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Sharon Lynn Joyce: CANTIO

I

...many named gods...

holy, splendid, always near,
much besung, immortal, incorruptible,
grave-minded, kings, givers of life,
joyous, laughing, slayers of giants,
fearful, terrible, prayed for by the people, visible,
givers of hopes, sweet-speaking,
creators of animals, kind hearted,
lionhearted, wanting much, life-giving,
gentle, sweet-spoken,
devouring offerings, blooming,
charmers of the spirit, daring,
weaver of violets, shooters of arrows,
healers, mighty, desirones,
weavers of the world, knower of hearts,
adventurous, resplendent, pleasant, dispeller of cares,
forgetful, healers of sorrow,
greatly adventurous, thousand shaped,
mystic,
gods of the night, wise, stillers of grief,
benefactor of all, common to all,
mountain wanderers, bestowing bliss, little caring,
gracious, all seeing,
rose colored, path openers, mindbreakers
glittering, wise, fathers of light,
swift to wrath, dance-loving, revered,
highest, of the heights,
purifiers, cheerers of spirit,
gone away,
roaming wildly about,
golden skinned, graceful
hater of lies, givers of the soul,
sustaining the swift footed,
givers of seasons,
fond of singing, ocean-full,
helpers, swift,
counting the hours...
quick sailing...
quick wandering...
sea swift of a ship
speeding over the sea...

the blessed gods.. have been
making a ship...

and are dragging it down to the sea.

For what?
…which god and whom
angered?
We left no shrine forgotten...
no hymn unsung...
We offered what we had.
O, devourers of offerings,

wanting much

They never get their fill
We offered what we had.

We offered what we had and it was
not enough.
What we offered might as well be
thrown into the grey sea!

It was not enough – and now –

…a ship, bound for far away places.

…which region, what

…to what end? and how long?

…would that swift ships had never been!


II

About this place
A few things are worth mentioning –

The land is plentiful,
the men are content,
and the gods, revered.

Here, mountains echo with the breath of wind;
Mountains echo with longwinded prayers.
sweet-running waters flow through meadows.
All around, the measureless depth of the shifting sea
but our city walls, god built, rest upon rock.

Men sail over the great waste of the sea
Men/they win their way home against the terrible sea
to return to their city, their gods.

The star is coming around. The season is harsh.
Everything is thirsty in the dry air
The sun stares down at a dry land
The heavens send no rain
The rivers grow thin and lazy, waiting
the cicada sings sweetly from the leaves!

Men are content.
Content to lie in the shade
content to eat honey and figs,
content to sleep and dream.

Content to listen to the breezes, and to the cicadas.
Provided they sang beautifully
... to the dreaming men,
... to the gods.
unceasingly.


Dreaming men.
Shepherds tend to dream of sheep and meadows
Fishermen dream of fish and swimming in the sea
Those who drink wine, of vineyards
Those who eat honey, dream of stolen gold

those parched from the heat, like us, dream of water, of rain
dream of catching water in the rivers
of catching it in our hands
of catching what flees.

And waking ones, right away
will try to catch their dreams...
and may or may not remember...
Waking ones, tomorrow
will try and remember the gods...
may or may not remember...

Will say that the life-giving gods were a dream
ethereal dreams
vanished into the wind.

O swift as the winds, skimmers of ether, thousand shaped –
to where will you ride the winds?
Other climes?

Wishing to escape the season?
Infernal time!
Certainly, in such a heat,
Even gods get thirsty.
Gods get thirsty for water.
Gods get thirsty for wine.
Gods get thirsty for adventure.

Adventures come seldom enough
Adventures come to those who seek them.
who seeks adventures risk finding disappointment,
risk finding senseless, empty seas,
risk finding nothing but water
seas full of water.

Adventurous ones,
How long will you wander wearily over the surface of the sea?


III

Listen before you set sail
greatly adventurous!!! undaunted ones!!!
before stepping onto the shifting seas…

I can speak of lands further out
I cannot speak with assurance
I can only speak of rumors heard –
rumors upon rumors –
For men tell tales of all kinds
Who knows how to begin?

Once a tale is begun, there is no telling how it may end.
once a voyage is begun,…the same.

They say that beyond the horizon
elsewhere from here
the earth is full, and full the sea of ill.

No telling what will happen
once you visit these rocky shores.

Whatever you may expect,
you find the contrary of here,
a flat and wide land,
a great and wide river,
sun rises in the east
sun rises in the west, at times.

The sun rises over the fields
and the sun rises over the river,
the river rises over the plains
and the fields are under water.

Rivery fields, fields of rivers
Where wild river horses run…
Run from what?
From those who chase.
And what are those?
I dare not say.
Has it legs for running, or tail for swimming?

Both legs… and tails.
hmm?
Both running… and swimming, … and fast.
Eating fish?
No. Eating men…
Very terrible?
Very.
Howling aloud?
No. groaning and growling.
Hmmmm... sitting up like dogs?
rather lying low like a stone
dragonlike?
sea dragons?
River dragons – crocodiles.

The fields are under water, and under crocodiles,
the crocodiles and water cover the land,
the lands are not watered by rain from the sky.

No rain comes from the sky,
No rain from the gods,
no gods in the sky.
Waters come from the river,
the gods are in the river,
river is full of crocodiles.

Crocodiles are gods of the river;
they are monstrous gods

One hears tales of these crocodiles,
some true some not.
Crocodiles who eat sheep,
crocodiles who eat birds
crocodiles who are birds and have wings
crocodiles who eat no birds...
Crocodiles who eat no birds, but live with them.

Birds do not eat the crocodiles
rather, birds eat the leeches
in the mouths of the crocodiles.
Crocodiles have enormous mouths,
the river has an enormous mouth
enormous mouth full of leeches,
enormous mouth vomiting into the sea
Foul river flowing to the sea
That river is full of ill
That sea is full of ill
That sea is full of bitter and senseless water
Nothing but water!

Until the end, that sea is full of nothing but disappointment
The earth is full, and full the sea, of ill!


IV

O mountain wanderers, far-travelers, mind breakers,
As to the tale you now have heard –
understand that it has not even passed the introduction.

Toward the flaming east,
the way is filled with marvels
yet the way is much longer and harder.

In these far away lands,
mountains pile upon mountains
rumors upon rumors.

The way is long and over many mountains;
the way is long and over many seas.

The seas are encircled by mountains
crossable mountains
mountains flowing with rivers,

rivers flowing north rivers following south
rivers flowing both directions, into a sea
a sea that flows in a circle.

One could easily turn back or
one could easily sail around
and around, in that sea forever.

There are all kinds of men around the sea
All kinds of men and sorts of livelihoods.

There are those for whom living is effortless.
Any seeds in the ground give crop after crop.
They see no need of prayers or gods.

There are for whom living is difficult:
Whether seeds in the ground give nothing.
They, too see no need of prayers or gods.

Yet other men wander.
Wander the mountain paths -

The men have a daytime eye and a nighttime eye
they wander with one eye closed
and sleep with one eye open.

(They) wander in search of fierce beasts
rare and elusive beasts,
beasts seen only at night, they say,
seen only be searching men.

The one-eyed men say that
griffins have spots like the golden leopard.
Griffins are rather like lions.
Griffins are more like eagles.
Are rather more like eagles, and golden.

Griffins are fierce.
Are fierce and have golden teeth
have golden teeth golden eyes, golden wings.

The one-eyed men
want golden eyes
want golden teeth
want more teeth, want to be fierce
want to find griffins, and gold.

The griffins flee the one-eyed men.
Flee until they cannot be seen,
flee to where nothing is seen,
to higher mountains still,
where the sky is full of feathers,
where all the mean are blind.


V

Nothing can be said with certainty, about these lands
for nothing is certain about the end of the world..

Here, it is said,
all is obscure
one cannot see the lands
nor the forests
nor flocks of blackbirds
one can see only white, falling whiteness in the sky
the sky is filled with falling feathers.
And these hinder sight.
all things in these mountains are obscure
and the only men who will live there, are blind.

These blind men see nothing
but they imagine
imagine that the night is black
the sun is black
The falling feathers are black
imagine the blackbirds,
the blackbirds,
oddly, are white.

These are but rumors, told by one eyed men, told of the blind.
And the blind, they are often mistaken.
The blind men say:
there are all kinds of men,
and all kinds of ways of making a living.
Those who are blind,
and those who are not.
Those sowing crops and those who do not.
Those seeing griffins and men who do not.
Those who dream, and men who do not.

The blind ones
they have heard rumors from the men who live beyond
one eyed men say that the blind men say:
beyond them is only desolation.

Only desolation and darkness for half the year
Only desolation, and two types – of men
They are hardly worth discussing, much less visiting.
Its best to turn at this point, to go no further, to turn back.

O ruiners of the people
O end-seekers, little-caring ones

The edges of the world are near,
no man can go beyond,
the land stops,
the sky stops, and time, it slows to a stop.
And the gods??

Near the edge, living is hardest of all
crops don't grow
the earth is frozen
it is night for half the year.
Few men survive
and they are little content.
They shoot arrows at the sky.

Here, they say, there are two sorts of men.
The first -
men who eat men
and when they sleep,
they dream of Nothing.
Beyond them is true desolation.

The second type of men,
the other men, the blind men say,
sleep a deep sleep for half the year
the sleeping men
eat nothing,
only drink the dense clouds – during an unbroken sleep
only drink the dew – during an unbroken dream,
sent by the gods,
in the unending night of half a year.

The sleeping ones
on waking, they tell what they remember,
for half a year
to those who listen
spinning of a tale of an unfinished voyage, as an unbroken song.

A song of –

of contented men
of echoing mountains
of singing cicadas
of god-built ships
of rivers full of ill
of crocodiles who are gods
of gods who seek the seas
of seas that flow in circles
of those men who encircle seas
of those wandering the mountains
of those seeing griffins
and of those seeing nothing
and of those dreaming nothing
and of those dreaming endlessly
and those who listen endlessly…

All endlessly trying to remember their dreams
to recount these dreams
of the departing gods
tarrying , to listen to a song.

A song
to catch the gods, to keep the gods
impatient gods,
speeding gods,
ocean-bound gods,
listening, waiting in the harbour…

A song of contented men.


2004-2012 (5.8.2012)