The Ashes of Orestes // a tribute poem to Constantine Cavafy

I want you to send in
your heart
into the promise.

Touching its tip,
roll up its long sleeve
pause the film of the circuit.

Avoid self-flattery.
Eavesdrop the prophets.
Be somber Alexander waiting,
The Alexander who stops
And knows not conquest.

Deep in questions and in answers
you know whom it was promised to.

I once was a baffled horse.
I felt my teeth gripping the light.
The close God locked itself
In my uncertain steps.

And when I threw him down,
the fall persuaded him
that God was near.

O, be the Alexander dazzled
by countries and languages,
Be the fake gems on the fake crown,
Be the horse and the rider and the horse
Who drowned in the speechless God.

For there is a season to ride
And a season to convert.
A season to preach,
And a season to blaspheme
A season to man up
And a season to man down
A season to shoot
And a season to hit
A season for God
And a season for doubt
And a gilded season
For the horsemanship of heresy -

To thank and to think is to tell them apart
The cloudy from the misty from the foggy
From the nebulous mind of the Knowers.

You adjust your sight
To horizon and mirage
And to the urging bolt,
Reluctant and jealous of thunder.

Know then your hopes and learn
Of the people of the steppes
Who are saddle and rider and horse
Who are arrow and khan and apostle
Who know the waiting
And who know the waiter
Who will arrive after time itself has waited.

And when you think of them,
Think of the empty desert.
Think of islands of loam and
Think also of mountains
Rising on the unseen side of the earth,
Think of the overheard muttering of seers after prophecy,
Uncertain, God-shaken,
High on fumes and gift,
Their voices selfsame to yours
Their words just as afraid as you
That secretely they might be true.

They will not come until you've settled,
Until you've become their foe,
And inhabit the Sumerian cities
That the soul puts together in dream.

You will till the land
Your daughters and your sons
Will till the land.
You will sacrifice oxen
And your daughters and your sons.

Until the furrows of your brain
Are the sand dunes of your waiting,
You will see no horse and you will see no rider.

Still you may wait and tell of your waiting.