swallowed it whole and allowed the smoke to meander
up out of the orifice I once measured by its silences.
My pills were never moonlight, except inside the night
yawning open within the cave I call my being
coursing with the voices of an ocean whose tides yearned
for a face to turn their frothed crowns to. The moonlight
was never my mother. The moonlight was never a miracle. Just as
my mother never failed to take me by the hand, just
as my father never taught me to swim except by
releasing my shivering body into the depths, I
was never the mirror you so desperately
needed me to be. Except for now.
Except for the moment words
became more than the drop
of needles. You were never
thread, not until my
eye blossomed out.
The Immolator’s Tongue
I smoke for the company of ghosts
who churn under pools of light, dip
low to touch my feet, and abandon
the void they crawled out of to scatter
into that dearth of knowing
that I’ve swayed to this world’s breath
before, ogled at this silhouette of air
as you roam undaunted by the sudden
rain. That I’ve already worn these feet
& tongued the sweet hush of molten lips,
that I’ve teethed this pliant flesh & risen
unscathed atop this asphalt canopy.
I clipped moth-wings & periwinkle petals
to fold into the pages of a book you cracked
open only once. What made you
shiver, if not the silence soaked into your ribs?
Which carcasses must we ignite to sate the gods
we’ve collected like namesakes & buried
as moonseeds beneath our bloody roots?
To settle like ashes, to undulate like oceans
of ecstatic bodies, to sway like the starlit arms
that once held me, I cast a veil of black twilight
over the lives I once lived, & feign memory
to lull myself awake. Still, the day haunts me.
Alone with these walls, I crave ethereality.
& yet, as time disperses, the spaces I left behind
begin to brim with sound. I remember frostbite
at the razor’s edge, skin poised to speak. I miss
how you danced to a silent rhythm, stretched
your body into the ripples of a pond’s façade
& transcended to become this language,
this shadow set aflame before the page.
William Commodore Perry says
I am not a poet or a writer. In fact, words often elude me to adequately portray some of my experiences. I enjoy poetry because it excels at fleshing out the totality of being. I do not know what is the genesis of Immolator’s Tongue, what inspired it’s composition, and I suppose nowadays authorial intent gives way to want resonates however idiosyncratically with the reader. For thirty years I have struggled with trying to evoke what I felt and what I saw while attending Umbanda ceremonies in Salvador, Bahia, Brasil. This poem took me back there, elicited the rawness of spirit possession fused with (not despite) it’s modern day urban milieu. I have read dozens of works but this poem really brought the fullness of that experience to life in poetry as much as Maya Deren’s Divine Horsemen did in prose. I can still see the face of the preto velho this poem, for me, incarnates.