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[I]  [II]  [III]  [IV]  [V] [VI]

After a season of silence,

during which none of our 
calls were answered and
all of our letters returned,
our Duenna dropped by on
her way to the station to say
this was because all of our
dreams and aspirations were 
based on conspicuous fraud,
swindle and manipulation.

We begged our Duenna to
deliver the true teaching,
to replace our error with
somethiong solid we could
figure on, but, with a shake 
of her bright blue mane, 
beaded with rain at the brow, 
she merely jammed a hand 
up the non-speaking end
of our nearest prophet,
grabbed his spine and
yanked him inside out 
so that his prophecy 
fell to the floor and rolled 
away like a silver marble.

Truth is the least of your
worries, said our Duenna,
what you lack is information.
To be is not sustainable.
Unadulterated being 
is a fable like any other,
a deceptive diversion, 
primordial nerve fire 
sliding up the funnel of 
the backbone like a tapeworm 
seeking permanent rapture.

Her opinion is concise
and invites no reply:
a myth is a lie 
with staying power.

To support the deflation of
being unable to disbelieve 
her cordially unromantic
estimation of our doctrine,
we are known to sneak out
to the edges of what seems
like silence for a consoling
sniff of the root exhalation 
which ruffles our hair like wind:
a whiff of sacrament fierce
and enjoyable to contemplate
from the back of a pickup
with a jug and shotgun
taking pops at the first
stars of the new twilight.

The thin attainable quiet
within the din of silence
she seems to propose
is not to be knocked, 
but has little in common 
with the hot and heavy
ecstasy we seek, the 
platinum shooter in the
sack of silver marbles.

Renewed whispers soon
evolve to conversation
and the business of 
conjecture is resumed.
This is nothing new,
it seems we have 
always been talking.

Beyond the texture of talk,
blonded beyond pale into 
a species of white not
to be confused with light, 
comes a gleam having 
nothing to do with sight.

Bright as it is, however,
you'd never think to 
read by it.One flicker 
of thought and it shatters 
into slivers of laughter 
receding at the speed 
of unavoidable distraction.

Ecstasy itself exhibits only 
a rudimentary gleam
back here in the marshes, 
a fluctuating beacon 
of eternity illuminating 
our tangled sheets and 
sweating souls while 
will o' the wisps compete 
with fireflies for dominion 
of sight in absence of stars.

In the parenthetical places 
between paragraphs whose
subject is night, the light of
common day bloats the sky 
with customary apathy
while ecstasy slips under
a stone and sinks to the
roots to emerge as roses.

Between the flat face of the earth 
and the red headed stem blocking 
its shape out of strands of sun,
the rose becomes an emblem but
the shadow it casts is not a symbol. 

Design fails, is known to fail, 
can be expected to fail and
does, in all instances, fail. 
In the presence of paradox
thought may be said to begin: 
where things as they are, not
as we've made them, may be 
seen for the price of looking.

Where gases accumulate, 
there gases condense, 
some to water, 
some to spirit, 
some to sibilance.
Ghosts gather by 
dark of moon and 
mime passion to no avail.
They are not separate 
from the element 
they proceed from. 

The mark of birth is a navel, 
the insignia of separation. 
Like the sun, it is not a symbol.



In the beginning we thought 
nothing could be wetter than
the sap of the water tree;
had not thought to weigh
our own tears against it.

We borrowed these from
a song sung so long ago its
melody has lost its flavor, 
its inspiration alone remains,
needing only the cupped
palms of sympathetic
understanding to allow
itself to be contained.

We were later to find 
that the credible magic
which attracted us
to the cut and curve 
of the tune could not
survive a change of key-
and its original register
was way beyond our range.

This was our introduction to the
difficulty of loving our Duenna,
for it was she and no other who
was extracted from this ancient lay
for purposes other than music.

Despite the generous blue 
waters of her melancholy air,
compromise was not her nature. 
We could not complain since 
we would not want her otherwise
than as she was - we, who were
unable to break our own bread 
without remorseful incantation.

Bodies of worth,
bodies of despair, 
bodies of wisdom's
limerick pieced 
together with the 
persistence of Isis,
collecting from one
frag heap or another
parts of her beloved,
here an eyebrow,
there an attitude,
bodies of emotion
in the feather of
warm blooded birds,
fingertips plucking 
ripened tone from 
strings tuned to
the shapes of pain;
capabilities, powers,
specific destinies and
particulars of gender.

Salt craves salt,
meat delights 
in cousin meat.
Life likes life,
finds it agreeable
for a time, 
but the dead 
do not complain. 

Seek consistency
and do not bother
about truth, said
our Duenna. Faith
is a contradiction
to begin with, but
it is not a symbol.

Belief is what we do.
Faith is what we are.

Gods have been gelded

over the issue of love 
but the heart remains
a nexus of self-interest 
susceptible to beauty.
Faith is not a symbol
but the heart is always
and everywhere so.

Is it love barks at midnight 
frightened by spectral animation 
in the churchyard streaked 
with wan filtrations of moon,
or is it soul consuming spirit
streaming down the porches 
of the heart from a concourse
channeled through the stars?

Our Duenna acknowledged
love, which, like terror,
is not a symbol­p;but was 
glacially unimpressed by
the claims of the heart or
any credential purporting 
to be issued by the spirit.

Clock tower chimes 
dissolve accumulated 
curses of the day and
faith sleeps beneath
frost in a fine thin jacket. 
Tomorrow it will grow 
eyes in a dark cellar 
and gaze around in
innocence to claim 
its belief -for tonight 
it folds itself into the 
dark sweet stream 
of vegetable blindness.

What it is sustains it;
belief cannot awaken
nor disbelief dislodge it
from its locus in the soil.

Neither witnessed nor witnessing, 
spirit penetrates the weave of 
emptiness to become a thing 
among other things, eccentric, 
vulnerable, appreciative of kindness.

Adjectives adhere to it,
nouns align within the 
precincts of its prepositions.
Language can no more
capture than avoid it.

For all its qualities 
it has no core; 
surface is the 
substance of spirit,
light its metaphor. 
Faith abides beneath 
its wing secure,
believes what it believes.

Believe nothing and
nothing is obstructed -
self sufficient objects
shine by their own light
when sight, delighted 
by intangible color,
no longer requires 
to be lit by a symbol.

Believe nothing and
nothing is disbelieved,
deliverance is a note 
of music from an 
unexpected source,
mercy is warm water
on a frosty morning,
charity an eiderdown.

Self apparent shining
dims in the presence
of memory. Sketchy 
reports about the quality 
of the light are framed 
at great pains but lack 
the comforting glow
of self sufficient grace.

But it is better to believe,
however constricting,
than to bumble through
eternity without the
benefit of time, depending 
on six limbed angels 
for water, bread and rent.

Reality is something 
we have little use for.

Ghosts and the daughters 
of ghosts, ghosts and their 
sons, garnish the widow's 
garden with wistful savor 
heightened against purple 
darkening, gathered cheek
to thigh so thick they must 
be swept aside like curtains
to catch a glimpse of actual
sunset in the crush of divinity.

We have seen the beautiful
and respect what we relinquish;
stood eye to eye with reality, 
a place of good air but no 
substitute for our obsessions. 


Enlightened self interest

was the password of our project,
access to the sacred precincts 
of fame with good conscience.

We hated to see it fail just
when we had ecstasy 
at long last in our sights -
not to slaughter, mind you,
just to wing her. We awoke 
with our weapons pointed 
squarely in our own faces,
our Duenna dripping blood
from a superficial wound.

After a period of remorse
approaching self examination,
though nothing so extreme
as to worry the foundations
of our castle in the clouds,
we turned our concern 
to consideration of shape 
and the shape of shape.

This we persued until our
contractual obligations to
entropy elected to reel 
us back an inch or two 
short of what seemed 
attainable perfection -
that sense of absolute shining 
with its come-hither smile.

Just as we were about to
resolve the disapointment
by shucking off the mortal coil 
to become entirely ephemeral, 
our Duenna snatched us 
out of the residual glow,
the blue-blond hairs on 
the back of her hand 
erect in the anger of
laying aside her own
persuits to rescue us
yet another time from 
the soft jaws of rapture.

Our appetite for sparkle 
was never shared by
our Duenna. Not caring 
for excessive shimmer, 
she preferred muted luster 
and faraway music 
without obvious melody.

She it is who can read 
fine print by moonlight.
She it is who can build
small fires of ice and stone.

Salt, fire and silver flow

in a riverbed of bone
adding freight to belief 
but no weight to the soul 
which wears the face of water, 
neither its wetness nor
drinkability, but face alone
without wind or reflection
to mar its invisibility.

Water of darkness,
unalloyed liquidity,
the milk of the mind,
the wishing water,
unknowable until 
a shudder of form
at long last does not
seem entirely absent.

Its awakening is akin 
to marble pillars which
hold up the sky, only
they are not marble
nor is it the sky so
benevolently braced but
light brided with water
looking through a hole
in the starless ceiling. 

At its convivial glance,
creation subsides and
ideas disassemble,
some of which are noble, 
beautiful and tolerant
But not true. Never true.

Faith, shadow and sun,
none of them symbols,
none of them true­p;
which remain when 
soul finds form?­p;
neither moon, stars, 
nor a sky to hang them in.

The soul, when it is so,
has constellations of its own. 

Its time is figurative,
neither sidereal nor 
clock driven, tuned to
heartbeat for the sake
of breath, at any instant
potentially eternal.

It is sweet to speak of
soul when soul finds
it sweet to listen; new
found form delighting 
in what once it was not.

Bow before memory

and the bow is not returned.
Among massed participles 
and conjunctions laboring 
like logs to provide a fire
by whose light to signify, 
what is it that yearns? 

It is the ghost of memory,
knowing, as it does, that
what is forgotten never 
happened ­p;the dark feather 
of a wing lowering on a child
stranded on a rock some distance
out to sea, invisible for mist.

Identity does not exist 
for the sake of memory.
Identity is memory 
and able to give the
gift of remembering.

If we be but remembered,
which of us would care to
haunt the widow's garden,
in company of the sons
and daughters of ghosts? 

One hundred lifetimes 
in the clubs, Nile to the
Thames to Mississippi,
in memory of her whom
we loved best and in whose 
sign and symbol we keep 
coming back for more,
gathering like curtains 
across evening's horizon,
sated on wine fermented 
from blue-black fruit
gathered by dark of moon
on the boundry between
the cemetary and the city.

Transparency is the
grace of a window,
not of an argument.
The duty of a window 
is to be seen through -
of what time is, to open
upon its evidence without 
comment or condition.

From such a window
shined from the inside
but layered with outer dust,
we waved goodbye 
to our Duenna as she 
boarded a bus, took 
her seat and regarded 
us for one long moment
through the tinted glass 
before drawing her shade.

Faith divided from soul 
in an act of belief too 
grave to comprehend,
our Duenna departed, 
never to be seen again 
by waking eye, wrapped 
in the same shroud of
melody in which we 
found her, accompanied 
by harmonies high and 
keen as ringing in the ear.

Her final words were left
standing in her stead:
not this, nor this, nor this,
she said: Not in acceptance 
but in rejection will time
achieve its conclusion
and confusion come clear -
not in what things are
but in what they are not.

Reality is a stone 
or a star as it sits 
in a stream or shines 
from afar, accordingly.

We think we change.
We do not change.
We remain as we are
which is not what we
suppose ourselves to be.

Whatever else deteriorates 
before the merciless love 
pouring out of the sun to
ravage time and dissolve 
the sweetness of the eye -
whatever else gives way
and leaves us stripped
to the naked tatters of
faith too long abused -
whatever presents itself 
as song to gain entrance 
to your ear only to curse 
and claw its way into 
your blood and being -
whatever else may seek
to disenchant you in the
face of death and the
aptitude of flesh for pain,

whatever else aspires
to snare the soul in
deadfalls of our own design,
the hands of the trees
and the long lashes
of the moon will stroke
and shield us from
the sting of revelation,
the pain of too much wisdom.
Robert Hunter 


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