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He came dancing across the waters
with his galleons and guns
Cortez, Cortez. What a killer....

Neil Young's high-register symphony
of electric guitars carries
over the sound waves, the lonely,
mournful, ever-mutating melodic
line a message of death and waste
and loss. In it I hear an elegiac call
to the coyotes in the fields,
howling for companionship
and comfort from their
missing, flea-bitten pack.

A shaky, high-pitched, grief-laden
voice tells of Montezuma and his
Aztec nation, alive in an idyll of many
colors and nature's pristine harmony --
a utopia only the modern, romantic
mind could conjure out of the ruins
of its own civilization.

Rubble rots, strewn through
the ages. The Aztecs die,
victims of viruses and steel,
while we, too, gasp for air
on makeshift ventilators,
going under the charged,
electric waves of consciousness,
dancing breathlessly to
the beepless grave. What a killer....

History breeds only conquest,
only the tragic conflict of cultures,
equally innocent of the unknown,
equally guilty of lusting for the blood
of the Other -- whether gold-drunken
Spain or a mutant cell slipped
beyond the bounds of some
fly-infested Chinese wet market.
Progress ends only in destruction,
while we dream of utopia and idylls
and call it good. Cortez, Cortez....

The coyotes howl for comfort
and the lasting scent of prey.
In the morning, they will hunt,
rustling through high grasses,
while we will rise to Neil Young's
symphonic, electric refrain:
What a killer....
Twin stallions gallop beside the sea,
their flanks sweating, curved backs
foaming, long, dark manes flying
through the brine, braided into whips.

Riderless, they splay the sand beneath
the tide, charge ahead as if in battle, flash
large white eyes of fiery purpose. Or is it
merely pleasure in taking stock of the sea?

I could sing of Pegasus, the perfect portrait
of their power, perfect myth of their reality,
perfect essence of their being, perfect eternal
Idea, as the hallowed Plato would have put it.

But I know only the Pegasus of my childhood
imagination, channeled through the huge, spotted
horses on my grandfather's ranch, larger than my
little life, all muscle and nerves and jittery to bolt.

I know only the lush leather saddles, hand-tooled,
badged with Baroque designs, smooth to the touch,
gear of Olympians, smelling of alfalfa, the hay stacked
high in barns for the uncertain days of winter.

I have sung the secrets of the sea, like Homer,
with his wine-dark waters that carried the long,
black Greek ships toward Troy. My twin stallions
surge to trample the ancient city's ruins. Ilium no more.

How I yearn to run with them, to speed over
the sands as if they were nothing but solid air,
as if they raised no resistance to racing, as if my
hooves could heave into them like a golden paddock.

O the line between dreaming and waking
is so fluid and frail. I breathe deeply and feel
the stallions fly over the ranch, up the canyon,
climbing, ever climbing into the atmosphere,

which constrains no thought, no memory,
no deep feeling for flight itself, for rising
over the ocean and its endless tracts of water,
its boundless kingdom of life and death.

How do I go on, here in my loneliness, ornate
saddle at my side, a shoot of hay between
my teeth, champing at the bit to tie myself
to the stallions' tails, to quiver my way

into the shadowed arroyos of dreams, where I
could walk without limping, where I could fly
without falling, where I could shake the brine
from my hair and laugh in the face of Zeus?

The stallions perform pristine pirations,
stealing time from the future, soaring past
days of ice and shivering woes, hay carrying
the bitter taste of sand and seaweed and brine.

I place my saddle on the ground, sit beside it,
and trace the swirls of its swift designs, spinning
me into dreams, into the weak waves that creep
upon the beach, that breach the line of death, only

to return again. Is time a straight arrow fast in flight
or an ever-spiraling circle like the Earth? How can we run
so far only to reach nowhere, only to teach ourselves
to heartlessly crack the whip, as cold as winter’s grip?
Diffused rays of lengthening light
scoot across the hardwood floor
and pool on the space where we last lay together.

A long yellow-pine slat of wood
gleams in the afternoon sun.
A bump of lacquer breaks the surface.

For eons, we have coaxed each other
into the light, bearing down upon us
in ever-whitening stripes of purification.

Our love is the light, seeping through
the dark crevices of our hearts,
scouring the deep recesses of shadow and doubt.

The floor creaks as we glide across it,
hardy survivor of this hundred-year-old house.
Our love creaks as the past thrusts itself into the present.

We cannot grasp it, but we feel its warmth
wash over us again and again. We know
the radiance of love overcomes all oblivion.
We all die daily,
our breath shuddering
from the body,
the body shriveling
into matter, which
languishes, empty
and inert,
envying the
labyrinth of the soul.

What bright spirit
lures us back
into the light, stirs
us to awaken out
of our dark night?
What burden can
we still bear as
ghosts of ourselves,
erstwhile egos
chanting nada,
nada, nada
as we
furtively avoid
the mirror of

We all die open-
eyed, gaping
at the void,
or a vast
field of stars
swirling and
sparkling above
the blackened
the full breadth
of Being:
The Great
I Am of
everything that is.

Beside us, the cosmic
jester and curator
of the world
adds another
plastic frame to
a crudely rendered
self-portrait. Which
self paints the self?
Which self becomes
object and subject
having its cake
and eating it, too,
but failing to notice
the crumbs
on the floor
and the icing
on its lips?

So many questions
that challenge
the mastery of our
language, that
stretch the boundaries
of our mind like
an inky rubber band
near to breaking
from overuse.
No answers
can verify
to us.
They demand
judgment, an
accounting that
only the dead
can deliver from
the far side of
the grave, beyond
the end of history,
beyond the erasure
of time.

Daily we all die
only to rise again,
our lumpish
flesh electroshocked
into animation,
our soul newly
dependent on poetry
to dial in its
upper frequencies
before they
fade away
into static.
The tuner picks up
an AM station
out of Juarez.
The Mariachi
music reminds
us that this
energy may sputter
and flag like
a somnambulist,
but it never dies.
I cling to the rigging
of the sleek, black ship
as it speeds toward
Crete, seeding the waves
of the wine-dark sea
with my hopes of heroism,
with my desire to refine
my strength in battle,
my cunning in pursuit
of prey, my courage
in the face of inexorable death.

Immortality awaits
the victor, or so
I profess. It is my Greek
code of honor to turn
glory into deathlessness,
to sow the whirlwind
and reap calm breezes
of brotherhood with
the gods, to revel
in repose at their table,
to feed on the sweet
satisfaction of becoming
who I am.

I am favored
in this relentless
struggle to prove
my prowess and
resolve, my power
to subdue my foes,
to dominate --
in this, my seventh
labor -- the sire
of the Minotaur.
I arrived on Crete
because King Eurystheus
of Tiryns has imposed
this labor to try to
assuage Olympus’
Queen Hera's
irrational hatred of me.
I must continue to atone
for the sins she caused me
to commit. With my entire
family slain, she owes
me everything.

As the muscular
offspring of Zeus --
Hera's wily, randy
husband -- and an
ordinary mortal, I stride
through the world
half-man and half-god,
a living mockery of
the Olympian purity
that Hera so hysterically
cherishes: a mirror
that reflects nothing but
delusion, nothing but
a buzzing hive of grandiose,
self-comforting lies.

The gods don their
pearl-white tunics
to convince themselves
they are made
of nothing short
of pure glory, pure
eminence, despite their
blatant self-indulgence
and moral laxness,
despite their privileged
violation of cosmic laws,
despite persisting
in their perverse ploys
without the slightest
twinge of conscience --  
drunk on the ambrosia
of boundless power,
the ironic gift of my
unheralded birth.

I know I possess
the cunning to have
the Minotaur
from ever pawing
the plowed-over earth,
from ever charging
some unwitting
victim frozen in fear.

I could have
kept this monster
from being born,
from embracing  
the rosy-fingered
dawn of existence.
I could have
saved Theseus, my
fellow Greek hero,
from his backbreaking
battle with the bull-
headed mutant.

Indeed, I could have
stopped altogether
his labyrinthine
struggle to **** the mighty
Minotaur, to curb its
cannibalistic tastes
for maidens and
young boys, to undo
its enormous
lusts and tame them
into docility,
dissonance and death.

If only I had arrived
in Crete sooner,
before this, my latest
labor, stuck in the stream
of imperious judgments
against my fatal fit of madness
that ended my innocent
family’s all too precious lives.

I proudly claim my
birthright as a son
of Zeus and a worldly
woman. Call it the outcome
of Olympian adultery,
an act that ignited
Hera's intractable
jealousy and rage
until she inflicted
insanity on me
and perverted my
innate powers
and strength,
turning them  
against my wife
and daughters,
as I attacked them
as if they were
the Nemian lion.

Torn by grief,
I quietly returned
to my right mind,
mourning my foul
deeds and crying
out against the divine
injustice of Hera’s petty
interference. And all this
because of Zeus’ calculating
dalliance. All this to satisfy
a moment’s passion
that swiftly spawned
eternal consequences.

Now I am bound
to capture the
Cretan Bull, sire
of the Minotaur
and source of
endless chaos
on the fertile
island of Crete.
In its own species
of madness, the bull
has uprooted crops,
and torn down
walls. All semblance
of order has
vanished in its  
destructive wake.
King Minos of Crete
demands that it
be immediately
removed and
from his sight.

So my strategy
is simple: use
my secret stealth
to wrangle the bull
from behind
and strangle it
to the brink of
death. Unconscious,
it proves such an easy
package to dislodge
and ship back
to Tiryns, where
King Euryhtheus
plans to sacrifice
it to Hera. But she
refuses such piety.
She seems sworn
to deny any
trace of my glory,
to devour any shred
of my pride.

If only I could cut
her out of my name.
I would wander
the world incognito.
I would gladly deny my
identity, happily
forsake my fate,
and in the depths
of dark anonymity
unbecome who I am.
Abandoned, she waits
for her lover's return
across the empty room.
Banks of fear bunch up
behind her furrowed brow.

Loneliness does not dole out such
punishments. Solitude re-creates
reparations for the self, fashions
an unyielding glue that will fuse
together all her shattered pieces.

Inwardly she knows he is not
coming back. The static portrait
a mournful reminder that love
is as fleeting as the wind; it
blows where it will; it razes

what stands in its way. Her heart
is not ready for such defeat. So she
grabs hold of a hope rising behind the
painted walls. He will not return, no.
Still she stares through space, alone
Here, atop a rocky crag,
walking stick in hand,
I survey the swirling
mountains of fog,
a vast gray-white panoply
of vanishing peaks,
blanketed in clouds
doomed to dissipate
in the returning sun.

But no heat ever comes,
leaving me wrapped
in my moody solitude,
eyeing the outcroppings
of ragged stone, reveling
at summiting the top of Europe,
scaling the sluggish
slopes of transcendence.

This is what Nietzsche
hailed as self-overcoming,
rising to the grand height
of perfect power and control:
my will alone uber alles.
Aswirl, I order the horizon
to fulfill my desire, to shift
into view all that is missing
from my finite vista -- the glory
of nature -- only to have it
swallowed up instantly
in the menacing shadows
and mists of immovable stone.
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