember. My memories are mostly a collection of facts best justifying a lot of foolish mistakes and what is slowly surfacing from these reflections is how utterly blind I’ve been. How could I have passed a pathetic existence, ruined by violence, with worry as my only shield? Who can be blamed for that? I took few risks in life and received little in return. Wisdom doesn’t automatically accompany old age and like my mother, any attempt I made to build a family ended in a failure for reasons I couldn’t see at the time. I never knew to ask for help. When did I stop praying? When did I stop asking God to listen and prevail?

(Maggie paces slowly.)

It was after my first communion but before the rage. Rage — you can ask me anything about that. Gentle as a mother’s caress, then roaring up to burn away love and patience. Bet I know as much as anyone could about that. The Bible tells us that inside the four walls of a home, Christian values are best cultivated. Honesty, patience, love of neighbour but nothing sears a family together like rage. Only problem is — too much and eventually you stop fighting back. ‘Don’t be so unreasonable!’ he would yell at me. ‘It shows how stupid you are!’

(Maggie rubs her eyes, as if trying to dissolve something.)

Bad memories. Sometimes on will come along and rip the breath from my lungs.

(Maggie composes herself.)

When I first met my husband, I thought it was a case of animal attraction. The instinctive pull of two separate forces. I saw myself through his eyes and the walls fell. ‘Think of Frank Sinatra,’ he whispered to me at a church dance. ‘I’m just like him.’ If I’d been raised to have my wits about me, I would have realized he was more the last stop on the bus but we are so often at our most desperate when reaping overdue rewards. I was lonely even then and he sent some big plans in my direction — plans for a future I could have barely imagined. He was older and understood the ‘Bigger Picture,’ with an eye for the finer things in life. He seemed loaded with insights into how the world worked and he promised this would give us that extra edge for the finer things in life. He must have seen me as someone who was dying for structure — limp, passive and pretty, with years of slack to give and no aggressive ego to tame. To a certain type of man, a married woman is a hothouse bloom, delicate and in need of careful maintenance. The more precise the conditions of her care, the sweeter the scent of her bloom and no word wets a woman like ‘forever.’

(Maggie calls to the dogs, saying she is getting tired.)

My husband had options — lots of them and it used to make me nervous, all those other women buzzing around. In the end, he chose me and it was my youth — where space seemed open and fine and I revelled in the sense of escaping to something more than I could ever hope to find watching my own horrible family age. He kissed me that night at the dance. A hard, deep kiss that smeared my Woolworth s five-and-dime lipstick. Actually, there was more that a kiss but I never speak about that. What did Mother say? ‘Some secrets live.’ I guess that’s the way it goes. As far as ‘sex,’ I’d been given the impression there was more behind it all but that wasn’t important anyway Mother assured me. ‘Love, honour and obey.’ That’s what counted and Leonard was right there to train me along the many steps of my domestication.

(Maggie laughs quietly to herself.)

Edgar DegasThat feeling doesn’t last long — the one of listening to the radio and thinking every love song is about you. Living it was supposed to be what we were doing — skilled living, where we understood the rules of the game and made them work for us. For that to have happened, Leonard had to remain the same as on the night we met, then grown and matured like a dance hall crooner — shy at first, respectful of the band that lead his pure, clear voice to greater effect but then growing in confidence, until he became a roustabout cowboy, flying over the notes of the music, leaving the band panting to catch-up! My own Frank Sinatra.

(Maggie chuckles to herself.)

If this were an ideal world, the music would never have stopped but early on in our marriage, I became this sputtering, fussing Edith Bunker kind of wife and I hated myself but didn’t know what else to do. You see, my husband could never have respect for anyone who respected him. That was his problem. He demanded loyalty as a condition of his affection but once he had it? He’d turn and that’s why I love my dogs.

(Maggie pleads with the dogs to return, telling them it’s going to rain.)

Men like Leonard always know the rules, the real rules—how cards should be played and how a life should be lived. Leonard was one of those men who was also privileged to know the ‘truth.’ Truth with a hard, capital ‘t’ — truth meant to correct, meant to straighten and I accepted this unconditionally. Everything my husband said was an explanation. I never knew how to do things properly and his approval meant a great deal to me so I allowed myself to become completely devoted to a bad-tempered man. I had been raised devoutly Catholic and my family attended mass dutifully but once we were married — hardly went to church again. Leonard demanded all my faith. Demanded it and then mocked it by saying it wasn’t enough. Is it love that makes one hold all that down? All that pain and humiliation from boiling a heart in the anger one calls injustice? Rage: hot and fierce. It needs to come out but when it does tends to make a mess. In time, I learned to see the violence as renewal. Fresh vows would always fall after the worst attacks and restored faith would erase all doubt. ‘Don’t get yourself so worked up,’ he’d say. ‘Think of the baby,’ he’d say when I would cry after a beating.

(Maggie pauses.)

My daughter — she’s a good girl.

(Maggie takes a picture from her breast pocket and passes it to an audience member.)

That’s her on her wedding day — Emily is her name. Looks beautiful, doesn’t she in her off-white dress? Beautiful but afraid to think for herself. It’s hard to tell form that photograph that she is slipping on a banana peel — a fool in flight. She married a splinter of a man but she has always been eager to learn the hard way. Her demons sent the first husband packing and I felt sorry for him. I truly did. He was a good dancer but it drove Leonard crazy and he was hard on her. Mistakes are the land mines of any adolescence but each one Emily made blew Leonard’s confidence in her more and more apart. She was even too frightened to tell her father to go to hell and he deserved it, he really did that pushy bastard — with his fear and the flimsy nightgown he thought would make a good wedding present. It made her sick when she unwrapped it, the poor child. May I have the picture back, please?

(Maggie smiles weakly and replaces the photo into her pocket.)

That’s one daughter. She is remarried now and the new one barely says two words. My other daughter was never the same after she discovered there was no Santa Claus. I’m serious — she never trusted Leonard or I again once she figured out we were the ones putting the gifts under the tree and got out of the house as fast as she could and married a man completely supportive of her flat, embittered personality. She believed we only loved a part of her and I don’t know about Leonard or if he was even capable of loving but I loved her. Still do but she doesn’t believe that. She went off to school and became the first in the family to graduate from college. The only one to win anything, much less a scholarship to study chemistry. It was there she found the man she believes could give her the love we couldn’t. Perhaps one day she will see differently, but for now at least, she has made enough peace with me to open the path to my first grandchild.

(Maggie holds up a photo of her granddaughter.)

I was occasionally allowed to go for visits and help take care of that precious child. It was like an oasis in the desert of a barren marriage.

(Maggie kisses the photo, replaces it and removes another photo. She holds it for the audience to see.)

A picture of Leonard relaxing on a break from work. He enjoyed his job at the psychiatric hospital and I believe from the little he told me he was good at his work. Being an orderly is no cakewalk but a real man should be self-employed, Leonard always said and when he was laid-off from his job at the hospital, I agreed with him. That’s when the shed went up in the backyard. The shed — the head quarters of what was to be his ‘industry.’ He would go back to his shed to create what was going to be the source of our bread and butter once the unemployment cheques ran out and run out they did. ‘So what’s the business?’ I’d ask him after he come inside from hours of ‘meditating’ in the shed and he’d growl it was beyond my understanding and demand his dinner. You see, the shed was off-limits. No one was ever allowed inside and the girls were, naturally curious but he defended his selfish stand with anger that was like a sledgehammer.

(Maggie put the picture of Leonard away.)

Year after year I waited in the darkness, believing in his dreams. ‘Where is thy faith?’ Leonard would demand and to that cupboard in my mind I’d go, one more time to pour another cup. Faith — I’d write the word, then finger the paper raw. It is difficult to count the years that were chewed through by the weight of regular disappointment but I aimed to show him I was loyal. I met his violence with an open heart. ‘It’s what Mother did,’ I’d remind myself, while the pillow soaked with buried tears. I learned the rules soon after the wedding. ‘You’re the wife. You do as I say.’ ‘Who says?’ I challenged back. Oh — you’d have been proud of me. In those days, I still felt entitled to an explanation. ‘It says so in the bible!’ Out it would come from its place on the shelf, thick and dusty. On the inside cover, written in shaky hand was where it all began: ‘To Effie, Love Grandmother Phelps. Christmas Day, 1923.’ The dawn of time as far as Leonard was concerned and who could argue with great grandmother Effie? Over the years the bible came out more and more. Leonard would make the girls swear before God, with their hands flat on the cover when he wished to test their truth. I would object and Leonard would lash-out. ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.’ Job’s lot, too. Poor Job. I used to pronounce his name like the place you go to work. ‘It’s Job!’ Leonard shouted from the dining room table. He and some friends were having a poker night. ‘What an idiot! Calls him job. Can you believe how ignorant she is?’ They laughed at that — Leonard liked to have a good time and we had a terrible fight about it afterwards. I was proud for a long while after that evening because it was the last time he ever hit me in front of his friends.

(Maggie draws out a crucifix from the inside of her blouse.)

Christ said to turn the other cheek when someone strikes out but what if that cheek is still stinging from an earlier slap? It confused me terribly, and in this violent climate, I built a home plagued by paralysis and fear — paralysis that wove it’s way through the minds of my children, binding us like an invisible elastic of terror. Brutality is a hammer, anger the leveller, the bulldozer of emotions but that was Leonard’s way. Once he got sick though — once he got sick, I started remembering. Then he got sick. It was just a bruise or so he kept saying and he refused to mention it to the doctor when I urged him to. That time, his arrogance got the better of him and that blemish became the site of a long-suffering, devastating illness. When did he start getting sick? When did weakness and depression take possession of his heart?

John Morgan(Maggie looks into the horizon but does not call for the dogs.)

In those times of his despair, when they told him the illness was terminal, he was relentless in his obsessions. ‘In the future,’ he insisted, delirious on the pain killers ‘after the work, there is the glow of reward.’ Not the horse before the carrot, mind you but the understanding there could be relief. If time is the true measure of luxury, when Leonard finally died I felt like a very rich woman. Someone who could finally savour the night without interruption. In the days that followed, that peace of not having to be obedient washed over me. Not have to think of someone else first? Unimaginable. What did I decide to do with this free time, this return of vital zest that had once life’s work so easy? I decided to clean. Got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed the floors he walked on and bleached the sheets he lay upon. Scrubbing fresh all the grimy layers, I needed to experience the house without him and like any cleaning, once you get started on it you have to keep going because you can see the contrast between the grime and the clean places. Once that is complete, you’ll need to start all over but it will be easier behind the power of momentum. It’s mostly a blur but I remember a moment standing at the sink. While washing the dishes from the small party we had after the funeral — just a formality really, you could hardly call it a party — while I was washing up the cups and plates, I paused to read a label on the dish detergent. As I scanned down it’s clever design, I remembered how housewives used to get wingy about grease. You never wanted any grease on your pates when I first started buying this stuff and God forbid if there was a smudge on your glasses! Today, it’s bacteria and germs that are the home makers greatest enemy and just as I was realizing this, and I forgot to tell the police this part, Leonard’s shed just popped into my head. I put down the bottle of detergent and through the empty, freshly scrubbed halls I travelled to Leonard’s room. We had mercifully slept in separate beds for the second half of our marriage but I knew he kept the keys to the shed in the top drawer of his night stand. I slid the drawer open and sure enough — there they were.

(Maggie holds up a ring of keys.)

I went immediately to find a flash light — the light that would brighten the darkness that haunted my marriage for so many years. You see, I was never to look inside the ‘hobby shed’ as Leonard called it but the crazy thing is that I did what he said. Never once went inside that rotting shack. This is probably going to sound silly or mental but there was an evil in that building. I could feel it and stayed away happily. Facing my resolve with considerable fear, I walked across the backyard, keys trembling in cold hands. Approaching the shed, I carefully slid a key into the freezing padlock, then pushed open the door on the stiff, rusty hinges.

(Maggie imagines herself back in the doorway.)

Inside the room, the flash light revealed an empty space, bare except for some odds and ends and that disgusting mattress. It lay on the floor, soiled and rotting. It was a junk yard of a room and I stood frozen, unsure of my next move in life. I poked at the mattress with a broken fishing net and imagined it burning. Destiny is specific it would appear. and in there, in the stench of that goddamned shack, I cursed the heart that lead me to such a pathetic devotion.

(Maggie reflects, the emerges from her reverie.)

Listen to me — I still get so lost in it all. ‘God hates whiners,’ Mother said and that was maybe the one thing she was right about. Why is it that humanity tends to the morbid? The dogs aren’t like that.

(Maggie once again calls the dogs and finally notices then with relief. She returns her focus to the audience, in a new more confident purpose, building through the remainder of her story.)

In the corner of the room was a gas can.

(Maggie swishes the imaginary gas can.)

Still half- full.

(An idea surfaces.)

Must faith be blind for it to count in God’s eyes? This had been my greatest delusion — waiting for strength from places where it did not exist. My husband was a weak man, who set fires loose in our family and I never called him on it. In that instant, in that icy night air, I looked to the dark sky and saw the promise of a flickering dawn on the horizon.

(Maggie mimes splashing the contents of the gas can on the floor.)

Rage — it is rage that lights the fields ablaze and rage that pumps the hating heart. Rage settles every score and when all is said and done, in that cold, damp, musty air, the pungent smell of gasoline filling my sinuses, I came to an understanding that finally ended the haunting feeling of dread.

(Maggie lights a match and drops it on the floor.)

A small fire at first, to burn the weeds of shame but soon I replaced the even, night-time sky with fire and my own rage. As the flames of the burning shed grew higher, an frozen case around my heart melted in the heat of that blaze and drained off into some invisible sea. In that space, I could finally see — and I felt so sorry for the pain I had caused in my weakness — pain that all the aspirin in the world couldn’t take away from my girls. My beautiful, innocent girls!

(Maggie irons her brow and the moment passes.)

Memory offers a bridge from where we anticipate the future; where we attempt to peer through the cracks in Time to review our choices. It is a limited vision — a ray of clarity that could be read only in the freedom of that dreadful inferno. What was to stop me from walking straight out the yard and down the street to a place where those unbearable memories were more easily digestible? Realizing that the mercy of my own salvation involved discovering what had been sacrificed would require a new vantage point. What if I walked as far as the old highway? What would it matter? There was no one to forbid me any longer.

(Maggie slowly starts to move.)

Mother always said ‘Senility in abundance. That’s the promise of Old Age.’ Mother was wrong in that regard. As I have aged, I have found the key to the chains that locked my heart to a tyrant. Certain now of a world beyond that inferno of misery, I walked away from a jubilee of flames, and this story — my story, which began in such a miserable setting, continues upon the lines that connect to form maps. A walk which leads to forks in roads, as movement provides the balm to soothe a ravaged spirit. I walked following in the footsteps of people who’d lived honourable, magical lives — people who had lead free lives and with each new step, the light brightened by a degree. To walk, is to pray — to step, to cleanse, moving steadily towards the truth.

(Maggie pauses serenely.)

Soon? It’s not like walking at all but as effortless as gliding across a bed of marshmallows. Now? I am greedy for more of this life, like a recent convert, free now to cultivate my own sense of loyalty.

(Maggie looks into the audience for a moment, respectfully and with quiet appreciation, then exits gracefully.)

Katyare

 

 

 

{Artwork by Russell Lee, Edward Degas, Katyare & John Morgan}