Category: Epic


Mere Beasts An Epic
(excerpts in bold which represent about 15% of the full work)

Introit   1. Lavinia   2. Ophelia   3. Pictures   4. Death Enters the Room
5. The Intermediary   6. Deep Grief   7. Missionary   8. Pisti   9. Mutilation
10. A Savior Complex   11. Obsession   12. Divided   13. The Trull   14. Maiming
15. River   16. Exile   17. Desert   18. Predators   19. Apophatic
20. Speciousness   21. Phoenix   22. She Who Abides   23. Shame
24. Lively Warrant   25. Judgment   26. Cataphatic   27. Tetra Pylon
28. Flaming Sword   29. Agape   30. Mark of Grace   31. Mere Beasts
32. Elpida   33. Gnosis   34. Imago Dei   35. Redemption   36. Quiddity
37. The Paradoxes   38. Muse   39. Rebirth   40. Sophia

Introit
Titus: An if your highness knew my heart, you were.-
My lord, the emperor resolve me this:
Was it well done of rash Virginius
To slay his daughter with his own right hand,
Because she was enforc’d, stain’d, and deflour’d?

Saturninus: It was Andronicus.

Titus: Your reason mighty lord?

Saturninus: Because the girl should not survive her shame,
And by her presence still renew his sorrows.

Titus: A reason mighty, strong and effectual;
A pattern precedent, and lively warrant,
For me, most wretched to perform the like:-
Die, die Lavinia, and thy shame with thee;
(He kills Lavinia)
And, with thy shame, thy father’s sorrow die!*

*Titus Andronicus (V.iii.38-51) by Shakespeare

King: This is the poison of deep grief;
… poor Ophelia,
Divided from herself and her fair judgment,
Without which we are pictures, or mere beasts.*

* Hamlet (IV.v.40, 48-50) by Shakespeare

1. Lavinia
Lavinia, a name haunted by shame
The daughter who loses all:
Dignity, hands, tongue, maidenhead, self
To receive mercy at her father’s hand
One more victim of life’s grave cruelty

This one born centuries later
Failed by the protection of a father
No husband or brothers to stand with her

She forges bold expressions in paint
With precision, a line well reasoned
And true – cutting through post-modern isms,
Edge of identity and visual field

Her work: prodigious, collected, critiqued
Viewed by the elite –
Discerning, argumentative, and informed

Yet she is gnawed away inside at the sacrifice
Required by her acceptance –
That which is like a man’s –
Hard edged, logical, demanding, and concrete
Where Eros’ sweet invitation is laid fallow,
By ego’s sharp curbing of her free expression
Complexity, variation – her creative forces:
Divergent streams, converging, are still

2. Ophelia
Ophelia, sweet child, dominated by powerful men
Abandoned to grief and madness
Her last moments, a watery slip
May have been unintended consequence
Or dire injury
Consecrated – and yet we wonder
Who is culpable?

A modern woman now faces
The same pernicious forces
That may divide her from her own precious reason
Professor of mathematics, her intellect, ratiocinative,
Attempts to quantify the carrying capacity of the earth
What can it hold, nurture, sustain
Without ruin, lack of renewal,
Or toxic inundation?

Her losses, both great and universal
Small and specific
Her shame-filled love
Will serve as the crucible
Over which her sanity may be fractured

3. Pictures
(Art Critic, Yves) Lavinia’s art is a concatenation
Of architecture, minimalism, post-modernism, and conceptual art
Her meticulous line acknowledges the reality
Of the restricted world in which we find ourselves:
Measured, under surveillance, scientifically dissected
Without irony

Unlike Julie Mehretu’s marks
Which work against a Fascist imposition of order
Conveying a fundamentally humanist message
Lavinia’s work shows the intense naïveté
Of such leanings

Like the steady, deft hand of a butcher
She cleaves idealism at its root!
Unlike women of the past
She shows no propensity to politicize gender
No weakness for sentimentality
No shying away from the cruelty of existence
This fearlessness, an emboldened stance,
A primary ingredient in her acuity
Leads her to a new vision:

A post apocalyptic world without nostalgia
The world as it is becoming:
Crowded, populated by individuals
mainly concerned with their own needs and desires

An open wound
Increasingly destroyed
Not to be made again into paradise
But simply to be destroyed
She is the bravest artist of the 21st century

(Lavinia) Pre-figured symbols and signifiers
Are land mines of meaning and association
Figurative art remains reactionary,
Revealing underlying ideology
Nonrepresentational art isn’t the basis of a movement,
a call to action, or directive

Within it there is no agenda,
Cannon of aesthetics,
Or political ground
The visual language exists within its own independent logic
Unburdened by oppressive modalities

6. Deep Grief
Death entered the rooms of her soul,
Unwelcome and alien
Permeated the air
Sleep was her only comfort,
The denial of dreams
Truth returned each morning, aching
Nothing in her waking hours could drive it away
Time had betrayed her –
No solace gained through its passing

The memory of life before became distant
The memory of her love transfigured into a specter;
A cruel trick

She could feel the world
Slipping from her mind
Meaning drained from her face,
Replaced with an effigy:
Becoming the object of her own scorn
Confusion lined her eyes,
Now emptied of other expression

In the recesses of her secret self she began to be afraid
Not of death, stalking her thoughts, but insanity
A far greater apprehension –
Death is certain,
Sanity not so fixed!

The onset of madness,
Robbing her lucidity, was subtle,
A slow and silent poison
It weighed upon her as if tangible, haunting her
The connection between her innermost being
And the outer world dissolving –
She began mimicking his death

13. The Trull
(Lavinia) I tried so hard to be only one thing,
Contain my multiplicity
Conform to the rules,
In so doing I damaged
The very part of me that I sought to express

Strange how I became a painter
In order to belong to myself; to express a self
To explore the myriad paths to my soul
And ended up wounding it
I became possessed by the world –
At such a small price
How quickly I was lost when tempted

I wanted it – I convinced myself it was the fulfillment of my ambition
I lost my source, my essence, my soul
It was precious, but I did not know to protect it

What does it mean to have lost my integrity?
I am a trull, selling out the soul that fed the work
I wanted to be the center of attention
They are merely circling around me
With no love for me – my humanity

I have only fed them through the mask
A mirror for their projected desires
They are vain; they wanted me to reflect them
My vanity distorted me to their pleasure
Pandering soul!
Starved for love – no integrity at all
Do I pity you or avenge my honor?
For that which was stolen, defiled, and ravaged

I am sick; ill from your poisonous fallacies
Here the world has set my penance
For my lack of discernment
It has robbed me of the tool of my crimes
Poor hand, it was under orders from the world,
My own vain striving!

Justice was swift and absolute
I cannot even seem to make use of myself
I have been deemed unworthy of service –
What is there for me now?

19. Apophatic
(Ophelia) I find that in the process
Of declaring this moment, this thought,
As what defines, delineates me
That in the next moment I reject the idea
I found was all encompassing
The world, my internal landscape
Proves too vast and unknowable

I am always trying to stop
At a point in time to reach contentment,
Clinging to it;
Spreading it thinly across the hours to come
When it wears away I start again and think
(as if it never occurred before)
It will stay!
That I have at last won and the answer is granted –
The key to happiness

23. Shame
(Ophelia) Reality, reality is too cruel!
One moment, no chance to relive things
Reality is for people imprisoned
Addicted to being victimized
I can control my world
That is real freedom
(Who calls this madness?
I will brook no captious dissenters!)
The liberation which we dare not name
Too afraid to even whisper
Who needs society’s labels?
I have found happiness
Control, complete control
Infinitely superior to the curse of reality!

24. Lively Warrant
(Lavinia) Where is my father?
To murder my shame
And as I have embodied it, my own flesh!
There is no such person on this earth
Must I be alone even in this?
There is no mercy for my will lives
Urging me to return home!

Please God, why could not he have done it
Not in compassion but spite
It would still bear the mark of your grace!
Why have you brought me here
If not to let me die – born again to new life?

How can you abandon me?
What need do I have of you
Who brought the shame only death can end
To mark me so that others will recoil,
Feeling that shame as if a spreading disease?
How cruel the cure of death!

What compassion is shown
Stripping me of my self-possession?
Is this how you make me yours?
Declaring my presence as that repulsiveness
Giving me nothing beyond it
As if the whole of my life lost meaning from that moment
I cannot bear it but do not know how to lay it down
Please! You must release me from it!

33. Gnosis
(Lavinia) No wonder Edvard Munch went mad
Thought his mind slipped
He set before him to define life and love
The embrace of life and death
The depths of his emotion
He felt he could grasp it and put it there,
Fixed for public viewing

Each new piece a marker,
A signpost of meaning,
Leading, spiraling towards a complete philosophy
He would not have seen it as his world view
He would have seen it as truth – the truth

A search to express the truth can only lead to madness
It clings to the singular when multiplicity is required
The resulting fracture –
Making multiplicity into duality (love/hate, life/death)
Forcing it all into unities of form breaks the vessel
The mind cannot will the one truth into being
The mind is not unified, it too is many,
Pressure snaps the psyche as it
Tries to reject the truth that surrounds it
Truth it cannot comprehend, label or convey

Exit Wound

Protasis

Forensic ruin seeped into my life
Through the doorway to my future
No one was on guard
At the arrival of the dangerous ones
Some were close at hand
Others I never knew would come
Wedging the gate

Tragedy requires back story
A lifetime of striving
By sixteen I was
Working eighty hour weeks
Food service pays in varicose veins
And suicidal ideation
Even in the young
By eighteen I was broken
Poverty lay culpable

Years of struggle and abandonment
That words merely cheapen
Sisyphus my companion
Days blurred by petty change
Nights running down concrete corridors
Out the backdoor of the American mall
Into empty parking lots
Trying to see in the dark

Epitasis

Two years of saving
Promotions, evaluations, and initiations
Got me to the promise
Of higher education
A private school
Where students really mattered
My professors were my peers
The precious, spoiled kids
Their well pressed lives
Well, I didn’t fit in

My senior thesis in college
Liquid nitrogen flash freezing green buds
The mortal and pestle grinding
Separating into its elemental parts
Strands of Deoxyribonucleic Acid
Sent through gel electrophoresis to find
Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA Markers
Refining, comparing, determining genetic relatedness
A taste of things to come
It was a year of upheaval
A year of final tests

Joy ambushed me with an engagement
To the man across the hall
He created space,
Showed up with love
Grateful, besotted, and delirious
I allowed myself to imagine
White dress, black gown
Two rites of passage united
Emanating hope

Our congregation of families darkened
By dysfunction, divorce and illness
Friends devoured themselves
And one another
A poisonous spider struck leaving
Necrotic spots
These were our wedding gifts

We planned to graduate,
Get married, launch careers
Create a home from scraps
Broken but our own
A garden growing out of burnt earth
All these naïve shoots
Were overshadowed
By the advent of murder

Weeks of accusations,
Of horrors and of blood
Stained brown in time
A young woman’s life
Obliterated by greed
Her destiny slaughtered
For only nine hundred dollars
Her legacy so shattered
I can’t even remember her name

We were awfully estranged
No one could be together amidst
Celebration, mourning, and fighting
While the killer fled the nation
Bullet pierced her brow
Eradicating her last thought

Justice demanded a trial
Prejudice tore at the jury
Three days we deliberated, hung,
Through the apathy of one,
In the end the juror
Didn’t want to choose
She caved to watch her soaps
Judgment rendered a life sentence

Catastrophe

Juxtapositions that made no sense
Death/new life; union/dissolution
All chaos conspired
A close range shot
Titrating stress hormones
Each moment hard won

The surreal landscape expanded
Our honeymoon a gift
Spent on a hurricane ravaged
Caribbean island all the time
Knowing we were ruined
Never wanting to leave the
Destroyed place
We felt at home, the aftershock

A breath away from homelessness
With the monsters closing in
We fought each other
Vitriolic words
Directed at the sky

These things I never thought I’d learn
Exposed in graphic detail
The intensity of familial
And societal agony
Writ large
Shrapnel blown into me

The entrance wound looked clean
There was so little blood
It was the exit wound, the obscured one,
That proved the true disaster
Forensic ruin seeped into my life
Through that tiny hole, a portal to my future