ashes of alexandria

i will walk, my face in ashes,
a prey to children’s taunts
and the enmity of the gods.
canto XVII paragone

cairo,
fair daughter of the nile,
tigris and euphrates,
fertile cradle of the world,
be blessed as you rise
on the heady tide
of liberation,
of dangerous information,
be blessed as you imbibe
the bright blessed waters,
the inscribed light
that frees the world.

thought flies in the flame
of possibility,
the ghost of freedom rises,
and men at last
smell bruised and bloody
the beautiful,
ever-new spring;
fear is overthrown,
tyrants topple,
we send them
from their bloody thrones,
and joyfully perform
time honoured rituals
of humiliation
for the unjust great.

knowledge is a sacred thing,
Promethean fire to light
the darkest paths of men,
but
when my galleons riding
the Ptolemaic tide that evening,
faltered
and foundering in fear,
and looking to fall
into barbarian hands,
what else could i do?
did i know what i extinguished
with fire then
as the night sparks flew?

i did not.

for fire is its own agency,
like love it blows where it wills,
mortal man cannot control it,
nor decree for it a prescribed path.
so when the treasure house
of the mind of all mankind
burnt
like a reed-roofed shepherds hut
as old men wept,
and the sea birds flew,
it hurt me too,
because i knew what was in there,
what the zealous flames
consumed in the rush
of labyrinthine updraft,
for i had been there
and opened the scrolls,
and seen the procession
of the solemn sacred words,
opening like brilliant blooms
upon dark banks of papyrus,
and yes, i,
gaius julius caesar
dictator perpetuus,
conqueror of the known world,
had stood
in the lettered silence
and marvelled
in that marble-vaulted air.
alma mater
forgive me,
we frail men
are combustible matter,
beings of the conflagration,
rising smoke
lit momentarily
by the setting sun,
phoebus apollo,
remember us
as we your children rise.

first it comes in thought,
secret, frail,
and scented with danger,
constrained, cradled,
fearfully hidden.
but then
with whispers upon the stairs,
people daring to speak
the unspeakable
one to one,
in the market press,
in the date palm groves,
then digitally multiplied,
through the maze of mirrors
of the new democratic media,
the chatter of small birds
singing,
rising and rising,
and becoming a deafening
surge of sound,
becoming the voice of an ocean
no caesar can command.

reams and reams
and scrolls of reeds
unrolling,
as woven words fly,
the black blood of sea creatures
spilled and squeezed
indelible seeds of revolution,
of human dignity and freedom
sown on the burning winds,
dangerous media,
mother of revolutions,
unclosable pandora
issuing blood,
and ashes,
truth,
and TRUTH!
and furies of
unimaginable artistry.
precious dust
of alexandria,
from the free winds
i gather you,
and honour you,
in the dry amphora
of my skull.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s