Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Garden of Earthly Delights

Hieronymous Bosch from the Triptych Garden of Earthly Delights

Wanton desires fulfilled
Your pallid face I now renounce.
I drank deep from you and fused you to me--
Blood cell to blood cell.

Flame; heat; seething urge
Explored in a tropic of desire.
Burning with vice
I refused to be captured by fire

An actor on the stage you built
I lived life's eternal farce;
Feeling those heated bodies
Smother me, I cry,

"I am in heaven or hell
Doubt becomes my nemesis--
Love is my demon;
Lust, the fire.

"Burning demons circle me
Charming creatures
Enticing, debauching me.
What sweetness can this be?

"Jesus and Satan alike,
Two heads on one coin."
"Set it in gyre
Two faces of beauty."

And you begin to dance
An affected movement
At once basic and condemning
Suggesting rhythmic redemption.

You bestow on me your celestial thread
Then I watch you dizzyingly fall.
I reach out my spirit for you
Greedier than my hands.

Complacent that if you're lost
Or you burst to pieces
That I have feasted
Securing all I need.

Knowing depravity
I cast it off
And watch nature's fire
Burn as brilliant as the sun.

Luscious honey thick
The summer hangs ripe pearshape
Richly dripping--
A torpidity of death.

I closet in coolness
Stripped of my innocence
Terrified of life
Afraid to love death.

Procured in towering gloom
And pricked by grief's blanched rose,
I retrieve your shadow
Cast by an icy moon.

Ruined, I'm left to wait
In darkened woods
By silent stones near tarnished pools
While lightning strikes the night.

And I dream again
That I perish in a fruitless land
I slash myself
Piercing my side; drinking my blood.

Becoming neither phantom nor sylph
Believing in water
I implore you, my Lord
Just one cool drop.

I devour what I need
Flaming tongues quench my thirst
I now sense no vertigo
Nor ascent to grace.

From you came the hermetic root,
Its source; I feel the rush of wings
And am saved by a sacred essence
In angel's dreams.

I know your joy
I found your shame.
I consumed your love
I changed your name.

In Mephistophelian frenzy
I spin exultantly
Adoring the furor
In my flight to Paradise.

© Gay Reiser Cannon * All Rights Reserved


  1. Wow - what a ride that was! Breathless. Thank you for such a lovely diversion and beautiful poem.

  2. Many delights and dooms herein, earthly and otherwise. I was starting to copy out a few lines that struck me, but there are too many to edit out--I'll just say, beginning with the "..torpidity of death.." this poem got serious and wrapped me in its dark wings. Fine work, Gay.

  3. I closet in coolness
    Stripped of my innocence
    Terrified of life
    Afraid to love death.

    those lines stood out to me gay, this was a delish read because of the wicked flow and takes us to places in emotions we may not want to face....great job

  4. Gay, I think you hurt my brain with this one. I read it several times and anytime Jesus and Satan are together in the same sentence I know things are serious.

    I extracted your words and found that I could not select only a few because so many were meaningful.

    “An actor on the stage you built
    I live life's eternal farce”

    Reminded me of the story of Esther and Mordecai during which time Haman faces the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.

    "I am in heaven or hell
    Doubt becomes my nemesis--
    Love is my demon;
    Lust, the fire.”

    Of course, the temptation of Jesus by Satan.

    Ruined, I'm left to wait
    In darkened woods
    By silent stones near tarnished pools
    While lightning strikes the night.

    And now, this is me, “silent stones near tarnished pools…” You nailed me.

    This had so many avenues, so many places to get off and return to the main highway.

    Thanks for twisting my brain and tweaking it a bit. My interpretations may be distant from what you were thinking when you wrote it, but you
    gave me reason to pause and in a beautiful way. Thanks for that. Excellent thinking that provoked excellent writing!

  5. Your poem makes me consider a few things quite differently, from literary/religious symbolism to psychological responses and notions of self-sacrifice for the benefit of others. Quite an excellent write with many beautiful poetic lines.

  6. Wow this was an amazing verse to read in the mood I am in. I liked it so much. Specially when I think of it all in terms of mind, thoughts and religion... Beautiful and interesting thoughts...
    With your words, you hurt mind (Heart I thought would be a great word here) and spill tears.. I enjoyed this imagery a lot... Perfect thought for the image...

    ॐ नमः शिवाय
    Om Namah Shivaya
    At Twitter @VerseEveryDay

  7. Ping ping! Badda badda boom! Waaaaaaah-ah! go the dopplers and punch-lines and sliding trombones of this Savage Garden, be-bop-a-looh-ah'ing the eternal round f Eros 'n' Logos, Penia 'n' Pothos (Plenty and Want), Heaven 'n' Hell, Love 'n' Lust, Satiety 'n' Thirst, Naiad 'n' Sicklemen, Beginning to End, the naked Rite of Spring which is always on the undersides of our ache to speak, name, sing. A history is told here in the alternations of Love's Wheel, zenith to nadir, center to extreme, Yes to No 'n' back again. Your history, my history, our mystery, thanks. My ears are still ringing with bittersweet effusion. - Brendan

  8. Oh wow, Gay.. what a ride this was!! With all its ups and downs, it felt like I was a free falling body rattling through storms and peaceful clouds alike!! AWESOME!
    Really enjoyed the wordplay in this poem, my friend..
    "Luscious honey thick
    The summer hangs thick as pears
    Richly dripping--
    A torpidity of death." -- Vivid and oh so deliciously dark!!!

  9. Gay, I'm sorry if I was too flip in my earlier comment on the piece -- I was just ennervated by the erotic to-and-fro of its progression. Later I thought about how this poem is a historic descendent of "Gone the Songs of Orpheus" -- they're rhetorically parallel, but the soul of the earlier poem is pagan, and this poem has Christian inflection, or at least bears the freight of guilt of Adam and Eve, making a conscious choice of know love and paying the price for doing so. The voice of "Gone the Songs of Orpheus" tries to inhabit that older thrall which was less conscious, more tempted, almost irresistably so. As we became more conscious, so too did the peril of the apple grow, as maturer adults weigh the problematics of love with scarred and scorched hearts. Maybe this wasn't your intent at all, but I did see the two poems as sharing some essential rhythm with very different interpretations. Eros is the central figure of both, but the merry wheel becomes a vortex of dangerous delights. The Bosch painting certainly is duple, with all that venal delight backgrounded by the deep shadows of damnation that painter was wild with. - Brendan

  10. I just wrote one of the best pieces of prose I've ever composed regarding this poem and your comments and Blogger wiped it. I'm disconsolate. I'll never manage it twice! I guess I should have put it up as an independent post. It was too long for a comment apparently.

  11. I know I am late to comment but I only just joined in. I wanted to commend you on this piece, I feel it a treasure, it is elemental in scope. The fragile thread between the physical and the spiritual is acutely illustrated here to me. I love Bosch and I love this piece. Thanks.