Saturday 11 March 2023

In the Maze - Epic Poem by Ed Lyons






In the Maze



Part I

 

1

breezy night in spring

       songbird pulse like dark thunder

at the soft margins

               of a mind that’s young

and labouring under a more difficult

       stress

with the coolness of medicinal dreams

the breeze blows over

the garden, grown shaggy within walls

        of mossy stone –

in the sixteenth century

             under the bright stars

   (Leo rising before midnight

            in the zodiac garden

      with its statue of a sea goat,

              of man pouring water from a jar

                  into the fishes mouth,

       the Roman goddesses—

             Venus, shining one,

                      wingèd Minerva

       chaste and armoured,

                wheeling through the slow sky

        brittle chimes ring from tower

             over the gazebo –

telescope – seas on the moon –

             seas for dreaming

                   moving like music over fractured

       water in every shade of red and gold –

past the monastery

     the child has come through wind and rain

over the fields to stand in this garden

       pale gold cast over the lawn

from chamber over the balcony

       she stands in her nightclothes

           before the mirror

                combing her hair,


2

He was a bright little boy

           able to grasp things easily

in a remarkable way, they thought

            sitting on the cool flagstones,

in front of the big house

           high over the lawn,

              beneath the cocktails and the chatter,

learning from matchbooks the constellations

                                           and their seasons

from a page in the farmer’s journal

            the clouds and weathers

the names of dinosaurs –

               the models of aircraft

as they all walked through the terminal

things that kid figures out

            the damnedest thing

 

3 

the clouds over grassy hills

       picnickers from the last century

abandon the grove quickly

          rainclouds singing over swamps

gold edge over harbour and town

shooting flames of white

            Rainmaker rainmaker

break the summer drought

           smoke rises vertically

                      dead calm

            iceclouds in azure

           over the trees

Autumn comes

              fire adorns the quiet towns

sun wrapped in clouds – silver ripples on lake

               colder tonight

                        frost settling over fields

Fire red at dusk

          In brown jacket walking the rows

of rustling corn

                  sheaves bound the moonlight

   Harvest Moon. Trick or treat

How autumn settles on the market towns.

             schoolgirls. Sweaters.

Another century.

             Deep purple falls.

Turning stars turning secret slow turning

           Colder tonight; Snow.

Wind rustling beyond the porchlight.

Carry your books from school.

         The room can’t be this lonely

There has to be someone

          warm in the warm nest

The cool air fiery woods are my church

let me walk there Sunday morning

let there be a cabin in the woods

       where she waits

 

4 

It is cold in Rome

cold winds coming over the hills

Hurry through the muddy streets

the evening wind rises

the wind is walking

the Romans are building bonfires

In the land of the Gauls

In the country of the Druids

 

Greece is warmer

Summery gust spins the windmill by moonlight

Odysseus coming over the waves

sleeping on the beach

shepherds dream in the forest

Driftwood fire and the surf

safe in the night with the grownups around

Green glowing of the sign on the tower

Green glowing of the evening surf

Jesus and the fishermen

tending sheep

on the hillsides around the lake

camels coming over the desert

through the blue starlight

the study with shelves of leather books

the lonely

Ah filled with light

       invasions of angels

              beautiful androgynous

                         wingèd radiant

      visionmen dance through the air

 

Candles. Ancient knowledge.

Project the motions of the stars

The rising of the harvest moon

The seasons.

Trappers in the lonely continent

Canoes over lakes and rivers.

The continent of solitude

Deer in the woods.

On the riverbank, Indians.

 

 5

The sky pictures first came

      to the shepherds, sleeping near fires,

on remote mountainsides.

      Through the halls the child wandered

learning the tall canvases,

        the symphonies of colour –

It is the god who taught them how to paint –

There are worlds in the canvas

         that does not show our world.

Statues in the garden

        Dark pulsing music

stones in the fountain

         moonshadow crawls over sundial

she is moving in the night

                 beyond the dirtpiles.

 

Have your planes come safely home?

Still you keep the nightwatch

around the flickering scope –

the sky around the water gap – there –

Are they coming through the gap?

Are they coming through the geologic ages?

What are they bringing

such a long way?


6 

Tropic isles.

        Brilliant corals where the angelfish swim.

Time is there is no time.

        Lizardfish thrash in the ancient sea.

        Big as whales.

This moment contains a hundred million years.

The water warm and choppy.

Saltwater and blood.

A hundred million coralfish.

Coconut palms on the shore. Yellow parrots.

Grass hut. Bonfire.

Strange carvings in canoes.

Dance.

Electric savage

Naked breast and thigh

on the warm red sand

.     drumbeat, fire.

                              Dance.

 

7

Appletown, appletown

        where is the devil?

                  far from the ashes that burn near the fence.

Where were you born, yellow worm?

           from ducks that rot in the summer sun

                  in the field where the devil dances.

Weathervane, weathervane,

           where is the wind?

                  Where is the lute that rings out in the snowy air?

Carolers, carolers,

         what are you singing?

                 Baby Jesus tucked in his bed.

Sickleman, sickleman

          what is the hour?

                Time for the boy to be tucked in his bed.

Time for the boy to be tucked

           Pleasant dreams, sliding into sleep

                The planes

come winging through the water gap

             drawn by the horses of the night

                     hoofbeats on distant moonbeams



Part II 

 

1

Light rain

splattered  the Plymouth’s windshield

Saturday night going up to the quarry

north of town

into the inky night

the road turned upward,

into the hills

they were drinking beer.

Didn’t know them. People my cousin knew.

One guy, maybe sixteen, real tough,

Told the legend –

Saint Lucifer, who was really an angel

though despised by God.

Good old Saint Lucifer,

who really was our friend.

Blasphemy,

Tales about crazy ouija boards, demonic possession

Rock groups holding Black Mass backstage.

Pentagram and goat’s head;

scary movies, where they drank human blood.

But it was all right.

I was home, driving the old car

(grandfather had it since I was a kid:

didn’t dare wreck it –

easily could on a night like this,

drinking and smoking with strangers,

just turned seventeen)

Childhood was all around

Jesus

keep me safe.

 

Still I was scared for awhile

about listening

to my

Black Sabbath

records.


2

This guy Mike Lyons

(people used to think he was my brother.

wasn’t, though lived in same subdivision,

rode the same bus)

pretty cool guy all the same,

at this party down the street

(didn’t know those people either)

Looking at the silver cross I wore around my neck.

Belief yes. Churchgoer.

Why?

I sipped my beer. Lit cigarette.

Hearing Led Zeppelin someone was

playing real loud.

Jesus. Sure. Jesus is just all right Oh yeah.

Mike Lyons though it was pretty unusual.

Respected me for it.

In Sunday school they said you should do that.

Called it public confession.

Though I’m not much at witnessing.

 

So I did public confession at parties.

Had a real wasted one when my parents

went to Mexico for a week.

People I worked with. They had all kinds

of drugs. Had them all over.

Didn’t know beer and sangria don’t mix.

Got really wasted

Had to talk about songs about the devil

Ghost Riders

images from Revelation

Satan. 666. Fear.

Talked real loud.

Everyone started leaving and I got sick.

It was late.

Had to clean up afterwards

 

Last night of it I had to get up early

the next day.

Had to make sure it was real clean.

Parents would be the next to see it,

and .I wouldn’t be there.

Drove to the airport at 6 AM

And flew to Philadelphia via Hartsfield.

Buying Atlanta paper trying to look important in my suit.

Was afraid someone left a cigarette butt

Smouldering beneath the cushion,

and my parents would find

the house burnt down

with the little dog inside

when they got home

two days later

on my seventeenth birthday

 

3

How it feels

          after the heat and grime

of the city,

         lying in bed.

beyond the windowsill

summer rain on the cool and darkening lawn –

                         listening –

 

how this house feels

           after the trains and the strangers

to be among the folks I know

             in the friendly rooms

    again after all these years –

 

and how that house

             could balm the soul that had drunk

too much of the horror

         of daylight and newspapers

         of darkness and nightmares

You’re safe now. You’re going to be all right.

 

 

Part III

 

1

on the beach

sand burning so white

it waves in concentrations

of its spectral colours

 

sea turns black under sun and thunderheads;

the brightness of it dims your eyes;

its roar creates a loud silence

 

this is the season of fierce heat,

Savage August enclosing your skin

with salt and fire

 

the sea withheld

the chimes emerge

the blue bolt and report

Cyprus and a day like this

the air charged and thick

a sudden wind kicks up waves

 

born of foam, rising on the surf,

a sudden gust chilling your bare skin.

Electric. Beautiful.

 

You don’t know the way she comes

out of the amniotic swells

veins full of the hot red sea.

 

The season is turning. Your soul

is turning. Something will happen but

it’s not time yet. Stand Still. Wait.

 

2

Just before daylight

      the milkmaids going out to the dewy fields

one I knew stopped

                 gave me milk, eggs, bread

      and I was hungry

               been out all night

                                     hunting


it was spring

      blossoming, birds

       youth, maypole

              the ceremonies of innocence

performed in the morning

       with daylight burgeoning in the air,

        the sun was setting.

Bright white, gold edge of blue

       over the house. Westward.

       over the sea.

I checked the hour.

Morning.

 

3

It’s a hunter’s moon for sure.

     There’s that chill in the air

like those nights in father’s old jacket

      down at the playground

talking to that strange dark girl

                                       Iris

who talked about pills and suicide

       in a dreamy way –

Halloween feeling in the air

                      secret pranks

         Autumn. Harvest. football

                    rake and ritual

                           of the scythe

John Barelycorn in a tavern on the lonely road

           Damsel. Cheerleader. Neighbour’s daughter.

Leaves lie deep in the graveyard.

           Stones. Time. The grass turned brown.

Song of sadness. Slow, deliberate, cold.

            The notes cut through you,

            The words cut through your mind

like sunlight through stained glass

       Figures. Ghostly ages.

Mother Mary have you ever really felt the same

                 Scotland Medieval. Castle Walls

she comes tonight

             cut you down, Adonis

the meaning of this

            blood flowing. Apples.

                      crimson. fullness

                             beautiful          




Ed Lyons has been writing and publishing poems for over forty years. He has studied at the University of Florida, where he earned a B.A. in English, and Florida State University, where he earned an M.S. in Instructional Systems. He has studied under poets Lawrence Hetrick, Van Brock, and David Kirby. He is a regular contributor to the Poems from the Heron Clan anthology, which he co-founded, and a frequent contributor to Lothlorien Poetry Journal, which won him a Best of the Net nomination. Ed’s work has  also appeared in Albatross, Woodrider, A New Ulster, Án Áitiúil, and North Carolina Bards.  Ed has and written hymns for the Moravian Church. The last is the subject of Ed’s 2019 chapbook Wachovia, published by Katherine James Books in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Ed lives in Winston-Salem, also in North Carolina. 

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