LEGIONS OF THE SKY

What mortal tongue can tell if gods lie dead or simply sleep?
Perception does not reach so far, the senses even less
and, when we scale their history into the past so deep,
it seems as if they’ve drowned within a sea of nothingness.

Time the healer, time the killer, magistrate of all
makes legend and apocrypha of that which used to be
and we, the slaves, resist it not but desperately crawl
to prostrate, empty-handed death and awesome destiny.

Sophisticated vanity that seeks for sweet redemption
cries out for assets evil, yet, from evil, pleas exemption.
‘O, give to me a soul so pure that evil has no place!’
But even this is selfishness, for ego pleads the case.

Up from this chaos there arose the god, the nymph, the sprite
who reigned from Mount Olympus with such all-embracing sway
for none but they divined the ancient secrets of the night
until mankind, like every dog, awoke to have his day.

No longer did mortality seek godly explanation
so Zeus put up his thunderbolt while Odin’s spear was downed
and worldly men came down to earth with worldly revelation
as temples of the dying gods returned to dusty ground

and man made new idolat’ry as soon as he could write
iconographic genesis as soon as he could paint
and, in that condescension from a never-equalled height,
divine made way for flesh and blood and god stepped down for saint.

The earthly bastions, so great, where gods would sing and laugh
lost all their sanctity, their splendour, glory and foreboding.
‘Gone but not forgotten,’ reads Valhalla’s epitaph,
engraved by time into the very stones now seen eroding.

But when the clouds leave open all the vantage to the night,
observe the charted millions of the never-ending dome
and thank your gods or lucky stars that you are blest with sight,
enabling you to wonder at the beauty of your home.

For though the ancient praises now are trickles of emotion
and Saturn, Mars and Jupiter but regions not so high,
yet all the substance of the gods is still a massive ocean
of the constellated stars in mighty legions of the sky.

1983


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