Come nightfall she kneels amid sedge and peers
into the stream, anticipating her countenance
yet taken aback by the nebulous reflection
and surfeit of driftwood carried along the current,
unsettling the ambience. Looking around, she notes
cob, pen, and cygnet abruptly departing,
as if in flight from some intuited, creeping peril.
Just then from opaque depths uprises the aspect
of an anile crone, her eyelets igneous as gleeds
and her tattered graveclothes ghoulish.
Through her abysmal maw she entices with
honeyed venom, beckoning the maiden
to murmur unfamiliar formulas before
joining her below water where the pearls lie.
Although light-headed, the girl does not budge;
years of charity and chastity have conditioned her
to refrain from the forbidden. As she rises to leave,
a bony, taloned hand breaches the surface
and grasps her talus, reifying fears.
They struggle fiercely till daybreak when light
chars the gaunt hag, who caterwauls in anguish,
her piercing shrieks ascending the ether
as the eddy drags her under toward foul murk.
Cautious waterfowl return in time to spot
blood trickling from the limping maiden’s wound,
a memento mori and mark of honor.
Sand dervishes whirl as the pir appears,
causing roans to whicker and forget their groats;
I, too, dispense with nibbling unsatisfying orts
in order to listen as the surreal figure
elucidates arcane esotery for the benefit
of man and beast alike, imparting his trust
in the the urge of Providence.
His connection to the otherworldly
seems umbilical; the mystic adores the divine
like thieves love the night.
His words penetrate the latticed shutters
of my mind, embedding my brain case
with overwrought thoughts
vaster than the wasteland landscape
we have been traversing for a fortnight.
He utters of the unseen web that links and knits
creatures with Creation, invisible fibrils and tendrils
binding all in a cosmic fabric woven
by the shaping hand of heaven with love.
How will I explain my atypical tarriance
to those awaiting me? They will scoff
at a known kafir and mutter of sunstroke,
and perhaps they will be right after all.
But even if it was only a desert vision,
a daydream of the weary, I offer thanks
for sudden insight bound to last a lifetime.
By Friday afternoon she is buried alive by wobbly stacks
of paper in her 54th floor, midtown office overlooking
the river teeming with nonchalant drakes and ganders,
oblivious to their colloquy as indoors
she pores over reams of solipsistic rubbish
the likes of which have never before been seen
on God’s earth, she avows to no one in particular.
The week is nearly ended and she is bone-tired
of scribbling notes on boilerplate rejection slips
to hapless rhymesters to the effect that
a haiku is a tanka for folks in a rush
or that writing offering all heat and no light
is no good to anyone even in the dead of winter.
Low-grade efforts dispatched from around the globe
meet their doom atop the infamous and unforgiving
slush pile, the refuse of the refused,
dreadfully awaiting its fate of defenestration.
With her razor-sharp eye she audits hemistich and stich,
painstakingly scrutinizing stanza and strophe
in the desperate hope of discovering a quality
ever underrated but undeniable: merit.
Her approach, finical if not fanatical,
has her scurrilously imprecating typos
and blowing her gasket over haplography,
elevating her blood pressure and abridging her lifespan.
Not for the fanfare does she subject herself
to such exacting standards, though the awesome power
of serving as mediatrix between twaddle and treasure
is hardly lost on her. She knows full well she stands
like a literary Colossus bestriding worlds,
arbiter and custodian of the worthy.
When at long last she excavates a hidden gem
she cachinnates in triumph, nettling attorneys-at-law
in the neighboring firm who shoot her dirty looks,
which, in her overdue bliss, she ignores.
Only thereafter does it dawn on her
what an arrant sty she occupies,
which she must titivate prior to the publisher’s
matinal arrival come Monday.
About the Poet
Brandon Marlon is a writer from Ottawa, Canada. He received his B.A. in Drama & English from the University of Toronto and his M.A. in English from the University of Victoria. His poetry was awarded the Harry Hoyt Lacey Prize in Poetry (Fall 2015), and has been published in 120+ publications in Canada, U.S.A., England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, Greece, Romania, Israel, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, South Africa, Nigeria, Trinidad, & Mexico. www.brandonmarlon.com.