John M. Gist’s creative writing has appeared in publications such as the Dr. T.J Eckleburg Review, PIF, Superstition Review, Gravel, Wilderness House, Pithead Chapel, Prick of the Spindle, Left Curve, Academic Questions, New Mexico Magazine and many others. With an M.F.A from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, he teaches creative writing at sunny Western New Mexico University.
Difficult to converse in verse void of canon
lending context, morality, and meaning.
Not to speak of machines with mechanical hearts,
electronic capillaries pumping voltaic blood,
poesy an impotent penetrant into silicon eggs
of circuitry protected by prophylactic scientific charts.
Yet it is all we have left in this liminal landscape,
borderland between cyberspace and entelechy.
You ask what crime I, Myrddin Wyllt, did commit
to warrant imprisonment in this forest overgrown?
You witness the trees as mist but to me they are brass bars
witch-cursed to entrap me here, waiting, waiting, alone.
Love, incestuous, it was, but love is nonetheless love.
Poetry alone can fetch her now to imagination, fair sister,
eyes so blue, hair the color of Himalayan red honey. But love
is not to be contained in bard’s craft, sex-magic rendered sweet
to the tongue. Following Arthur’s doom, I flaunted longing,
like you, with words powerless to tame her heart’s wild beat:
“Man’s word is God in man: let chance what will,
I trust thee to the death,” I told her, promised, pledged.
Arthur’s hallowed Gwenhwyfar forsook marriage vows,
broke laws of man and druid, but not those of the pagan
Goddess who gilded her heart with the clover love of bees abuzz.
Cuckold’s both, the King and I, Branwen’s foolish cows.
God cannot be contained in words and the Word was not a God.
Love differs from algorithm like living flesh from death-dry bone.
Arthur’s decree of endearment brought forth the tides of fate,
a man’s utterance but a paltry thing, a naked pole in an April
cornfield, no scarecrow to alight or take flight. Praying
for boundlessness we bind love to the fixéd and become inmates.
In sin we wait for redemption, the oceanic intuited then named.
Meaning is mist in the trees, morality brass bars glistening therein.
Myrddin Wyllt and the Modern Man
Dare not belittle Arthur’s knighted name,
not in the presence of he who conceived
the myth before it became being-bound
in Uther’s seed only to be whispered
into the dark and fertile egg of Igraine’s grief.
Dare not. You cannot fathom but still would twist
the wildcat’s tail, a sun-blind boy on a beach
shooting at shadows dancing between sparkled
shards of light on the rippling surface of a clear sea,
the blued barreled of the six-shooter steaming.
Surprise dyes your face like that of an idiot clown.
Witness to bloodshed brought on by gunpowder
and bombs am I, familiar with fears of nuclear
destruction. I have felt the burn of mustard gas
in eyes blinded by the blossom of hydrogen bombs.
Fool. As Myrddin Wyllt, feyness is mine, and you brittle
as the bleached bones of carrion crows waiting for battles
of old, blood-drenched fields of sword and spear,
the buzz of flies amidst moans of the dying wounded.
All the while drones hover in skies over blood-rich soil.
Uther began what Arthur finished,
lust of the father frequented upon the son.
Blossoming souls arose out of gilded ground of battle,
chaos unbound, and then, through Arthur, order.
Why should you care if he ignored the avarice of lovers?
Loyalty to queen and country placated Arthur’s urge
to blame or maim Lancelot, best of the Knights
of the Table Round, or purge Gwenhwyfar, who,
opposite Igraine, succored fallowness by welcoming
seed unsanctioned by priest, druid, or crown.
It was Uther, masked under cover of magic mine,
who sought to muffle the pound of desire in Igraine,
mother of Morgan Le Fay, who, once grown, vowed
vengeance on the cuckolded king, her half-brother,
and his besotted wife, Queen of Sin, bane of Camelot.
Igraine endured rape ensconced in love
on the night of her far-away husband’s doom.
These were Arthur’s parents: mad craving
mated with grace. And you, heir of this union,
dare to judge? Embrace your birthright.
Kneel and weep.
For The Galway Review 7, (Printed Edition)