Elegies

By Nam Le

I.M. Ché Frye

i

Kubla Ché, dreaming of ancient
Egypt, ate his hyacinths and was
marvelous. Wherever you are is
what I’m meant to say. Before you
beauty come, Dis crouching among
the black basalt, kneading master’s
soured linen, watching (bewatched)
the great beaten gold litter borne by,
deltoids sun-dewed stone, temples
bronze & strong &     in train     in
       thrall perpetual — 
                                I am of a mind,
daddy. Like, inside the blind-white
cloth-of-gold, the scented, sweating
box she sat in (think box, lock box) — 
Phoenician forest, seeder of  known
world’s every known green: malachite,
sea-green jasper, chrysocolla, olivine — 
& outside, too, other-handed, other-
landed, in rainless, treeless Thebes, my
dark knees tendered by two lands, rubbed
bare by work & love — 
       Move the tombs to the cliffs of
Beni Hasan. Send salt from the four
lakes. She is Nefertiti, she shares
the crown, she brings the single sun.
You do not watch the sun. But in
the Deeds of  Suppiluliuma she
says she is fearful     but there is no
fear past true heresy, her beauty is
clear of the next line & the next and
that kind of  beauty is     if not
redemption the possibility of a
separate resurrection.
      (Am I not beautiful too?)
      The miners are instructed: Find a
vein, gouge it to the very end.
 
ii

Princeling Ché, wolfling Ché, fish-
eyed prodigy, anabole, brother
mine, all-beautiful boy, who’ll turn
your pages now? The lines unfurled
before you in your sleep, who sets
them to song? I cannot. (All men
have crowns and every crown can be
broken.)
       Were your senses mixed (blood
shaking your heart — orange, with
violet veins) or did hearing alone
stay and go last, were your nostrils,
at last, unblocked, your ears, at last,
symmetrized, did you unravel
first silence    did you dream?
       Maimonides says of Abraham
it is not God he disobeys but
Elohim; that in the bureaucracy
of divine instruction the envoy
fore the eyes supersedes the voice
in the ear     did they close your
eyes, daddy?     they must have
closed your eyes (enucleate the
globe, ligate the four recti, fix in
formalin) for under the sole edict
of sound
                     the son is killed.
 
iii

Of  your father we dare & do
not speak.
 
iv

Wherever you are, you are not
your death. You are not your cold
body, your subclavian blood, your
spine upon the body block that
proffers up your organs, your
humors pooled with gravity — you
are abed in natron, my friend, you are
forty days not in a metal slot but
roused into the mirror world, the
eastern fields of light, the father
sun rayed gentle on the rushes &
not the prosector but the jackal
keeps your stomach & the falcon
your intestines and your heart
remains your heart is yours for you
there are no more tests of   heart.
 
v

My friend, magnificent, across your
empty desk they go on trading base
metals & precious gems. They found
flint in feldspar caves, below the first
cataract, where single stones, actioned
by wind, can mother a dune. They trade
tin south to children of  the stars, mix
alum with deep-red alizarin to
dye, to delight them who are yet to
learn the violence of  such charm
       heart hanging in its bloodslick
chamber     heart gleaming in its
rubied darkness
                   My husband, my god,
my gold-mad son
                                               lorn
issue, dim & darling eyes flooding
with natal sand, every night flooding
my free past. What’s a queen know
of this     my babies in their sunless
cease     what’s a queen’s knees know
but milk & crystalled honey     her
throat but subtle Mareotic wine     sun
smelted to gold, disced & sledding
behind her
       the whole world’s whole life
given her to give — 
 
vi

Look, the dreamer comes!
                     Was this what you sleep-
conceived, this equal dialogue     this
black silt talk rife in death & germ
all-mixing, estuarizing, high-banked
along the flood’s go-down? (it
lowers down its voices, the flood     it
helps me to think, blessed ram, of
death as flood     for in it all
things high & low, fair & dun, flax
& inlaid faience, free & liened &
husbanded are leveled, meet, and
proven in the engorged     the
enchafèd delta.)
       I see it now. (The trick of death
is that it keeps returning.) Lady of
all women, they call me, they are
all my children now. (Labors of
my dim life.) I will prepare each
part for them. (From the front, no
back     from behind, no face     am
I purged at last of the various
envies?)
       I will build a city for you.
      (I will build a city for you.)
 
vii

Twenty years ago we were nineteen
and already elegiac, we were
future tensed & annealed, we were
quenched in the dark peace of
violent histories — Karnak, Babylon,
Persepolis, Byzantium — the names
alone     (quarry our bones, convey
us to Karnak)     our names we
preserved, bent to stave & strophe,
accomplishing our envy, gathering
our violence, we were altogether
desire, (only ever) all we would
be     full of  imminence     (light
first, sun later)     stayed, asituate,
unforgiving.
 
viii

Now you are time’s but I say to you,
Ché, in full mouth: We will be perfect.
There will be a recognition. The skill
has left your fingers, the dream your
brainpan but time, too, is prospected by
work     (the lumen of the vein)     (the
schist afire through the rock) and humans,
too, may burn like candles, their spines
wicks, their feverdreams the sputting
flames — 
       Work in the shadows. We will work
in the shadows, the rest being the
madness. Naughty naughty boy. Ward
residuum. Hold to murmur, hold
to method. You see? Time breaks along
its faults, lays bare its jeweled fragments
for those who love and work. It gives
it all for free. It asks only reversion
at the end. (And like, that end whereof
we could not think     thereof  (no
questions asked) you spake & said, My
father     and you answered, Here am I,
my son)     O tell me — go, you go
first (you went first) — what reason
makes this right, what insupposable
value, what excuse but ultimacy which
all know to be the breath of evil?

       I will build a city for you.
 
ix

About beauty they really got it, those
masters: great wonders call for great
suffering. The father straps down
his son, carves along the throat’s chalked
crease (signaling purpose), the slavers
slough off infants into sand holes
(streamlining, focusing the workforce),
the queen conceives eternal city, she
deracinates a people to upraise it
with their bowed backs, mortar it with
their warm, oxygenated blood     sunk
generations & contingency &
opportunity cost     gambling our
own lives’ great gamble: that wrong,
actioned by time, can be made
soluble in art.
                                            So,
Volchénochëk, you may be absolved — 
I tried & trying.
 
x

Listen, I want to say something to you.
You arrived just in time. You told me
they’re not better than us, you honored
our sin, repaired my will, you were
havoc in the trees, the dense infolding
fire & its fuel at once (white fusion,
wild usufruct)     always your mind
was the Emergency, always severaled,
chording the upper & lower, equal
& bonded in appetency, bonded
always to mine.
       This is a moment of children.
Who cares who sees? (Who sees?) We
scoff at faultless entropy, we strip the
pith from the inner stalk, we count to
three. Talk me into it, daddy (the
first rolls were blank)     oxidize
this carbon black significance — heart
of water — this red hematite & blue
frit, these yellow ochres that every
child knows enflesh the unreal
sun — 
 
xi

Put it another way: the ink gleams
for three more words before it (and
meaning) sets. In those three beats I
must be thousand-faced, entelechied,
liable, I must be totally told on — 
       in the middle of my life
a myth, a tidal mouth, I am planted
in bitter celery, in the phytolithic
matrix     all-possible clay     I sense
your slow impulsion all around me.
       Heart’s lake, calendula on my
fingers, laughter in the morning-
golded reeds (shaking the papyrus),
the scale in the wind that shakes
the reeds, deus absconditus, the only
gossip of the living, I miss you
so much.
 
xii

Either we are eternal, with neither
end nor beginning, or we are
sprung from a single thing and
proliferative — in either case death
is not death (though time cannot but
give form to suffering). Believe
(if you must) as I must:

       In all things moment.
       In each thing everything.