At the crack of my electric bull whip
Those Indians fled the ancient galleon:
Iroquois, Mohawk, Cherokee liberated,
Every one of them a delightful old soul.
My beard to knees, eyes lumps of coal,
I chopped down their glorious totems.
Ahead lay rivers mystic beyond pain,
Misery, murder—even nonexistence!
Relieved of that indigenous burden
Walls of wonderment shot up around,
Surrounded. They blocked the skies,
Everything but turbulent brain waves.
Rimbaud ambivalent although I pled
For him to take the rudder, someone
Who'd scaled nirvana's laved strata
And left his shield emblazoned there.
Flocks of floundering geese fluttered
Slightly above an automated horizon,
And witches with golden broomsticks
Rolled past on diamond bowling balls.
The vagrant stars went mostly blank.
I sung of mermen flailing, their scales
Erupted into vermillion flame. Surely
As light devours light they'd persevere.
What fine imaginings energized me,
My limpid skin, the atomized bones!
Rimbaud experienced in such sport
Nonchalant, offered nothing to import.
We skimmed the roiling Aegean clear
Of ghouls, Harpies, Medusa and her ilk.
I took a drink of hemlock as Socrates
Once did, willing to sink even deeper.
The door of perception yawned wide,
And from it emerged a fabulous team
Of harlequins, angels, hermaphrodites,
Icons for the hoity-toity social elite.
To stave off utter boredom I twirled
Jupiter on the tip of my index finger.
Mars grew jealous, Uranus retreated
As Rimbaud applauded my fortitude.
Ever penitent, my eyes steadily wept
Falls of molten tanzanite. Then Dante
Coaxed me to tour his torrid domain
But I respectfully declined this offer.
From every pore of my flaccid flesh
Sprouted giant redwoods, savannas.
I moaned at so much territory to map.
Rimbaud unshaken, simply guffawed.
Amid interminable tumult squirmed
A silver bugler sounding the classics,
Sublime Beethoven, Liszt and Brahms
That crammed my ears till they burst.
Whereupon thousands of tarantulas
All of three feet long began to crawl
Up the listing ship's side. They loaded
Its deck bow to stern with dead weight.
We arrived at the Spice Islands where
Unlucky Magellan met his Waterloo,
Collected much frankincense and myrrh,
Enough to fill the ship's hull with mirth.
Then continued along the Ivory Coast
Dodging wooly mammoths and lions,
There to gather slaves whose resistance
Meant little to anyone who would pay.
I dressed a lavish banquet table, invited
Kings of continents gone many moons,
Served sumptuous beetle, eye of newt.
Lord, you should have seen them gorge!
As if to prove that people aren't seasonal
Rimbaud read rime of questionable origin.
When I queried him how this made sense
He clobbered me with a French dictionary.
There were blizzards big as solar systems,
Electronic bugs crawling all over our faces,
And welcomed them because we ourselves
Could deny nothing in a transient dimension.
As we'd waft and wend unnerving hot winds
Blew at us in rapid succession. I knew then
Man's obliteration had already transpired,
News yet to go viral on the worldwide web.
Beggars with empty bags, lepers, dilettantes,
Ravenous politicians, frightening skeletons
Oared the vast empyrean in crystal lifeboats
For the chance to jump aboard that galleon.
Tiny Alice diaphanous moth flickered forth,
Nested atop Rimbaud's head, and threatened
To haul him along the yellow brick road
By his hair, to seek absolution from Oz.
Behind our backs John Wilkes Booth slinked
Aboard, invisible. He ransacked the captain's
Quarters, undetected, until with X-ray vision
Rimbaud spotted him, slit his stinking throat.
Back and forth between our hearts a constant
flow: black tulips, hanged saints, primordial
chants, revanchist sins, succulent cantaloupe,
insubstantial oceans, precarious cliffs, clones.
I longed for an olden port, some cozy space
I could finally call home, yearned for a truth
Born of beauty, while maintaining passage
Across unending expanses of pure ambrosia.
Slung from lethargy by a furious hailstorm
Rimbaud grasped control, steered us ashore,
Out of the fiery firmament of sheer passion,
Onto solid turf where my spirit came to rest.
So I'll hail Rimbaud's languorous lagoons,
Thunderstruck archipelagos and planetoids
Crushed to bits by that manic mind of his,
Reconstituted as rainbows wherein we flit.
Thomas Piekarski is a former editor of the California State Poetry Quarterly. His poetry has appeared in such publications as Taj Mahal Review, Poetry Quarterly, Literature Today, Poetry Salzburg, South African Literary Journal, Modern Literature, and others. His books of poetry are Ballad of Billy the Kid, Monterey Bay Adventures, Mercurial World, and Aurora California.