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 blood line of entrails
dragon and the yellow fat of the phoenix
he did not escape
the cut of the bronze bowl
nor the nine-headed monster
which devoured his soul
nor the cold frost which snapped his guts

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

And the hero Yu
defeated the monster
and the army of ants
and melted the frost
but the song of Li Ho
remains

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
into the mound of ants

Li Ho writes with stinking brush
lines of verse to the swarming ants
an army of virtues
to pursue the rats
gnawing the sheets
under the boards
clawing the hothouse grapes
A song of stone to the Jade-Eyed ones

His song a fugue
the ants carry its tones
in crooked black lines
down the wine-red trail
spreading like a fungus
in their damp palace

So the madness of Pound meets the malice of Elliot
follows Mosely and his blackhearts
marching in the streets of London
to Berlin
to Warsaw
to Sobibor
to Babi Yar
to the pits of anguish

O’er the fruited plain
our blight descends
a yellow-haired dog
licking his own vomit
pissing on the ant hill
snapping and biting
the genitals of his foes
baring his teeth
at the sting of the switch
rolling in the stink
and faeces and rot

The mob of ants
rise in song
spots of red spittle
stain t-shirts and bluejeans
shuddering with fear
and rage and loss
they offer the dog
their cola and cake

The nine-headed dragon
treads it under foot
consumes the precious crumbs
then vomits it forth
and joins the dog
at his meal

Li Ho was denied his place at the Imperial Court
Yu was chosen to slay the dragon
and free the Middle Kingdom from ice
but the yellow-haired dog still bays
to wine-dark night
the ants march and die
the jade-eyed ones yawn
in patient indifference
the nine-headed dragon
revels in his glut
his belly swollen
and yellow as the moon

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