(for Bob Dylan)
He was born when the lights went out
where investors in gold sold politicians for Christ
where sweet music pours hypnotic as braille and the truth inside is twisted
decimals above despair
he was born where fierce tabloids launch from capes of pure destiny.
kneeling at wailing walls
he was born when the lights went out.
0 minstrel boy in royal blue
voices of technologic poets explode
starry night dense with sound
as there is no going but goes on.
infallible crosses of kiev carve small circles for
your eyes and
butchers of white russia cannot betray you.
lone one wings clipped by strange women
alone at last in your home of poetry.
he struggles for light above smoke-
riddled mountains winding
in and out of nightmares
he summons oracular white russia to his side
she comes with mute stench of babi yar
her hair braided and black
warning of slaughter of wise children.
he wakes sideways pouring his heart out
pitching his tent in doorways of thunder. he lifts his bow
aims where switch- blades line trees and
nomads grind silver into dust.
white russia in her long black veil
opens like a vowel.
the prince on fire brings fruit and proverbs
she buries her head in his hand he hides in the long white shadow the sun makes on the mountain.
III. The Minstrel’s Song
deliver me from
traffic of birth and death
from those who are always right.
deliver me from another man’s justice
from the truth if it is holy – and those who prosper on others pain.
deliver me from those who make slaves of
their sisters and sell their brothers into bondage
from those who bow down to shadows on caves.
deliver me from doors that lock from perjured piety
from judges and juries from all those who trans-
form vision into pain.
I will do battle with self-appointed angels
until I pass through that wall of fire and
deliver those who cast their cracked syllables
to the wind abandon their chains for wings.
I will stand dumb before the gate like moses and watch the sea part from memory.
deliver me from those crippled with grief
who cling, like lepers, to their skin of sorrow and let me pass
electric through the light.
black magi on macdougal street abandons
his mantra to a hooded beggar
unorthodox stars gather to celebrate
rainbows shoot like halos overhead.
there is no home for the invisible
who learn the price of freedom purging
themselves on punitive verbs of beginning.
he sings in a marketplace with sudden explosion of Christ
Christ hanging from huge gold chains around
necks of latino boys crucifixes
and prayer beads crushed in mouths of small orphans.
it is for the exile to discover his shape inside
doorways vast and vacant
it is for women to turn to stone
it is for the priest who winds his watch against dust
tried and torn apart by virgins
history of inquisitions and serenades
where russia wide-hipped angular
russia with blade in hand russia white-lined and furious hides.
the prince carves northstar on a wall turns back his shadow dancing after him down forbidding streets.
hollow cheeks of his ancestors alarm at first
blue light from eyes he keeps hidden where
lovers cling magnetic with impulse
messengers arrive with cardboard signs.
he leaps from the landing
into gutter knowing someone waits around the corner.
he is always looking at the light the sun makes as
it sinks into the ground.
his head cocked like a rifle ready to fire
he watches struggle of thieves and angels stabbed by
newspaper boys while antigone waits in the wings to escape with the corpse.
foreigner among knives and broken glass he witnesses another wedding borne away on the back of a hearse.
his suitcase stuffed with forgetting
his back bent out of shape like
the little mining town where he was born.
a sinister monk posing for reporters
he begs for space but
darkness is all and all is
darkness and he is drawn, again, to
the damp thighs of his birth, brutally new.
© Copyright, 10/6/03, Jayne Lyn Stahl.