The Dance of Masks: A Fugue for Voices (1982-1983)

Three Movements with a Coda
I
Homeward Bound
We hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God. . .
What are you saying?
What, What?
Repeat,
Refrain.
Talk to me.
Speak, Speak
Like a dog
I lick your hand;
Like a dog
I deserve the hand.
Yes, Yes, tell me more;
allow me the privilege
to believe what you tell
me are lies, or truth,
or whatever you desire:
Smell the wind that curls
around your nostrils;
Listen to the wind
that glances your shoulder
as you turn in expectation.
Teeth hang like knives
from hard jaws
as he speaks:
Approach Me
then picks his teeth with his tail,
smiling after such a good meal.
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
O God please come to me
O god please come to me
O God please speak to me
O let me sing
sing in supplication
sing for me supper
sing for me daily bread
Ahh, just do what you’re told child;
run blind.
Do not look around.
There is nothing to see.
Just feel the wind touch your ear;
Run with it!
Run!
The wind blows wherever it pleases;
you hear its sound
but cannot tell where it comes from
or where it is going.
But we do move with it,
with the madness,
with the passion of a Christ.
What self there is folds
back like flesh,
exposing bone
to air:
Blow
wind, take us
take us home.
The messages are in the air;
the messages weave into our hair:
“Hello, KVIC request line!”
Play my song.
Play my song for me.
I want to dance.
I want to be real.
Won’t you play my song for me?
The shout echoes.
Voices whisper.
Tongues of flame dance
a dervish into the sky.
I wail, gnashing my teeth.
Locking his forearm
in my pleading paws;
I thought I was dying
but I just lost my voice.
You just won’t listen.
That’s your problem, sonny.
You just won’t listen.
And the serpent hissed
so pleasantly, like the angel
he was, that Eve bit down
with no reason to doubt.
And a voice whispers
over the edge of your ear:
No.
(Joan listened to voices
only to be burned by the English.)
And the bush blazed,
in the middle of the desert,
the bush blazed:
Approach me.
Hallelujah, Brothers and Sisters, Hallelujah!
Now
I want all of you
sick brothersandsisters out there
to hold your hands up to the radio. . .
Are you holding your hands up?
Hold them up and feel the power.
Hold them up, brothersandsisters!
Can you feel the power?
Can you feel the glory of God
coming through the airwaves?
Rise Up:
Your faith deserves it
Rise Up:
So let this be done
Rise Up.
Look over here,
entwined in ivy,
are signs pointing
somewhere, pointing
home?  
Again?
And my side hurts.
I never was a runner.
I breathe in gasps;
like a dog panting
my tongue trails the ground.
Rocks cut my voice.
Blood pounds in my ears
like a drum dominating a wind
that whispers:
Live, there is no sword of flames;
Live, you are almost home. 
Just listen.
Just live.
II
Wine, Sin, and Civilization
This is the covenant in my blood, which will be poured out for you.
1
Stored berries fermented,
but we had to eat;
there’s no time to forage
when you’re building a city.
So, the berries were passed around;
then the priests explained
the visions into ziggurats.
                    NO- – – JUST DRUNK!
So we all lost our tongue,
and God pulled down the tower,
before the vision solidified.
The Euphrates rose
to meet the Tigris
and the wines of the city
were washed down,
forcing the people to wander.
2
Noah was the first to till the vine;
he got plastered ,
tore off his clothes,
and dropped drunk to the floor.
His youngest paid for that round:
forever his brothers’ meanest slave.
3
O, Moses led the exodus.
Moses took his people back.
Moses left the building city.
Moses wandered forty years.
Moses took his people back.
O, Moses led the exodus.
Stopping short of heaven,
the buildings rise slowly
beneath the pirouetting cranes.
More towers in the center of town:
More guards in the center of town:
the derelicts are chased away,
forced to wander once again;
forced to shuffle down streets
they were forced from before.
4
Yes, there is a line between
the vision and the dream;
the homeless sleep in alleys
where walls crumble.  No
mattress but paving stones
cracked and uneven.
The wine eases into sleep
those still caught in wandering,
littered against the city wall:
This is my blood, the blood of the covenant,
which is to be poured out for many.
I tell you solemnly, I shall not drink
anymore wine until the day I drink
the new wine in the kingdom of God.
5
The priests drink the most.
Ostrich plumes, toucan feathers
flow down the back in waterfalls.
The slaves make them;
the artists make them;
the priests wear them,
and worship God.
This is the blood I pour out for you.
The hand around the heart.;
The heart beats hard,
forcing light still into death;
the life flows into the bowl.
This is the blood I pour out for you.
The temples rise above the jungles.
The blood flows into the bowl.
The empire rises above the jungle.
The covenant flows into the bowl.
This is the wine I pour out for you.
6
A drunk on a barstool:
Eden is so far away;
hell’s just over here.
It’s so much easier,
don’t you think?
Of course you do.
Have some wine for your thirst,
talk to me awhile,
and then be on your way.
You have to rest sometime;
Eden is so far away.
I went to Eden once myself.
Nice place?  Yes, It is nice
all year long.  Not much changes
in Eden, but your attitudes.
And then it’s time to leave.
At least that’s what happened to me.
But here, don’t leave quite yet.
Have another glass, the sun’s still out.
You have plenty of time.  Did I tell you
I went to Eden once myself.
I like it right here.
You meet all kinds of people.
Some, like you, on their way to Eden.
I even met one who went all the way,
or so I’ve heard from others
who he got the word back to.
But then there are so many lies
running about wild these days.
You won’t see me believing anything, besides,
I like it right here.
7
An old man nods over a baby’s crib:
“The truth is small, it’s the lie that is big.”
A true believer doesn’t think.
You can’t think a belief.
You can’t think when you drink.
Keep the peasants drunk for belief,
and the empire will stand:
Just another drunken conspiracy theory?
So they say; they say
it could be little else,
but they never quite say
what could be larger.
8
The hand on the glass,
itches like a cat’s back,
then arches tightly
around the wine:
“To your health,” he laughs
then swallows the poison
socratically.
A strange ritual indeed.
III
Confronting Masks
Let the Masque begin:
            The trumpet player on the bar’s stage
            cleans his spit valve, smiles
            then blows across the age;
            marrow dissolves in shadow.
Today is a day of fear:
            Our thoughts echo the silence.
            Bats plunge past, shrouded
            in their high lyric cries,
            justifying the walls around them.
In the beginning was the word
and the word was God.
            I think “sprightly” is God
                        Bullshit, Bullshit!
                        The Word is Marine.
And so they carry on throughout time,
insidious gossips of being- – –
Today is a day of fear:
                        There are little events
                        throughout the day:
                        conversations, newscasts,
                        they wrap themselves around us
                        like flesh forms to bone.
                        The word defined
                        is not the word
                        that breathes with
                        comfort in context.
            Don’t you lecture me, Kiddo- – –
            I knew what’s what before
            you were even a thought.
The wind blows us where it pleases.
It rips up then around- – –
Walls form from air
to seal silence at the center.
Today is a day of fear:
                        But the wind never stops.
                        We dance around ourselves.
                        We dance around each other.
                        We dance to the throb
                        of the wind, which dances
                        with a passion around the center.
Today is a day of fear:
                        The buildings collapse
                        beneath the twirling ball;
                        so more buildings can rise
                        below the pirouetting cranes.
                        The music plays on:
                        changing our position,
                        changing our minds,
                        changing the context,
                        changing the language:
                                    Coming up next,
                                    After theses messages,
                                    The CBS Evening News
                                    and the Wall Street Journal
                                    Business Report.
Today is a day of fear:
                        Too many masks from which to choose,
                        too few lives with too many desires,
                        forces us fully into the myth.
Today is a day of fear:
                        Our hands reach out
                        through the wind.
                        I call to you;
                        yet, the language is not mine.
                        The words collapse.
            OK, OK- – –
            What’s it to be, Mac.
            Come on, come on,
            there’s others waitin too.
                        There is an answer.
                        It’s the question that’s caught
                        between the laughter of our soul
                        in stasis and the primal desire
                        for motion.
What are you saying?
What, what:
Repeat, refrain.
Speak, speak – – –
                        But the wind!
            Never mind that- – –
            just listen,
                        listen.
            The wind never stops,
            so listen- – –
                        someone is speaking, a voice
                        that rumbles amidst its own echoes,
                        like cars between buildings
                        late at night, lost in the wind;
                        but, the language is not mine- – –
Today is a day- – –
            Sound the last note.
            Let the walls collapse.
            The masque is over.
            Stop the dance.
            Stop.  Stop.
But the wind never stops,
for fear- – –
Today:
            After the bat’s cry comes the avalanche.
            Beneath the last stone is the earth.
            At the center is silence:
           
            Masked in fear by the wind.
Coda
The parchment cracks by touch;
the words whisper into dust.
fragments fall into light
to be exclaimed and deified.

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