The Wizard’s Race
As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
“The breath goes now,” and some say, “No,”
—John Donne, “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”
Wizards do it backwards,
the bumper sticker reads on
the Corvette convertible, weaving
through lanes at 103, the digital
sign tattles in kilometers, not
miles. He was making his way
at ordinary speeds, if you go
by the look, so wicked to the metal
I push. Call yourself magic? I say
as virtuous men pass mildly away.
I am a secret, deliberate adorer
of villainy and the implausible,
back-pedaling, shapeshifting on
ethics and tenets faster than
a sneeze, seeking tidbits to
whisk me high-up or low,
anything to keep the in-between
well penned with other dull domesticates
toward whom I coldness show
and whisper to their souls to go.
I haven’t always been a snob.
See how easy that was? Yes, I have
and am convinced by forces
unexplainable, no need of further
limelight, that central to Creation’s
where I stand and shameless play
and always have, mid-Universe;
and only when I stoop do conquest
and defeat have their misguided way,
whilst some of their sad friends do say:
“Oh woe is me, alack, alas!” How
succulent the tendency to suck,
agree to mediocrity, and crave when
up proves nothing much or new
and down draws same-old crowds with
banners crying, “Victim!” Gotta blow
this joint, so off I go again in search.
I am my own lost sheep; I bleat, inured
to thorns and torn ambitions slow
the breath goes now, and some say, “No.”
So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
‘Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.
That I would meet said wizard
of the red Corvette who never
speeds across a table, bored
with all I’d seen and heard
of aggression and strategy
like pinball that employs
collision and intrusion
was surprise enough; for him
to whisper then, they have their toys
so let us melt, and make no noise . . .
We didn’t creep, we strode
as big and bright as day
past negligence in suits
and bellhops with their Ph.D.s
to where he’d parked. We drove
till dawn, then from his glove
compartment he removed a book
that seemed to be all diagrams.
First rules of coefficient magic prove
no tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move.
I gazed upon a broad expanse
of debris like swirling mica,
skies of metal gray. What I had
thought was dawn were tiny bits
of light, each self-contained. Where
are we? This is the land of decoys,
or where they go to die—I gestured,
what?—You’re seeing what our
miscreant belief in lack deploys.
‘Twere profanation of our joys
that made this grave and bleakened
wilderness from which the disenchanted
scrimp and scratch and patch
together lures to catch the wounded
unsuspecting. All this movement
makes you think you are a cut above,
while all along it cuts you at
the knees, reducing possibilities
until you’ve lost the will to groove,
to tell the laity our love.
Moving of the earth brings harms and fears,
Men reckon what it did and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.
Our love? I choked a bit,
that swirling glass was not great
fun to breathe. Should we be
wearing masks? I asked.—These are
the masks, I told you, ground to
dust, you’ve breathed for years
this crap, called it intelligence.
Whatever you justify and analyze,
ignoring what you newly feel, adheres;
moving of th’earth brings harms and fears.
I turned the book this way and
that, the cover didn’t help, as
front and back reminded me of
games of jacks my cousin used
to play with me—That’s it! he said,
say more of how you spent
your time at jacks. Okay, you fling
the pointy things, you bounce the ball
and scoop—Pure acts of rudiment.
Men reckon what it did, and meant.
Well, huh? was all I could reply.
He opened to a page. These diagrams
show movement of a child and
her games at play, no separations
nothing preconceived but fun
unfolding to create new atmospheres
as vital and organic as the purest
morning dew. In other words, virginity,
my dear, discerning all it hears
but trepidation of the spheres.
So this is love. Indeed, he said.
I riffled through the pages. An
instruction book on how we can
reclaim what decoys have diverted,
named as truth, persuading us
that youth declines & once it’s spent,
you hope there’ll be a government or
someone kind to catch you. Are you my
someone kind?—As poets go, I’m decent,
though greater far, is innocent.
Dull sublunary lovers’ love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which elemented it.
Ore bodies, our bodies, mined
to near depletion & invested by few,
so it seems, apart from those who
would view our limbs and minds and
limbic singularity as proprietary ass-
ets, it’s asinine! This bullying anti-love
was never Nature’s Law, but suits the
cranks who scoff at fairy tales’ happiness
and hapless themselves, shove
dull sublunary lovers’ love
down throats of us, some prettily,
with thirsts they lack fluidity to
quench. I’ve told you of the mensch
whose Book of Love, devoid of words,
I was assigned to aggregate, but
everyone I knew, meanwhile, had split,
or had clamped with such frigidity to vows
they’d drag with them to gates of death
not knowing freedom is Love’s conduit
(whose soul is sense) cannot admit.
Bugger that! Parched, I took the charts
and lines purported to create a world
divine from which pure love at every
corner shines. I mapped with stake
and string o’er blasted ground,
jaws clenched. Of joy disproved
I would no longer be, nor suffer
jumble-headed men in robes
whose hypocritic oaths behoove
absence, because it doth remove
what Love gives free in perpetuity
by name. I AM love’s truth, and
she my beauty, ever-radiating,
‘tis God’s word! So whence these
stings and barbs? Why have worms
—oh, yuck!—chosen to inhabit
my ham sandwiches? This isn’t right,
dear Lord, I had been promised
ease, look at this cheese, dammit,
those things which elemented it!
But we, by a love so much refined
That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.
I sit atop a stump, the claims are
staked, the land is mine to profit from
how I see fit. Wiiiizaarrrrd! You may
recall from glosa one that backwards
does he thrive from ancient to reverse,
but if the spells work only for his kind,
then who gives diddly-squat? I haven’t
slept in months, can’t laugh. Neuronal
cells toward research labs inclined,
but we by a love so much refined
must surely have capacity to
cure the ills brought on by some
thing that’s configured wrong.
A guy in robes shows up. You
called?—I don’t know you, where’s
your Vette?—I’m not in the biz
of curing cows. What’s got your
goat? He moved in close. Odd,
isn’t it, to starve the self, so dubious,
that our selves know not what it is.
Your point being? He prodded
the hollow at my throat. You’re
over-pointing, he said, and
you insist on bludgeoning poor
dead rams of ages past. No way,
I said, look deeper you will find
some of my best friends are Aries.
He lifted the lid of my bleary third
eye. You’ve done this time after time,
inter-assured of the mind.
Done what? He put away his
probes. You cling like drowning
rats to experiences mystical,
then try to sell them down
the tube where no one cares.
The worst ones are the sexual; hiss
fights break out—my O’s bigger
than your O—but I have more
of them! Those of us in eternal bliss
care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.
Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion.
Like gold to airy thinness beat.
The wizard looked around my Eden
in the rough. Not bad. He stared
into the air and counted. Every
time, he said, you listen to your
body, a fairy finds her wings—no,
well, yes, the thing is, they have fun
no matter how they’re dressed. Letting
go the omens frees the ogres; that’ll
earn you big returns from moon and sun,
our two souls, therefore, which are one.
That night, we visited a village
of entirely my making. I was
pleased to find new versions
of the people who had ticked me
off, indelibly, I thought. Fresh
ink in wells no longer dry set
near a pot of something bubbling.
It’s molten gold, Wiz said, too hot
to touch, like you when you forget,
though I must go, endure not yet
the limitations of the pre-baked.
Everyone is on their course; to some
you’re still a lump of dough, but
they’re the ones at oven’s door who’ll
know precisely when to pull you out.
Wizardic metaphors could use revision,
but I liked our little pub, the homey
grub. Heaven, like all buy and sell,
is in the simultaneous: yes, division
a breach, but an expansion.
The birth of multitudes of thought
babies came fast and furious
in my new world. Queen bees
dropped by often with gifts
of comb, and ants gave tips
on colonies, which made the heat
of creativity both bearable and fun.
Each morning, I awoke to opportunity
presenting treasures sweet
like gold to airy thinness beat.
If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two:
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if the other do;
So here we are, the final act
in company of Donne, just you
and me. The poetess who wrote
the glosas that created worlds
is gone, her every cell replaced,
mythologies erased. You know
this happens every day, continuous,
we transmutate toward that which
we’ve become above, below.
If they be two, they are two so
keenly matched, you would not
recognize their coupleness—
she, the sometimes One, he the
always Many, ever-changing face
of place and time, the pivot and
the carousel, unmoving center who
attracts the never still and restless,
pulling him to orbit, he uplifts,
upholds, as all best lovers do
as stiff twin compasses are two.
Their Book of Love with all
its diagrams lies scattered:
petals here, a wingéd creature
there, a dollar bill for us to find
the peace that has befallen
is the piece that does not know
disharmony, the joy that grows
abundance, calls it instantaneous
releasing endless space through flow;
thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show.
What moves the many, learned
the poetess, can only touch the
one on higher ground or not at all;
allow the love, it’s always here,
pretend you don’t. The fiction
that we think we see is true,
the more we give it enmity.
To be the grindstone and the gem
requires friction and a binding glue
to move, but doth, if the other do.
And though it in the center sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.
Irrelevance must play its mighty
part, disinterest keen a practiced
art. Sweep all shelves clean of
trophy dudes and babes, the
clingers and the clangers
will not thank you, not a bit
for the neglect, but you’ll be
free of torment, and it’s here
deliciousness meets wonderment,
and though it in the center sit,
you’ll not feel crowded out.
The overpopulation myths are
gone, your every loving cell
knows best the routes to
merriment; I’m in the trillions,
every one of me is home alone
at work, at play, engaged, wed
true—have we forgotten anything?
You will remember like a poem
yet when the other far doth roam.
It’s two a.m., I’ve had my cake
and coffee, midnight hours are
the best for wizardesses left
and right, behind, and time
though waits for none, serves
all, if we would just relax a bit.
I’m running out of nothing/but,
replacing them with all things/and
to brave new worlds I’m retrofit,
it leans and hearkens after it.
These numbers one through nine
we will have traveled well, our
dramedy, this Tree of Life, Her
sephirot will bear their fruit—that’s
you and me! Pumpkin, pear, or
canteloupe, the seeds have grown
to orchards far beyond imagining.
The Queen of Heaven tends them,
King in showering exaltation prone
and grows erect, as that comes home.
Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like the other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.
This final race that has no end to
my Beloved I devote, for all we have
become and will, enticing Mystery
to show herself in ever more refined
degrees, from concepts drear of loss
to freshness and the evergreen of trust.
Love has delivered us and you to me;
our covenant is spectral clear, no
heart is left behind & certainly no lust
such wilt thou be to me, who must
remain a little while to carry
out these final tasks that weigh
upon us not at all, in all the ways
we cannot help each other, we
are aided by hilarity and memory
no more divided mother, son,
father’s daughters working out
the way their granddads never
did, there’s indigo inside the sun
like th’ other foot, obliquely run.
I hear a sound outside my
door, we’ve only just a moment
now to lay to rest what carries
on at edges, in the middle when
momentum is intense and
warps what cleverly is thrust
between our ribs to feel like pain;
though we’ve been cold toward
one another, many times unjust,
thy firmness makes my circle just.
Well, Donne, we’ve jointly writ these
lines that number 396, enjoyed a
spin in Stingrays red—Route 666?—
and have throughout avoided
mourning. Mildly vertigoed, I know
the wizard’s race is backwards run
with fleet of heart and mind to keep
reality behind, imagination at the
fore, we pass goodbye, hello has won,
and makes me end where I begun.
Elaine Stirling is a novelist, poet, and communication consultant in Toronto, Canada. Her most recent novel, Daughters of Babylon, was published in 2014. She is the author of The Corporate Storyteller: A Writing Manual & Style Guide for the Brave New Business Leader. Her love of the medieval Spanish poetry form, the glosa, inspired a novella, “Dead Edit Redo,” and accompanying poetry book, Dead to Rights. Visit her at www.elainestirling.com.