Way

Photo by Fatih Yürür on Unsplash

“Christian, Jew, Muslim, Shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged”― Jalal ad-Din Rumi

 

Like imagination is to the poet,
This, this, is in the centre of my heart.
You bathe my wounds with words, ointment, kisses
You have the key to the door that is always closed
You want me to stick to simple stories but I cannot
It is not fair to God. You show me a bridge, the bridge
Over the vortex of doubt: you are dumb in the sun.
The river passed into dawn when I took your hair shade
To accompany me to war — I was tired and broken
I do not want to die at night
I prefer to drink wine and think

You broke from your mother’s shelter until death
This stranger is too tired to think.
Dukkha-taṇhā
Suffering and desire
Twist the unbidden tears:
Pumping hearts, shaking hands
Human life conducted in the dark
The hidden fears
The inconsolable grief
Many fear-filled years.
Craving permanence
The enduring stillness
Of the Sea of Galilee.
But let’s walk instead
To the tomb of Maimonides:
Oh! Why do the wicked prosper?
Why oh! why do the righteous die?
Answer came there none –
Except the Song of Solomon –
The season of singing has begun.
Gehinnom, citadel of souls,
Shines behind the sun,
We do not know of the world to come,
Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed
Taught us not to ask for whom the bell tolls
For it tolls for thee….

So, do not forget the resurrection of the heart.

NO SURRENDER

Photo by Zichuan Han on Pexels.com[/caption]

We learned more from a 3-minute record, baby, Than we ever learned in school. Bruce Springsteen

No surrender to the glib complacent,
The shielders, and the worried-well,
Those for whom life is ‘simply hell.’
Those who measure out their life
In coffee spoons, when everything
Is too late or too soon. Let’s call out
Those who conduct their life on zoom,
Who assume a mask will protect them
From the stoic or the zen.
Those who rely on their own four walls
Ejits who condemn the multi-colored young.
Those risk-averse, the small ‘c’ conservative.
Those moved too easily to stay the same
Those who abide by the ‘rules of the game’.
Those who thrill to see the adventurous fail
Those who would never sail the seven seas
Those who we really really need not heed.

Elegy

 

 

 

WHO, when I scream, will hear me?

Maybe an angel?  Or, a man of firmer regulation?

That’s the chance you take with screaming.

Could I put myself in the shoes of s/he

Who hears a scream at close quarters?

I fear not. It would take a leap of the heart

Which is beyond my means. Nobody comes to mind.

Nobody suddenly comes into my heart:

I pass into this stronger existence.

In this ancient house where everything screams

Out a story of those who once lived, loved

Hated within these walls.
Paved with a hundred stones,
Ferns and grasses now grow in the eaves;
But numerous as they are, ghosts are insubstantial,

They are defined out of existence

My old memories are more beautiful than nothing.

That terrible nothing we fear so, so, in the  beginning, we endure.

We admire our own endurance because it serenely spurns

Any chance to destroy us. Every angel is terrible

In my heart, free with wet and rain.

And so I behave and swallow the call

Towards dark, plunging sobs.

Oh, who do we need to be?

Angels not, people not, resourceful animals not.

I have already noticed

That I am not very reliable at home

But I do well in the uninterpreted world

Of signs and symbols. Where, people say,

There is much too much

Once upon a time malarkey.

BREATHLESS

“If you’re feeling sad, just remember that the world is over four billion years old and yet you managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie.”

entry picture

In the Apple Market
Your south London twang,
Accompanied the many undulations
Of time.

Your wild androgyny
Mirrored the mirror
Of yourself

David Bowie, name bought off the shelf.
Now, skimming  the water
Of childhood,
Like a dog shaking off rain,
Your progress accelerated through to
The changeling of the New York years.

You lit up, spot-lighted,
An iridescence of sound
Ziggy!
Your songs were the water
I needed.
Your terse verse
Spreading underground:
Watering imaginations,
Forming rainbows above.
Baker Street, during the long hot summer of 1976

We thought it would never end
But you knew differently
Ashes to ashes
Dust to dust

Before the silver cord was broken
Before the golden bowl was crushed.

NO SURRENDER

buildings near body of water

Photo by Zichuan Han on Pexels.com

We learned more from a 3-minute record, baby, Than we ever learned in school. Bruce Springsteen

No surrender to the glib complacent,
The shielders, and the worried-well,
Those for whom life is ‘simply hell.’
Those who measure out their life
In coffee spoons, when everything
Is too late or too soon. Let’s call out
Those who conduct their life on zoom,
Who assume a mask will protect them
From the stoic or the zen.
Those who rely on their own four walls
Ejits who condemn the multi-colored young.
Those risk-averse, the small ‘c’ conservative.
Those moved too easily to stay the same
Those who abide by the ‘rules of the game’.
Those who thrill to see the adventurous fail
Those who would never sail the seven seas
And those who we really really do not heed.

 

TWIN COMPASSES  i.m. John Donne: 22 January 1572 - 31 March 1631

Such airy valedictions cannot span this bridge in time
What’s mine is yours, what’s yours is very definitely mine.
We both can hear the quiet roar of our new found land
As time drifts to a stop and as we focus near and far
We no longer stand amazed at the hollow rancour of public life
And have no more time for the mere indulgences of strife.
We look too much upon these empty spaces, the sands
That have run out, sans mistress, husband, lover, wife.
Faces that bloom at noontide fade like a plangent song
Sung as we leave the stage with ne’er a whisper of regret.
To walk into eternity with all the grace the less deceived
Can muster, as leaves turn gold at this late turning of the year.
And now those twin compass points of greed and fear
So suddenly disappear: a point upon a circle, a tear upon a face.

THE ISLAMISATION OF ST SOPHIA’S CATHEDRAL IN CONSTANTINOPLE AND THE EXTINCTION OF THE BYZANTINE HERITAGE

 

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ISTANBUL (what an ugly word to replace mellifluous Constantinople with) — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the notorious Islamo-Fascist sultan of Turkey (a member state of NATO and American ally(sic)), said on Friday 10th of July 2020 that the city’s sixth-century Christian cathedral, Saint Sophia’s (building began in 320 AD when Rome was still intact and three hundred years before any mention of Islam) would be converted into a Muslim mosque. Today, 24th of July 2020 by the Christian calendar, Erdogan, and his Islamic acolytes, committed an act of gross desecration, by performing a Muslim act of disrespect to the whole Christian Orthodox community in this Christian church (drapes were found to cover the beautiful representations of Christ and the Virgin Mary. With sword in hand the participants relived the rape and Islamic conquest of Constantinople in May 1453.

St Sophia’s is the home of the Greek orthodox patriarchate of Constantinople. The archbishop there is held under restriction by Islamic authorities. The Greek orthodox seminary (Halki) was forcibly closed by the Islamic authorities in Turkey decades ago (1971). The forcible conversion of a Christian cathedral into an Islamic mosque is part of a centuries old process of ridding Anatolia of its Christian, Byzantine heritage which culminated in the Armenian genocide of 1915–22 when millions of Greek, Armenian and Assyrian Christians were murdered by rampaging Muslim militias. Now there are only a handful of Christians left — 2000 Christians in Constantinople among 15 million Muslims. Empty Christian villages litter Anatolia. The full-fledged mosque, functioning within St Sophia’s (long surrounded by minarets) will be the final nail in the coffin of the Christian East and is a deliberate insult to the Christian west

The poet-historian, C.P. Cavafy (himself of Byzantine descent, exiled to Alexandria in Egypt), wrote movingly of the irreducible loss of Byzantine culture: “I have also been reading laments for the loss of the City. They have captured the City, they have captured it: they have captured Salonica.” (‘Captured’) In 1928, the Anglo-Irish poet, WB Yeats wrote a moving eulogy to the extinction of Byzantine culture in his poem

‘Sailing to Byzantium’:

“That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees,
— Those dying generations — at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.”

During the Byzantine era, a period of 1500 years, poetry was an important art and one of the most famous Byzantine poets was Kassia who was born in Constantinople in 810AD. Kassia was a Byzantine abbess, poet, composer, and hymnographer. She is one of the first medieval composers whose scores are both extant and able to be interpreted by modern scholars and musicians:

For Kassia: a Bold and Beautiful Byzantine poet

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ύριε, ἡ ἐν πολλαῖς ἁμαρτίαις περιπεσοῦσα γυνή, τὴν σὴν αἰσθομένη θεότητα, (you are a very quick-witted woman, the divine deity)

Oh Lord, my God, I fell asleep
No longer in a state of grace
No longer a beautiful woman,
Beloved by the Emperor,
But a harlot, like Mary Magdalene,
A sister of the Christ
Dazzled by his beauty,
By an acre of sorcery,
By a terrible moon
By the time of the month
By everything the moon said.
Still, nothing comes too soon.
So, give me your tears, Lord,
Let me wash your feet,
Let me wash away your Golgotha fear
We all die, Lord
Only the place of the skull lives
Deep within the waters of the sea
Tides rise in my heart — for thee, Lord,
Only for thee.
Listen to the sighing of my heart, Lord,
Your bedroom is empty, Lord,
Let me so-destroy your thighs,
That sin will end and you will live, my Lord.
Rise and forgive me, forgive, Kassia,
In the Paradise Of the Twilight,
I cry. I fear. Hide me away, Lord. I am ashamed
Of your light, Lord, you see me, truly, as I am.
Now, I have become one of the crowd
At the crimson gates of Constantinople
The abyss opens up before me
How do I make up my mind to live,
My sanctified Saviour?
For I am not your servant, Lord,
But your lover.

The structure and size of St Sophia’s, with its huge dome, its beautiful interior (which was covered by the Muslims), has long played a pivotal role in the culture of the city. It is as pivotal to Eastern Orthodox Christianity (which stretches from Serbia to Kerala in India) as is St Peter’s in Rome to western Christianity. It was built as a Christian Cathedral by the Byzantine empire and remained so for nearly a thousand years until, the Muslim Ottomans conquered Constantinople on 29 May 1453 — an event still celebrated by Erdogan’s Islamist supporters every 29 May.

As usual, the so-called Christian west will do little or nothing about this abomination. Those of who care about Judaeo-Christian culture (and/or our Graeco-Roman inheritance) will continue to attempt to hold on to scraps of this ravaged Byzantine heritage. The Greek and Cypriot governments did strenuously object to this act of conquest and desecration: the Greek President tweeted on 10 July: “The decision of the Turkish leadership to turn #HagiaSophia into a mosque is a profoundly provocative act against the international community. It brutally insults historical memory, undermines the value of tolerance, and poisons Turkey’s relations with the entire civilized world.”

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i.m. C.P. Cavafy

I am from Constantinople, a Byzantine by descent,
The last, the very last, Byzantine nobleman.
My family lived in Constantinople before the Turks took the city in 1453.
I was born and died in the same place, Alexandria,
Egypt, on the same day, April 29th, 1863, and 1933.
I am homosexual. I died of cancer of the larynx.
I was silenced but nobody knew the difference.

There were many years between my visits to Greece
But I always loved my Hellenic inheritance..
I lived much of my childhood in England.
My last employment was as a government clerk .
I can write in Greek, English and French.

I self-published my poetry but it was unpopular
And unfashionable. I made no money from poetry.
In my poems I explore the psychology of individuals,
amidst the legacy of Greek culture, especially
Ithaca, homosexuality and Greek philosophy.

Throughout my life, and even now, I suffer
From an all-pervasive existential nostalgia.
Now my poems are taught in schools in Greece
One of my most famous poems is
Waiting for the Barbarians

Which could be about Constantinople
In the years before the Ottoman conquest.
Or could it be about the human tendency to prevaricate?
Who knows?
What’s the point of senators making laws now?
Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.
These are the sorts of words I used. I asked many questions.
Including: Do we need barbarians, even invisible ones,
To be threatening the gates of our cities? I think we do,
If we want to stay alive, to be the less-deceived.

John E Marks July 2020 AD

BAIT

Words you don’t remember,
Winds rising in the sky,
Your soul, I poke with fortitude,
Sparks fly!

……

Coals flare into pettiness
Heat, suddenly, replete, golden sands,
Crystal brooks, silken lines, silver hooks.

……

Glimpsing what’s already there,
I begin to mount the stairs.
Who cares?

……..

A friend you trust implicitly,
A lover you might just like,
A reckoning, that’s oblivious,
A slight rearranging of the night.

……..

A study of false documents,
Poems, you may surmise,
A woman who called you yesterday,
Yet still alive.

…….

A feeling that’s believable,
I’ll say it loud, if you please,
This never-ending circle,
Designed, I think, merely to please.

…….

Beginning the end, my friend,
Starting block, aim high,
Moment of deep-set intimacy,
Look! Lightning breaks the sky!20200708_103746

from swerve of shaw to bend of bray

Photo by Click and Learn Photography on Unsplash

 

catch my death
an English melody
travelling from heat to freezing cold
trans-this, sans-that, groan old.

Mealy-mouthed moaning means nothing to me,
people volunteer eat, shit, eat shit, they do,
they’re that stupid.

Put a gun in a man’s hands
this murderer wears a funny hat
no smiles, no this, no that
no men o’pause, just the bare necessities.

Freeze, moan, groan, be, alone
in this barely-mystic air
that is always, and forever, where
i see through bare air and miss everything.

One of Solz’s gulags, it’s a European thing,
every songbird says.
You get the wrong sign, get out of line,
a triangle or an equation
-b + or — sq root of b2–4ac/2b.

That’s just one way to pray
I have a guilt for my best friend,
keeping him warm, in his grave.

Nothing stops this inclement shivering inside,
by all means there’s worse to come,
sans teeth, sans fun, sans everyfuckingthing

To the crags, where eagles soar

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll. It is now 150 years since the first publication of Alice.

Away with the moon,

with her shadows and all

those sturdy penumbras

you saw in the ball.

 

Forget you, forget you,

you fall out of bed

and all you beget

is so-suddenly dead!

 

She’s tousled & sleepy,

this edge of the moon,

where

Angus, dear Angus,

just walked out the room.

 

His pool-side of shadows

is living alone,

with ginger-nut biscuits

and large gulps of tea,

my shadow is thinking:

is that really me?

 

Are all of the currents

just drifting away,

or finally forging

a minor delay?

To foster a loyalty

to heart, clan or cloud

to cover their heads

or to bury their shroud?

 

Infinity saves,

where the icicles cling,

on the edge of a wave,

where the albatross sings.

 

Now, the soft roar of silence

is all around me,

it stings me awake,

but it won’t set me free.