The Pale Patriarch

A poem by Randall Smith


In his twilight
In his fevered fetal position
He can’t untwist himself
From an unholy revulsion,
A Satanic vertigo.
Fighting a night sweat vomit bucket lurch
He tries to keep the gorge down
But his justice
Demands a release
Feeding the sense he has while dreaming
Of striking a blow at that dark nausea
As though a flash
Of violence
Could turn back
The tick of a clock
And untwist his cradled knees
And unclench his cramping bowels
Furiously lunging
But never quite reaching
The thing inside.

His veneer of faith
Adorning terror
His shining elevations
Framing self-absorbed dreams
His measures of nobility
And concrete virtue
Concretized in his physiology
Argue in their grandeur
That he must be well.
Still the night is upon him
And the night sweats
And the lunging dream
And the morning
A million ticks away
Argue that he may never be well.
And with an eternal memory
The past will remember him
In ways he finds unfamiliar
The cruelty and glory
The self-possession
The possession of others
The soaring unproven hopes
And all his concrete effects
Will cease and be inherited

He will nurse his dread
Until it swallows him
And he is forgotten

He may moan in agony
About unkind retribution
And call it unjust and undeserved
But his anxiety will be forgotten
And all his strange faith
Will be wasted as the
Saga forgets him
With one more inexorable
Tick of the clock


Randall currently collects his mail in Brooklyn.

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