Phillip Priest

January 24, 1958-Franklin

Beneath the Seas of the Moon

1

Autumn,

the Evening season

that regrets dreamt-away Summer.

Failing leaves are falling

into fires

along the edges of fall.

I recommend my book

of leaden words to the flames.

Smoke flutters its

flags of victory

over my burning empire.

As I lean on the stick

a pilgrim

on his staff

Ash spirals up in the smoke

refugees fleeing the paper city

then fall back down

snow

to settle in the burnt out sea of this moon.

2

Body

hand out of the earth

you grip me.

chains of muscle

tie me to a fear of death.

Our cities are camped by a tall dark wall.

and we huddle around

that fire in the night our desire

decides to see by.

I have laboured

long and hard

in the field of light

turning the ground over and over

harvesting light-tipped

lances of wheat

with the keen-edged

sickle of the moon

I am not poor enough yet

to retire.

3

At last!

I have broken the back of the mountain

that once broke the back of me.

Midnight in the forest

not knowing where to go

let alone why

above the trees a cloud passed

and

leaves of moonlight softly fell

lighting a hidden path

I turned that way.

My Birth?

I fell overboard from a

passing ship

cast-up on this shore

my cargo-holds of memory

washed clean.

They came down from the City

and picked me up from my morning’s shore

dressed me in their clothes

and loant me a Name.

It bewilders

that the sea I crossed

from this height

is but a river

that night’s darkness deepened.

The World was drowned

when from an ocean of sorrow I looked upon it.

Labouring on deck

I wept, sweat and spat it out.

I was so land-sick

many a mermaid

I saw

in the curve of the waves

I almost,

overboard, leapt,

when the moon’s reflection

an isle upon the waters.

A Wave slapped my face

and someone laughed.

Now, sweeps to this mountain peak

a snowstorm of stars.

4

All too soon

the sun sets on Summer

and the mountain now

a charred stump

after the fires.

The sun is but a streetlight

on a long dark road of such

and I see the skin of things only

my senses strip the surfaces

for Thought’s expression.

The clear diamond still unseen.

5

Ever-changing City

of the same name

you are my face,

and I am in ruins now.

The stars have holed my roof

and the moon rolls

over the stones

crushing them to dust.

I would return to the emerald cathedral

of the forest.

I stayed awake all night

to see where the night goes

It ends at the sun but the darkness

keeps going on.

Crown- this city

sun gilded waves bow down to thee

but at evening

sunset rusted river passing through

takes thine discarded glory away.

Cities of the sandy plains

reflect the dead seas of the moon

They are the carcasses of dead whales

that swallowed the falling stars

and the bodies of boys are strewn there

who from the tall towers

heavy with despair

leapt to fly from-

teardrops.

I am a toppled tower of this City

lying on my bed

eyes damp

for I dreamt

as the desert in the heat, mirages,

a dream

That I could stand

on the edge of the world

a Lighthouse-

a breach in the Dark Wall to rescue.

6

I stand back

to regard my work so far.

A clammy leaf lands on

my bare arm

flesh shivers on the bone

A voice speaks:

“Bones ache in the desert wastes.”

I twirl the offending leaf in my

blistered hand

dead dream-eye.

I think of saplings caught in a breeze

thinking they are flying

just as young boys do

escaping too black dirt.

And the Tree of our Kind?

Sprung from Man’s dark, cold

and restless sleep

the dream leaves so sharp

we all have been cut

and the blood

but ink for the Historian’s pot.

This leaf’s rust

is dry blood.

Unto our Tree

when will the owl come to roost

and drop from its beak

warm and round

the moon

upon us.

7

Sun, there is no light or warmth

in your name in any tongue

and no land can claim thee

but is not bereft of thee

and all names burn in the

fire of your light.

Is there a book of clear light to see by

in this dark world?

I carry before me

a dream of Light to see by.

And the actual sun is a dream too

but not mine.

8

The Emperor awakes

at dead of night

his eyes split open

by a dream of having no sight.

He wanders his Palace.

Guards and dancing girls asleep

are children in fancy dress.

From the rooftop of a tower

by a light breeze

the stars drift as sand over his Empire.

Everything of his command

Beneath the dunes of constellations

is buried

and he but a fierce sandstorm

swirling about the desert waste.

I sit upon a stone

by the shore

of a dead sea of the moon

Here

all the stars I dreamt upon

have fallen

and are sputtering out

The burning fever of dreaming

is flickering out.

This dead sea slowly fills with light

I am conquered

I discern the clear Light

my dreamt suns

blinded me too.

I shall wade naked out into the deep.

9

All is in One

and One is in all,

yet I am jammed tight

in a crevice in between.

There’s a space between thoughts unknown,

as cracks between terrace houses.

All I blame on the unblameable Sun is me.

The skins of difference are thick

and have hardened

and we move away from each other.

If I drain you of your humanity

I drain myself as well.

Wake in the morning

breathe deep the air

into anchoring lungs

thoughts remembered rise- a wave

on a deep yawn

and sweeps us into the streets

that steer our course again

I am sleepwalking again.

O Memory!

I Think of true Light

“O Rose,

I am so attracted,

yet

still so attached”.

10

Winter,

and the mountain

a crouching snow leopard

growling in the thunder

it’s rain-filled shadow pounces

savage

upon the town.

I woke late one Spring night

from a dream of devourment

the stomach of sleep torn open

I hear the roar of the river

and scratches of rain are on the window

The mountain sheds its pelt of snow

and guards my Summer.

11

My shadow darkens the beauty of flowers

stubborn memory again and again.

12

Now full-bodied

the youth wrestles with the child

to run away from home

a fire sweeping into the bright City.

How can I see the moon this way?

A broken bone

poking through the sweltering fleshy sky.

I whirl about in sensual riot

experiences to possess

till my hands are worn as gloves

and my bones stick through

touching only emptiness.

Rubbed raw by vigorous love

I will be seen as a skeleton at night

clattering through the Cemetery of the unlit City.

I come home -dead, but alive in it somehow.

I wander in the dark space

between the “tic” and “toc”.

I sit

a King, sick

the world rotting in my gut.

I lay on my bed for several turns of the Earth

just staring and staring

then staring some more

at the cracked ceiling

which grew higher

as I sank lower into my grave.

Dead,

yet still alive in it.

Through the rain

I saw a girl

standing in a pool of light

but I had no sense

to come in out of the rain.

I dreamt I woke from this ghetto room,

I had discarded myself to

from the world,

into a palace of splendour

wrought out of Light

and I there

resplendent of form

and a Motherly voice said:

“Do not worry

for we will all be awake soon”.

I awoke and speculated.

Through the window

the sickle moon

began to cut back the darkness.

I can no longer find my home

in any house of the world.

13

Cold is the earth

and cold my feet.

Overnight

an avalanche of snow-clouds

buried the mountain.

I watch as the wind

slowly plucks the tufts of cloud

from the spiky trees.

Jealous snow grips the peak

and white shadows fill the crevices.

I rub the mist of my breath

from the window

to see more clearly

the fog-ruined city

and the fog-broken bridge

people, unaware

walk over.

I watch from a shelter

a storm wrapped about an island

strings of rain dangle from the guttering

silken wind tears on the corners

and a cloud of mist

caught in a tree

is the ghost of Summer foliage.

What malformed creatures slip through the

cracks of lightening on the isle?

what hatches from the split rocks?

A withered leaf still

persists upon the tree

a memory of Summer

a bridge over Winter.

Vague shapes move in the fog

They are ghosts to me

as I am to them.

I stand on a tree stump

the tree’s ghost

and the wind blows through me

despite my insistence of solidity.

The wind swoops down

and the back of the river shivers.

14

I could not decide my direction

so with a shrug

I surrendered to the wind.

Unknown to me

it was steered by the sun.

I slipped the grip

of the iron city

but now the world blocks my way

and how can I

made of this world

roll this stone away

that eclipses the sun.

Look!

The moon sails close to the world tonight

and I have an idea!

By the design of my face, world

I have designs for you

The sun has no face

So I shall take it’s place.

(knew I not that I was an empty lighthouse

casting my darkness around.)

I dreamt I came upon the moon

fallen onto the desert floor

I touched it

and with a sigh

it crumbled into a pile of dust

a dune for the wind to sweep away.

I sat by candle-light one night

with ruler and pen in hand

redesigning it all

so obviously lop-sided.

By this sail of silken flame

I shall transport this world to a greener land

and a country that moves to a nation

fords a river of blood.

My people will gently pass

passengers from ship to grass.

Yet the weather persists

on storms

that hurl lightning

to topple the towers

I would climb

to look down over my creation.

From the fertile land of a Love

my hands tried to possess

but only bruised

I sit now

strapped to a throne of bones

within the depths

of a dark cave.

Blood seeps through the ground

from the battle waged above

from a war I began

with a sword of light

I stole from the sun.

I thirst

with only these drops of blood to quench

and each drop throbs the pain of the slain it was shed from.

They slowly extinguish

my burning dream.

I weep at what my hands

have wrung from other bodies,

the navigator’s grip slips.

There in Childhood

I stood

crowned by light

attended by butterflies

the King of a grassy isle

out of the shards

of an emerald beginning

wooden sword in hand

commanding an army

of ants.

People

tall as pillars

guarded me from the night.

Winter mustered storms

and crossed my border.

O waning moon

blind spot

in the eye of the sun

You darkened the whole world

with your bright design .

Heavy my shadow on other’s faces.

I could not be god enough

to bring down heaven to the Earth.

With a creaking of bones

slowly

the world and I roll away.


15

I stand in the shadow

the wall of my body casts

saved from the grave

it’s darkness excavates

by all the stars pricking through.

The road chases after Infinity forever

and though all be at One even now,

there a vast distance

taking much time

between the idea

and the Being

many are the steps there are in us

to have to walk out.

16

I fall back

unmade

onto the bed

a savage,

lowered into darkness,

by depression and despair,

I see myself

dangling mid-air

snapped neck

from the drop of despair.

Lying there

I could feel my dog teeth

come loose.

Death cures many of Life’s problems.

I would see through the dark

to the root of Light

out of which all the stars flower forth.

Thunder stomps,

ground shudders

a storm on legs of lightning

comes to my house

its whipping lashes the back

of my resistance.

Each stab to the breast

sends cold sweat down my chest

What fire have I stolen?

I struggle through

a field of lightning

I curse the cradle of the constellation

I was rocked in.

My hard bones

crack.

18

O to drown in the moon’s

sea of tranquility.

I have listened too long

to the blackbird’s song

it’s mournful caw

vents the twisted moans of those

ensorrowed

who drift about

the dark and empty corridors-

empty veins

beneath the City.

They spit out

pieces of their broken tongues.

Crushed by the weight of the City-

a boot stamped down.

There are so many other birds to hear.

Even in Winter cheerful songs

fall from bare branches.

There is more than one season to reside in.

I rented for many an Earth’s turn

a room in a house of rain

at evening

about me pinned to the floor

and pinned in corners,

all in black, the twilight people

sighing.

Autumn’s leaves of flame

lit the way to Winter

I suffered too long,

never noticing the evergreens.

Moon

I wait for you to open.

The Tide of Light rises

to fill your seas to the brim

all for I to drown in.

19

Kingdom came

and left again.

No-one else noticed,

I was most impressed.

This Vision but a passing leaf?

No, it is me that is on the wind.

At morning I was issued forth

to cast yet another shadow upon the Earth.

My face grew out of my body

and my body out of dark earth.

We breathe

buried in the graves of our fears of death.

I cannot run free

through the fields

of sun-ripened wheat

in case I fall.

The Forest at night

is full of tripping roots

low branches

and thieves lurk there

to steal

more than just gold.

Our ways are confined

the streets are contrived

and there are maps for the blind

in our pockets.

We cannot scrape our shadows from our feet.

A Light

unseen and unknown before

flows to the shore

of this world of exile.

It breaches the wall of my shadow.

Our entry into the dark is a personal affair

a parting

of the curtain of our shadow.

20

I walk the streets of

the sleep-emptied city.

I see no darkness in the Night.

Huddled in corners

here and there

trying to escape

the weather of the world

wrapped in old newspapers

enfolded in cold darkness

those discarded.

Escape?

There is no way out of the world

but through.

So many towers for those

heavy with sorrow

to be wept

out the windows of

to hit fallow ground.

Some others

wind persuaded

leap for the sun

on false wings

to knock their heads

on the moon

suck in emptiness

and tumble

into the open mouth of their shadow on the waters.

They sink down so far

the darkness goes all around the world.

They drift in currents of wind,

till passing ship hauls them aboard.

A voice speaks:

“Come, Captain come,

to the sea you must come.”

Morning.

Blades of grass

sheathed in frost.

Night,

sheltering from the rain

I look up

and the tree so tall

has,

twisted,

grown-

a path to the full moon.

It snows

preaching silence.

I pray

for

just a single flake

to fall upon the lake

so a ripple of quietude

to my shore would lap

and dispel my ghostly breath.

21

in the snow-filled

gulf of Winter

at the dead hour of the night

when the Earth stops

and the tide pauses to turn

souls are shaken loose

from the tired hand of the body

and a buried smouldering fire

bursts into flame

consuming lovers

awoken by thunderclaps.

Burn,

till a rose

in a corner of the dark

blooms into the sun.

In other solitary dwellings

the fire consumes the tongue

with prayer

to rid the long alone

from their

divide from One.

Soul finds her true Love.

The Night is wallpaper thin

pricked by stars.

Here

once

the bottom of the Universe

the stars fell into

stitches on the hem of the night.

Music rises

and lifts me

close to sublime clarity.

22

Rose

I see your body in

the landscape

and the landscape in the

bodies of thine daughters.

It would be easier

to fathom the ocean

than to sound thy depths.

Seeing a swollen bellied daughter

I know you are in the world

and the world is in thee.

Men burn for women of rain

to fall upon them

at the end of the day.

Rose I see thee watching me

through the gaze of all

thine daughters

whose eyes I catch.

This form I am robed in

is of the Rose as well

it labours

to birth the Soul.

Until the unseen light

all elements are feminine.

Lying there naked on the sand

so much this Earth

and the Earth so much you

Are you dreaming of lovers

made of passing clouds?

I see thee

naked upon the moss

in the emerald cathedral.

I see thee a mermaid

in the curve of the waves.

Rose have you birthed it all

to sound

the bottomless love

thou hast for the Light?

Abandoned daughters die in the snow

to thaw at Spring

a bank of flowers

for true lovers to lie upon.

One warm night

on the brow of the evening

I saw thee-

Venus

and gave chase

Through the darkened forest

thorns tearing the world from me

and from the depths of the dark

you arose

You came to me

with braided hair

tied to the sun.

23

Fool, give it all back.

Return to the spider

the form she wove for you

and in which snare you were entangled.

Go to the river

and weep out the ocean you drowned beneath

and let it flow down

into the opening mouth of the night.

Wait till after midnight

for the knock on the door

open it for that blustery gent-

the wind

wrapped in scraps of leaves and papers.

“It is not so late

as close to morning

and I would you return the

breathe I loant thee”

Look up!

Who would walk the high road

singing as he flits from rock to rock

on the dangerous path.

He wears the sun as a hat

to keep away the shadows

there’s a butterfly upon his finger

as he dances close to the edge

he once fell from

and lay like a string of meat

between the teeth of rocks.

He is the gift of Summer

all too brief.

I am so used to seeing

the road people are travelling on

out of darkness

in their eyes

but no road in his eyes at all

whence has he come?

Perhaps his way all rolled up

and tossed away.

The light in his eyes

sees clear through

my dreaming eyes

to show me

the light in mine.

“No matter which way you go

the world is round

and half-way around

you find yourself on the way back home again

to step from the backyard

walk through the house

to wave yourself

a boy

goodbye.”

His eyes

as they scan about

reveal too much

darkness in the wills of men

and they would

throw him

into the abyss again.

He would but appear to die

for he is no longer

of the elements

perhaps no longer even a man.

Once I had only dreams to be my

guiding stars

and even my dreams of the sea dried up.

I do nothing

I make nothing weatherproof.

I breathe out

and turn to light

Here

now

no more

the false being of memory

drowning and drowning

and drowning again

beneath the seas of the moon.
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