Spirit of my descendants, I salute thee!
Through the grave of my skeleton I seek the final word,
The word writ large through pulmonary splendour,
The word writ small as the rice grain of an ant,
Always, and in Antigone's immured brain,
Word of the death of the Law, of my own death
Crawling up the chain of my father's being
With a song to his spermatozoon christened in psychosis,
Death to death, my brothers, death to life, my sisters, death
To the skull of my ancient hope, memory, desire
For an image to chalk the cave of my occiput
Beyond death on the altar of my beast's dreaming,
Sacrificial death to the steer within.
You are of a line of rabbis and teachers,
Scrawling on the blackboard the name of the devil, their rival,
Confidentially voicing a doubt to a friend,
Exulting in the celluloid death of an otter,
Smashing the pane of glass in the front-room door (my father).
He bequeathed me the Nessus' shirt of a tallis,
My prayer shawl threaded through with cobalt blue,
And left behind eight Scandinavian Chanukiahs,
Number magic with treyfe joinery thrown in.
When they found him dead of a barbiturate overdose
He was wearing phylacteries bound with leather thongs to his arms.
There is a place, a cemetery, where the dead congregate
To mull over their plans to hoodwink the living descendants,
And there I went, seeking a father's guidance
In about the 22nd year of my life.
At the grave, under a rough-hewn gravestone
His spirit sat, as he had in the flesh,
Bowed over his writing desk and in an attitude
Towards me that can only be described as indifferent.
"What shall I do?" I asked him.
"I don't care," he replied, or thereabouts.
"Why are you buried here?" I asked.
"Paradox," he replied, "they are not real Jews."
There was some more talk, which I have forgotten.
Quantum wavelets of light converge on the navel,
Leaden plates of relativistic gravity clash,
Barbed wire steeped in poison of my grandfather enters my cranium,
The flayed ball of my foot somewhere in London bleeds,
Stalin's steel soul springs from the houses of parliament,
And death comes in streamlined headlamps strangling their prey,
While vengeance is to be enacted by the rain forest
And the white unmerciful light of the flesh seals at the threat,
And, come the grey dawn, the hairs, each one a human, on the tail of a rat,
Twitch their way through the evil streets of London,
The text of a call to arms written by my enemy's clone,
a double agent, is pasted on a hoarding
En route to the inevitable designation of death on the tracks.
I sought to be avenged upon the destruction of my black root,
And in the bosom of my despair grew love,
Love for the Hun whose ancestor sent my father
Over the scorched black earth into Palestine,
And whom the Israeli secret service
Sent in terror careening through the streets of Jerusalem
Unzipping the partial truth of every code with messianic love,
Until he arrived at the tilted edge of Europe
And was caught in the white and black cobwebs of twin conspiracies,
Whereupon he wrote to his white master
"I love you with every fibre of my sick heart,"
posted the letter, and returned to his flat to die.
Far-flung antelopes of lone desires,
You graze on overhanging boughs but cannot find the leaf,
The one that is cognition's synaptic lightning,
You are the image of my decapitated stravage
Through the concrete streets of hateful eyes,
And the cross-wires of self-consciousness
Warp and burn out as they scan the body for alien spirits
Colonising collapsed limbs of my shambling,
A finance magazine in my right hand
Disinforming the codehawks who miss my eyes,
While from a table in front of my local pub
Behind a glass of beer my main man frowns
Then bursts into laughter when he sees the steel in my eyes.
Reindeer of memory, tugging the sleighs across the tundra,
My defunct neural pathways salute you with your light load,
There is yet a lot of work to be done,
So many hands lying idle in the brain,
While the clock ticks on wired to its explosive charge,
A mother's loving eyes cradling all this mess,
While her own life expires to the curtain call,
The Matzos cupboarded far from the Russian bread,
The prayer books shelved among those on oil painting,
The support stocking lying across a chair,
The sewing, the plants, the medication for thrombosis,
And to all this I once said "Wormwood, wormwood,"
And, Hamlet's disciple, translated the play into German —
A friend gave a thumbs up, and said "She's your mother, and she loves you."
Secretaries of the absolute, widows of your infancy,
Now is the time to forget your two times table,
And learn the alphabet of moral decay.
Your fathers before you sought to enlist sin
As thundered down from on high into the cavity
Of the mortal brain during a walk,
Or, again, heard that life was beautiful
Under the trees, carrying the baby from hospital.
And it was, the tear in the eyes of a seeker
Who sees nothing but through the ear, is also a passion,
And the radiator had to be kept on
Through the night, lest the baby catch a cold.
The umbilicus with the clothes peg on it dried
To the colour of black garnet, and was removed
Ten days or so after birth, which was squatted on all fours,
And the doctor's assistant nearly dropped the ball.
(Friends came over to admire the first baby,
And one said "What a world she has been born into.")
Cockroaches of history, loathed cockroaches,
You climb up the cracked walls of Prague,
While your spirit master, Franz, black lance of a soul,
Rids me of the soul of the white master,
Swooping down like a falcon at the gate of my being:
Recumbent I lie, stoned, on the brown PVC sofa,
The spirits of Heiner and father wresting my entrails from me,
As they had descended into my right and left leg
In the forest, where I lay naked, face down in the pond,
The first bubbles of oxygen leaving my thorax
Under a gibbous moon of polluted intent,
The air turned ashen with an inverted splendour
Of suicide prayer under the landing planes
Whose lights beamed "Long live the Lacondonian rain forest,"
And long live the male and orange fungus
Sighted in the quick of flight through the forest
Harrowed to left and to right of the beaten track
By the platinum plough of a ruthless care,
My book codes, laptop, dressing gown, and dumpling mix
Strewn around for an ally to pick up.
Lord of forgivings, pastoral ring of an ancestor,
Your blood flows through my veins like the black around starlight,
And in the sick defeat of a quarry without destiny,
Whose antlers flash vainly at the top of an outcrop,
You find forbidden love for the hunting hound,
The denouement, over and over, of entrapment,
Submission and exaltation at the death:
Berlin, night of my imaginings, call of vengeance
By the father short-circuiting between the parietal lobes
While I crossed the asphalt river of London:
Séance of treyfe kebab in Sprengelstrasse,
Where the spirit told me to read the book of Ruth,
And the long hours of tequila and leg stretches
All in the name of poetic recognition,
While, seated at the desk of the screed,
Exquisite hermaphrodite with sacred cup of Darjeeling,
I felt the wind jog my elbow as I wrote,
A narcissist descrying his paltry desires
From the image in the convex mirror.
There is nothing but misery now, and I seek words
Of advice to give you, and I find I have none.
What is life, this life of a schizophrenic
But a see-saw between incommensurate state,
The gravity of despair, the quantum light of seizure,
And nothing between, no Newtonian mechanics
To hold the life firmly in the middle.
And that is what we must do, stand firm,
In spite of the inoculations of advice
From the limited company that is family and (if we're lucky) friends,
Stand firm and do what our god bids us.