Reading from “The Tower of Fools”

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Fairy Tale Undisputed

Can you see the fig tree, the weird fig tree?

It is surrounded by sick angels sitting on Byzantine ruins.

Can you hear its leaves breathing?

Leaves become hands, in this moonlight, gripping the ancient stone.

You are warned not to sleep under the tree: it is liked by snakes and traitors.

Don’t even rest here – find an open space and wait for the sun in the morning.

You will be saying ‘thank you’ to the morning and the blind sun and the irrational story-tellers you were so dismissive of.

*  *  *

Leto and Niobe

They were the best of friends, μάλα μὲν φίλαι ἦσαν,

according to a single-line fragment by Sappho.

It is known from other sources that Niobe boasted she had borne far more children than Leto.

But Leto’s offspring was Apollo and Artemis, no less, who avenged Niobe’s arrogance by killing all her fourteen children.

Other sources confirm this; Sappho’s fragment only declares the friendship between the two women.

The missing lines must have contained factual information; they must have been accurate.

It is unlikely that the poet would disrespect the story by using it in other, suggestive, ways.

*  *  *

The Commentator
Averroes (ابن رشد ,1126  –  1198 )

The School of Athens is slowly turning against him.

Even these learned men are now cautious of outsiders.

Until recently they sat him next to the philosopher, in admiration of his commentaries on Metaphysics and On the Soul.

They know he is a master of their teachings; that he is keeping them alive in a new world.

Still. They choose to follow the fearful masses –

worshippers of seashells, self-proclaimed natural heirs of the School’s ethos.

Conviction is liquid on the inside; its boiling point is unknown.

*  *  *

The Path that Brought You Here

You will, inevitably, go back home.

You will throw wide open the tall windows, take your shoes off, and feel the cool mosaic memories on your feet.

You will let yourself into the locked drawer (it’ll be easier than it used to be).

You will find faded pictures, perhaps, or a palm-size icon of the Virgin holding her baby, looking out, at you, as though she knows the path that brought you here.

You will think, ‘Does she know? Or is what I hold in my hand just wood, and colour?’

You will keep looking at her looking at you; inclined head, light bronze skin.

Her lips will define a tiny thin line: no through road.

*  *  *

With thanks to the editors of Magma (vol. 41, 2008), Brand (vol. 5, 2009), and The Long Poem Magazine (Issue Four, 2010), where these poems appeared first. 

Categories: Poetry

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