Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Daemones Diogenissimus

Restless I was born
And searching even in the womb
Quickly my path worn
And back and forth and back and forth
Like a shuttlecock across the loom
To find that thing they call
“Understanding” or “knowledge” or “God”
But most often truth.

Diogenes they called me
And damned the light of my lamp
And avoided my footsteps
As I hove into view.

I was searching
For my first honest man
And after a time
For any honest man
Or woman, or god, or book,
Or mythical beast,
And still, the most mythical
Of them all
The honest man
Far more rare than
Two-headed amphibians
Or chimerical monstrous
Combinative horrors
Is that rare beast,
Whom I have yet to find
The honest man.

He was not among the Italian cult
Whoring their intellect in the
Geometric Temple.
He was not arguing
In the Athenian mob
He was not to be found
With the wise men
Masons and fishwives.
He was not driving slaves
Or helots or peasants
Nor a brother of the Spartan lords.
No, he was not found in any of those places.

But artists? Truth and wisdom,
If you exist,
I tell to you and the
Unhearing troubled heavens
If you exist to be troubled,
Troubled you are by the
Abominations of the artist.

Everywhere I went, I found them.
Daubing the fields in false and frivolous colors,
I found the painters plying their trade.
Flattering the rich and powerful,
I found the poets planning their praise
I found them again, called
Demogogues and sophists and tribunes
Bragging of their telling
Of truth to power,
Meaning that truth that is a means
And a way to power.
Again I found them, with instruments
Flattering women
And the love of women
And the love of the love of women
Or boys, or sheep, or whatever
Best paid for the lacquer on their lutes
And the fat on their bones.
Singing! Oh, the singing,
Lie upon lie upon lie
Flattering half-falsehoods at best
Utter tripe in the main
And such an unplumbed
Main it was
Stinking to the much-abused
Much-polluted heavens,
Rising along with the sacrifice-fires
Of the hypocrite priests
And the alchemist-cheats
And the vaporous oracles
With their vaguities so much worse
Than pure simple musical lies.

All the hours and days of my life
I walked by the light
Of my flickering lamp
And not one glimpse
Did I gain of my prey,
And not one word
Did I hear which led
Me anywhere but through
The same sodding muck
Of human delusion
And lying despair.

Thus did I come
To my dishonored grave
And within the tomb
They laid my
False foul flesh
For not even in myself
Did I find the honesty
Or understanding of truth.

From that putrid space
Burst what I have become
Restless still
And deathless with hunger.
The lamp burns
Now without oil to fuel
And through the darkened hours
I stalk my honest man.

Well should they fear
The liars and cheats
The light of my lamp
That splits the stillness of the night.

Even in darkness
With no-one to hear
Not one of the artists
Will tell me the truth
And those who knowing
The lies they sell
Those I destroy
For the sound of their demolition
For the sake of rage and despair.

Some trying to save
Their lying souls
Will offer long-winded stories
And beautiful songs
And marvels and wonders
And glorious prose
And some I will grant license
And some I will spare
In experimental hope that
Terror and awe
Might forge from artistry,
Fear and trembling
Some semblance of truth
Or a guide-post
But each essay and trial
Dare disappoint my hope
That subject I shall leave hanging
Strung up by the rope
I had lent him before.

Mitch Hagmaier
(Heavily edited & revised, 6/17/09)

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