Brandon Marlon is a writer from Ottawa, Canada. He received his B.A. (Hon.) in Drama and English from the University of Toronto and his M.A. in English from the University of Victoria. His poetry has been published variously in Canada, U.S.A., England, Greece, Romania, Israel, India, Pakistan, and Singapore. www.brandonmarlon.com.
With the whilom world no more than memory,
relegated to time’s rear-view mirror,
I tread the footpath past pools and misty waterfalls
en route to my rendezvous a lifetime in the making,
disposed to render account and accept reckoning.
Leafy groves and fecund orchards line the way,
their boughs and bowers thick with peart woodnotes,
the instinctive, mellifluous antiphony
of feral choristers singing me homeward in style,
making me feel the patron and not the petitioner.
The one-eyed gatekeeper gives me the once-over,
skeptically appraising my countenance,
verifying my bona fides,
double-checking my references
till at length I am vouchsafed and admitted.
Beyond the gate lies a moat and drawbridge
attached to a castle of glass and light,
seven storeys tall, twelve yards wide,
its parapets of merlons and crenels
reflecting spectra of colors, tints, and hues
into the surrounding atmosphere for miles.
Seraphic escorts usher me before the Heavenly Court,
giving every indication of anticipating my appearance;
before withdrawing, my heralds announce:
“Those who would enter the banquet hall
must prepare themselves in the vestibule.”
Wringing gnarly hands, I ruminate at the eleventh hour
on the old world order, my negligible role therein,
bemused by the soul’s sojourn in uncharted vales,
mindful of paradise and perdition, dissimilar twins,
hopeful for my portion in the coming world.
Something New under the Sun
Hoopoes and lapwings glide the sky above
as sunrise welcomes and I breathe freshness;
today’s trail contours across Judah’s virid glades
and scalloped cliffs, past spelaean terrain of grottoes
and rock sockets before descending eastward
to the Jordan’s shoal through the hardpan and mudflats
of the Dead Sea plain where silt amasses as sediment.
Traversing ancestral regions astride trade routes,
I bypass hillsides and here and there spot
the bronzed skins of wayfarers coming from
the opposite direction in trickles and droves,
their echoes borne aloft like straw on the wind.
I exchange the lee of surrounding mountains
for the valley’s openness awaiting me below.
Unmapped are visitations from anterior times,
lucid dreams of Asa’s feet or Uzziah’s forehead,
of Iddo’s commentary, of Jezebel in Jezreel.
And in walking the landscape’s palimpsest I
reinscribe it with my own gloss in modern idiom.
The land registers in a sojourner’s consciousness,
whelming with the wealth of an athanasian nation.
When fated for exile, I plumb warm memories
of wilderness summits and desert breezes,
clear-sighted reflection and traces of transcendence,
of vistas ensouling the forsaken
and visions hallowing the hollowed,
and with wholehearted ardor I offer
greetings to you, with love and longing.
The Skull in the Sand Speaks
Desiccated and blanched vivid white,
a severed head animates its own jaw,
rattling to Allah of unjustified fate.
‘Man is cruel and destiny unkind,’
the maimed cranium dryly asserts,
unsettling tardy vultures overhead.
‘Would that heaven had withheld
all humanity from the good earth,’
it curses within earshot of lizards.
‘Now my bones lie buried in dunes,
with none to bewail my downfall,’
chatters the skull, losing loose teeth.
‘Only breezy winds and starry nights
do I account friends in this wasteland,’
coughs the noggin, nodding off to sleep.
Under the stealth of nocturnal wilderness,
agile scorpions creep through eye sockets,
oblivious to the reveries of the departed.
The Sultan’s Tent
Veiled belly dancers gyrated,
delighting patron and guests
gorging on lamb and olives,
rosemary flecks in their teeth.
Feathery fronds spun awhirl
as squirming houris charmed
between swipes at matbucha
or nips of steaming mint tea.
Awaiting sizzling shish taouk,
emirs traded caravan hearsay,
fiercely rivaling one another
with reports of desert ghouls.
Yet within the host’s soul,
a quest for insight stirred,
diverting regal attentions
from tinkling waist belts.
Concerned with obscurities,
he forsook canopied luxury,
envious of unconfined stars,
keen to fathom their secrets.
The Khalifa’s Feast
Lantern-lit tents host nightly gatherings
of sundry aromas and aristocrats,
favored emirs and gorbellied effendis,
draped in muslins, cloaks, and keffiyehs,
lounging on plush carpets among arrayed edibles,
tearing away swatches of laffa, guttling mutton and goat,
tippling date wine, puffing on apple-flavored nargilehs.
Sinuous eunuchs conveying ornamented salvers
pamper petted guests, whose unctuous fly-trap fingers
grasp and snatch at rice wrapped in grape leaves,
sabich aubergines, eggs shakshuka, tajine stews,
and kefta beef dozing on couscous beds,
chased by lubricating swills of Arak,
whose sting jolts alive the buried.
Outside, disgruntled camels bemoan their tethering terms;
simmering with animus, excluded mules bray obscenities.
Overhead, the forsaken, incensed sky
lifts its sparkling black dress,
exposing burgeoning day
in spiteful protest.
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