D (16.03.89 / Doncaster, England)

Imperilled Orb


Shaggy head bounced above a craggy and
Sharp-toothed water line, sustained by moveless
Wings which hung limp and still on both flanks. Low
Growling in His infernal crypt ‘neath the
Burning of Zion, Soloman’s hallowed
Sanctum. With a mouth of thirty silver’s
Value, lined with Brutus and Cassius
On either side, He beat His wings in a
Ragèd fury. Wind-swept dull chambers turn’d
To freeze with every cynical beat,
And the air sung with a nefarious
Tang. The ocean of Cocytus thrashed ‘bout
In dissent as He raised high His form out
From the wet lake, water tumbling over
Unshorn, muscled thighs. If the Pilgrim had
Journeyed now, then he would find himself to
Have come unstuck, with no reach to the
Tiber, and on to some musical shore.


Ship by ship, dragged with graceful unease to
Below the water, that gliding serpent
Leviathan, O that piercing serpent
Leviathan, who was surely wounded
Through immortal sword-falls and divine trick.
The desert people starved, and that pit’less
Serpent Leviathan lived and slew. Shrill
Bathos, written in Holy Texts, the lone
Elucidation of their torment. Bound
West with rapid rate, cutting through marine
Barge both strong and bold. Cursèd was the day,
And It did wake with scorn. That swift serpent
Leviathan. Soul-convulsing vacuum,
Filled with moisture, tainted by that mammoth
Serpent Leviathan. It swam, with time
Behind to catch up, through Styx, past the stream
‘Round Dis, and into icy waters which, laden
With Evil, greeted the insincere beast.


Monstrous Hephaestus, cast and downfallen
In Cilicia’s knotted caverns in
Enigmatic Arimi. O Mighty
Zeus! Forsaken in your estimate of
Him! Struck with patent force, and with sinews
Torn and severed in kind, cast out and
Discarded in leather sack. Grisly foe
Of Olympia, with two hundred tongues
And twice in eyes, serpentine in figure,
But human in form. Cast beneath Etna
Or in Tartarus by King Olympus
Where his bed scratches and goads the whole length
Of his back stretched out against it. Dug down
Through compacted ground into Mother Earth’s
Own flesh, pausing only to drink from Her
Forbidden streams, channels of life to flow
And irrigate the land above. Breaking
Through to seat upon hirsute, wingèd shoulder.


Uncertain in creation, fiendish in
Disgusting manifestation, spawn’d
From Echidna and afore-mentioned names.
Not goat, nor lion, nor serpent in shape,
But a strange fusion of living features
Drawn from odd muses who bethought Him a
Thing perplexing. Pure molten daggers spat
From abstract maw seared the arid grass which
Grew betwixt steaming vents in Lycia.
Where did you find your end? Was it from the
Bellerophon with wingèd horse, which was
Named Pegasus? Were you skewered upon
Wooden shafts? Or poisoned, when lead soften’d
In your fiery pant? Yet now you make
Your way through hot coves of miry swamp, drown’d
In sighs and flaming penitence. Waiting
By Nimrod, whose tongue does tie itself and
Falls from towers built to Heaven’s zenith.


Leagued with that snake-tongued demon, whirling close
Alongside in frothy, saltless brine, and
With two centuries of heads and his seed -
Whom Epiphialtes, mutineer of
Jove and highest Grecian order had help’d
Over the liquid ninth circle - drummed His
Massive wings with deft skill against the tide
And flew aloof from His fleeting, broken
House. Ordered He to that cunning serpent
Leviathan to poison Earth’s lowest
Summit (visible to The Shepherd’s eye)
With Its appearance, to plague and distort
The waters about Jordan. Then put He
To the Typhon, to heave his great might at
Crete’s Mount Ida. Ruin the brithplace of
Jove, so that no census can pledge oath to
His subsistence. Then posed He to the thing
Which was borne by abhorrèd creatures, to
Breathe upon both Oreb and Sinai, thus
To desecrate all commands of His best
Failure. So they split, set about their tasks,
While He called the Devil and Satan, who
Deceiveth the whole world, He would rise in
Triumph, and cast The Lord into the Earth,
And claim His throne in Almighty Rapture.


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Langston Hughes


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