Friday, November 11, 2016

The Last Confession of the Alchemist-Apothecary

"The Remains of Heinrich Heine" - © 2016 David Prashker
To listen to an audio recital of the poem, click here

Additional illustrations included in the audio:

"Hitler Saluting", "Nietzsche as Superman", "There is no such person as David Irving"
© 2016 David Prashker

"Bebelatz, Berlin", at the foot of this page and on the video, is repoduced courtesy of

And still the sand blows through the hourglass
into the bowels of this glass desert

I have found myself
            too often now
   conversing with children
      arguing dialectics
inscribing the weak name with the strong hand
      - but impossibly
            - to separate the individual grains of sand:

Look! there is Titus entering the Temple
Look! there! the hand of Abraham
   raised in awe and in subservience

Look! see that cypress tree!
   yesterday it felled Absalom

Look! at last! a letter from Ayishah!

And still each moment is inbred with contradictions
The poor remain poor
            the needy remain needy

Yet still I wield my axe -
                        the sharp edge
                                 the blunt edge -
casting my own shadow
   in the shadow of Horatius
      forlornly trying to defend civilisation
against the barbarian within

So I juggle the ciphers -
   thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season -
      loving what they reveal
despising them for all that they leave hidden
So I draw up catalogues of my faults
   and punish myself in my own conscience
      and suspend the sentence

So I climb upon the ladder of thorns
   and crush the rose between my fingers
So I model butterflies out of barbed wire
   I hack the shapes of flowers out of stones
      I stain the page with poetry

(Too often!
         Much too often!)

So I vow to return to the flock
   knowing I could never bear the loneliness

So I endeavour to abandon Art and Literature -
   but the matter lies in hands
      far stronger than my own
and the hands drag me back screaming to the page

So I resolve to resolve the penultimate paradox
   I make one last assault upon the Immaculate Failure
     (I manage to go on compiling lists)
I draw up an index of my life’s achievements
 and know that I have already travelled
  further than many of my generation
   and wonder if the time has not now come
    to embark upon a journey
     distant from the comforts of my home

In the hollow of my thigh there are bruises
   in the palms of my hands you can see the scars
      from where I held too tight the ladder

On my cheeks the barbed incisions
   On my arms the punctured sores
      On my feet the dust

See my eyes
      blistered by candlelight

Feel my heart
      swollen with desire

Hear my lips
   silently mouthing godless prayers
      into the numinous emptiness of heaven

And watch the sand blow through the hourglass
   forever sinking
      forever seeping
   grain by infinitesimal grain
into the bowels of this glass desert


Lupus, it is almost daybreak, 
   why are the bodies broken?

Lupus, let us call a truce. 
   Let us sit down together in the sunrise 
      and speak the things that old men speak.

Lupus, you have heard my song, 
   now it is your turn to tell me, 
      why are the bodies broken, 
         why is the morning still so remote, 
what doubt or sin has chosen you 

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