Jenny

Part I

Down empty hallways I trudge alone
And glance with half-shut eyes through half-shut doors
At classrooms of a sort, though teacherless, and turbulent,
Like unwatched pots, brimming with sound and solidness.
The self-assured flood out as school bells chime
Crashing into walls and lockers,
Leaving now no trace of order,
Overturning, overcrowding, overrunning, overcoming…
Down beneath the surge it presses
My broken, malformed, twisted frame
And with what strength I’ve left I struggle
To reach a hand above the foam.

Blindly grasping, vainly gasping, I and all my hopes are drowned
Yet even as the flood consumes me, a hand engulfs my own.
Then up from out the churning chaos, up from out the crushing deep
I rise, and all that former flood fades formless down beneath.
Free at last, from solitude and solidness
Soaring hand in hand, or soul in soul
As though Aphrodite with Adonis
Ascending to the music of the spheres.
But as we climb through air and fire
The vision falters, fades, fails,
And waking, through half-shut eyes I shed a single tear,
Not, I think, for what I’ve lost, but for that I was found.

In day or dream I tread the selfsame concrete pavement
Mapping spiderwebs of cracks by memory
That by looking down I might pass on unseen
By others, and thus perhaps myself.
But now I raise my eyes in some weird hope
And let the tumult thunder over me,
A flood, if less chaotic, no less fantastic
Frozen in the infinitude of an instant,
The eternity of a momentary glance.
Vertigo on the brink of the abyss
The heavens contained in two souls
And in two pairs of eyes, the firmament.

Here is my waking Adonis, my living Arthur
Here is the sunrise, the sunset, the sun itself
Here are the fixed stars, no wavering devotion
Here is love; here is beauty; here is the king.
The king of silent surety, conqueror of chaos
The king of love, of light, of liberation
The king of the air, no, king of the ether
The king of an infinite fullness
A fullness of mind
A fullness of soul
A fullness of heart
A fullness of love, a moment lasting forever.

Part II

We dance in the light of the sun
Pirouetting in great circles.
The stars shine down upon us
Performing a silent symphony.
Harmony of motion, two bodies locked in rhythm
Falling ever towards each other,
Yet missing, to great delight and spinning ever on,
Shining with laughter, singing melodies of love.
To dream or to wake seem no different,
For day and night swirl together in the dance
And all that once was discordant is united;
In the symphony of heaven all is one.

One feels hope in the sunrise, or else fear
One feels fate in the sunset, or else relief
And in sunrise on sunset, a day seized or day lost
And in sunset on sunrise, a night to remember or forget
But not I. Not in love.
Sunset or sunrise makes no difference
Not in love, not for me.
Sunset and sunrise are no different.
Each is joy, each is laughter
Each reminds us we turn
Each propels us on faster
Each summons us near.

The sunset and the sunrise each define the world’s horizon,
The unattainable ideal, the finite infinitude
He is the possible impossible, the ultimate quest
Always in view, always out of reach, always made new.
To love is to strive, to seek out, to pursue
And in striving, to find not an end, but a call
For an end ends striving, and ends love therein
But a call calls to strive, and to strive to be called
So love never dies, though the sun seems to nightly,
For ever it strives to be called to strive
And seek the far horizon, that falls away
But ever holds, and never shall be won.

Clearest of all is the water’s edge, a sunset on a lake
The crisp, perpetual curvature that never may be reached
Here is my great chevalier, hight Launcelot du Lac
The pinnacle of Courtesy, against whom all is gauged.
He is the horizon in its most essential form
The purest call for which to strive,
The perfect object to be loved
Ever at the end of sight, ever at the limit of desire.
To the water’s edge
I set my course.
The horizon has taken me,
And I now it shall take.

Part III

With step determined now I pace
Across the hall to meet my king
Chevalier, who planted stands
And meets my gaze unwavering,
But as I near, my heart is rent
In two: for ever as I close
My Arthur fades to simple, “he
Who made Sir Launcelot.” And now
I slow, and turn aside, and mumble
Faint apology. “I thought — “
But no, I hadn’t that, I knew;
And counting steps I steal away.

Pygmalion’s snare I deftly tripped
For Arthur had I never loved,
But only ever Launcelot,
My sculpture brought in dream to life.
As Agravaine the secret broke
And shattered with it Camelot
I knew in knowing I had sealed
My fate in love for good. But no!
Du Lac I love as e’re before
And strive the more persistently
To reach what he was meant to be
Though unmoored now of Adonis.
No man particular do I love
But man as Form to which I strive
What is it, then, I love at all?
An object of my own creation?
To love, I know is but to strive,
But striving sets a wider tent
So that to strive may not mean love
Though loving ever means to strive.
To ideal man I set my course
To reach the unattainable
To water’s edge I struggle up
To stretch a grasping hand above.

From element to element
From water’s pressing weight I strive
To free myself and shed this form
This broken, malformed solidness.
To strive to be and to become —
But then to be alone again?
No. For this I will not strive;
An Adonis will I procure
Though Camelot be myth and lore
And Arthur lost forevermore
Some other hand will pull me up
From water to the firmament.

Part IV

Striding, off-balance
I glide along the hall
Like some other girl
Entirely. This is who I am.
A huntress, indiscriminate
A hawk, hovering, circling, menacing
And then —
A target!
I strike with unforeseen ferocity
Bending my ever unfamiliar form
In a harsh burlesque
Sinking my talons into my prey.

Clawing, grasping, pushing
We tumble into an empty classroom
Half-closing the door with my foot,
Never letting go
Clutching, tearing, pressing
Never fully seeing
Through half-closed eyes
Blindly writhing on a cluttered desk
Thrusting, squirming, gasping
A broken pencil digging
Into the small of my back.
And then at last he falls limp.

I push his half-dressed body to the side — Asleep —
And wrap my aching limbs in haste
Dragging one foot after the other to the hall.
Every inch a mile
Every step my last
Somehow I stagger on — Detached —
If I could cry, or even vomit, I would
But my body is not my own
Mordred has claimed it,
And now lies dead with Arthur.

Home at last, I heave my still-clothed
Haggish bones into the bath,
Fumble desperately for the faucet,
And run the water hot.
Cold as ice it spurts forth
Clenching every muscle in my body
But already am I too numb to notice
And soon enough it warms.
Waves of pain wash over me,
As my knotted flesh unravels
And fitfully, I drift away
Beneath the churning flood.

Part V

Through darkness down my outstretched toes
Reach sand, seaweed, something sharp
And grinding in, they find a footing
To push and rise through murky depths
Innumerable fathoms with no hint of light
Past the sinking, solid, self-assured
And into ever lesser pressure
Until at last a sunbeam pierces through.
At this I muster what I’ve left
Of strength to struggle — to strive —
And stretch a hand against all hope
To break the rolling waves.

Now Bedivere, that faithful kern,
I hear upon the brink
Take up the sword of Arthur king
To hurl it to the lake
But now he waits, as if to save
His sovereign from his death
And waits again, a second time
To hold a memory.
Now third, a graceful, glinting arc
He draws with Arthur’s blade
And at the water’s edge I catch
And brandish Caliburn.

As to the water they Arthur bear,
So up from out the deep I rise
The once and future king are we,
He king that was, I that shall be.
But as I climb through air and fire
To planets and the firmament
Again the vision steals away
As the shower loses heat.
And waking, I cast about
For light: the sun has set.
I dry, and change my sopping clothes
And offer silent prayer.

Into bed I ease my throbbing, ghastly
Broken frame, and shut my eyes.
Rest now, perhaps,
To sleep without dreams
Unperturbed, undisturbed,
Unconscious.
But as I drift
I seem to rise
Soaring again to the heavens
Floating into the sweet embrace of
Slumber
At last.