The Passion of Heaven

If heaven too had passions, even heaven would grow old
Li Ho, 791-817

Li Ho we are told eschewed the soft songs of the Tao and the Confucian order
for a crueler voice
the witch pouring her libation
tracing the bloodline of entrails
fingering the yellow fat
stirring the swarm of ants

He did not escape
the cut
of the bronze bowl
nor the cold frost
which snapped his guts
nor the Nine-headed Dragon
which devoured his soul

What in his time
caused him to cleave
to a black line of ants
to cruelty and blood
to the empty eyes
of ghosts
whilst around him
was order
but his song was madness?

The Immortals gather
the dew of heaven
in peach blossom bowls
gazing with jade eyes
at the tumult below

The witch plucks
the one-stringed zither
stirs the wine
tips the cup smoking
in a red line falling
onto the mound of ants

Li Ho writes with stinking brush
lines of verse to the swarming ants
an anthem
to an army of virtues
to pursue the rats
gnawing the sheets
under the boards

A lunatic song
the ants carry its notes
in crooked black lines
down the wine-red trail
spreading like fungus
in their damp palace

Thus the madness of Pound met the malice of Elliot
sent Mosely and his blackhearts
marching in the streets of London
to Berlin
to Warsaw
to Sobibor
to the pits of anguish

O’er the fruited plain
our blight descends
a tow-haired dog
who licks his own vomit
pisses on the ant hill
snaps and bites
the genitals of his foes
bares his teeth
at the sting of the switch
rolls in the stink
and faeces and rot

The army of ants
rise in song
spots of red spittle
stain their clothes
shuddering with fear
and rage and loss
they offer the dog
their cola and cake

The Nine-headed Dragon
treads them underfoot
consumes their precious crumbs
then vomits them forth
to join the dog
at his meal

Li Ho was denied his place at the Imperial Court
the Jade-Eyed Ones yawn
in patient indifference
but the dog still bays
to wine-dark night
the ants march and die
the Nine-headed Dragon
revels in his glut
his belly swollen
yellow as the moon

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