I am a long-time resident of Austin, Texas, where I received my education at the University of Texas. Favorite quote: "I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's" by William Blake, my mentor.
G. Edward Lewis Examines Ramapithecus
Darkness vibrates with the sound of insects,
Asian birds screech in the dense heat of night.
A dusty black auto rests silent on gravel
Aside the lawn of the quiet bungalow.
A pallid bulb hangs from a chain,
Long shadows spill across the room.
A lantern lights the table. Bending forward,
G. Edward Lewis examines Ramapithecus.
He carefully brushes fossilized teeth and jaw;
In the space between him and them is ten million years.
In that span of time his whole life is as long
As a lingering glance within his lifetime.
Ten million years:
Countless ages beyond comprehension
And a grain of sand through the hourglass;
As simple and profound as a single point on an eternal line.
The crickets drone on in the darkness,
A villager squats beside the Model T,
And at the cinema in Dehra Dun
Ruby Keeler dances her way to stardom.
An Abyssinian Love Song
I am Astolpho,
Paladin in glorious service of the Emperor Charles.
I ride over mountains and valleys on the back of a hippogriff;
Far below the wind sweeps across the Ethiopian plain
Whispering to me a tender love song.
I am Astolpho,
Most handsome of the Twelve Peers;
Honored by blind Senapus,
Ruler of the land at the source of the great river Nile,
Gracious monarch plagued by the accursed Harpies,
Winged demons of filth and pestilence
Perpetrating starvation in a land of plenty.
With my enchanted horn
I struck terror into the hearts of those fiends,
Forcing them to flee before my power.
I pursued them,
Trapping them for evermore within the bowels of a mountain,
Screeching and raging unheard.
I am Astolpho,
Youthful contender for glory.
I flew to the Terrestrial Paradise on the back of a hippogriff.
With Saint John I ascended to the Continent of the Moon
Carried in a silver chariot with wheels of fire.
I walked upon the shores of the waters of Oblivion.
I witnessed aged spinsters weaving the threads of life.
I stood before the Temple of Eternal Memory.
I returned to Earth,
Restoring sight to Senapus with a plant of marvelous virtues;
Curing the paladin Roland of a three months madness,
Returning to him his sense from a phial
Retrieved from the Continent of the Moon.
I am Astolpho,
Champion of the Holy Faith.
I led Senapus' army of one hundred thousand black warriors across the barren Nubian desert.
I captured the fierce South Wind in a leather bag.
I created eighty thousand horses for cavalry from fragments of rocks and pebbles.
With that army I laid siege to and captured Biserta,
Capital of the lands of the Saracen Agramant,
Valourously engaging in personal combat.
I am Astolopho.
Riding over mountains and valleys on the back of a hippogriff,
My laughter echoes through the sky.
The wind combs my hair,
The clouds caress me,
The sun is my brilliant beacon.
Far below, a village maiden
Sighs an Abyssinian love song.
Sunlight advanced across the horizon;
I strolled alone in clarity of dawn.
Before me stood the ruins rising above
The morning mist. Where had the city gone?
Iridescent vapor swirled around the glass and steel.
Glowing strands of gossamer blew through the fields,
Flew on the wind among the twilight shapes
Past cracked concrete highways giving way to weeds,
Down night-grasping avenues,
Through broken shops and shattered bars,
Through smashed glass windows of rusting cars.
Collapsed roofs spawned violet vines
Crawling out doorways and gaping holes,
Hanging over archways that nettle twines.
Dark green ivy curled orange-molded poles;
Spider webs spread from bent and corroding traffic signs.
A seeping chill dispersed the fog;
Shadows withdrew into countless corners.
Light pierced haze, illuminating the ruins.
Drapery separated, doors swung open,
And a multitude poured into the streets,
Hopped into cars, ran for buses, watered lawns.
Motor vehicles cranked, screeched, and roared along:
Garbage lorries hauling trash,
Flatbed trucks of crushed cars;
Fire bells in the engine house
Sent red sirens screaming.
They opened shops, drank in cafes, read papers,
Waited to walk before broken lights,
Stepping into rutted lanes,
Drove over crumbling roadways worn by weather,
Speeding past crashed remains of ancient aeroplanes,
Honking horns, and behaving altogether
As if the ruins were not there -
As if they were more than a lost fire that burns in amber,
And as if they knew nothing of rust and decay:
Of rust, decay, and the slow fade away,
Secure in the bonds of the particular day.
Pecos County, Texas
Sunshine, a wide blue sky, and acrid smell of tar:
The construction gang lays asphalt for highway.
Oblivious invaders manufacture
A solitary desolate boulevard.
Upon a high ridge of white rock outcropping
A cowboy inside a wide brimmed hat watches
The progress of concrete across the plain:
Entombing relics of Spanish explorers;
Paving over last tracks of stagecoaches,
Over fading trails of expelled Apaches,
Through ghost encampments of Comanche raiders…
Buzzards glide on heat streams above machines.
Silent parched hills of pale browns and sparse green shrubs
Flank the bulldozers, cement-mixers, and pavers.
From under the shade of the Stetson he surveys
Where ancient paths led to the secluded waterhole
Known to thirsting cavalry troopers and resting braves
When man belonged to the land and its ways.
As the setting sun splays colors upon the clouds,
He turns and descends behind the ridge,
Boots kicking dust down to the pebbled road
Where sits his Chevy pickup truck.
There is just enough time to buy a six pack of Schlitz beer,
Pop a Swanson frozen dinner into the microwave,
Then watch "Mork & Mindy" on TV.
©2015 Benjamin Pehr