Monday, August 17, 2009

extract from the archive -- the palomides poems, march 2008

warning -- EXTREMELY derivative

Palomides is that most forlorn thing, the footnote to a love story.

-Altair McIolar, Who loved 'em and they left him


So, Palomides. The Saracen Knight of the Round Table. The Muslim at King Arthur's Court.

Holy fuck, right? And you thought the Connecticut Yankee was a wild idea, huh?


I see him sometimes, wandering lonely as a cloud over the green and pleasant hills around Camelot, the damp air chilling his chain mail and clouding his sighs. He misses the creak of water wheels, the heat of the sun on his back, the completely inadequate shade of the date palms. How many years has it been since a call to prayer washed over him while he was making sleepy love at dawn, while the sky turned, ever so briefly, to liquid gold? How many years has it been since he made love?


A good few, it is my suspicion. I mean, as if it's not enough that the man has set himself up for a gross of Comp. Litt. PhDs about the Muslim/Other in Medieval European Literature, he then has to go and set a dozen conference halls afire by falling in love with Isolde. No, that can't be, you say. For Isolde's story is sad enough already. In love with Tristan, she is married to his uncle, King Mark of Cornwall. And guess who brought her there? Why Tristan himself, Sir Tristan Born-In-Sorrow, sailing in on the Ship of Fools. She stayed below decks the whole voyage. He stood at the helm through wind and storm.


Love requited but unconsummated. But there are still sadder things. Like Palomides, in love with a woman whose heart is already given to one man, and her body pledged to another. Palomides without a hope in hell. Palomides who vents his grief and fury and rage at the unfairness of love and fate by charging full tilt at Tristan in jousts. Tristan his best friend, his worst enemy, the only one who comes close to understanding his pain. Tristan with whom he drinks at night till they are either giggling or crying in each other's arms. Tristan who wins their jousts more often; but always hugs Palomides after.


But Palomides is still the more perfect knight. For his love is a constant flame, he burns with a passion for which lust is not a fuel, for he has no hope of EVER getting the girl. And yet he loves her. So he is the ultimate realization of the chivalric ideal, of the purity of desire, without hope of return.


Yes brother, that is some fucked up shit. I feel for the man, you know? I feel for him when he stops by the bank of one of those little burbling brooks in that faraway green fairytale toyland country, and dismounts his horse; the pain in his heart so sharp he can't breathe properly anymore, let alone ride. Off comes the helmet and you see the turban squashed underneath, but still defiantly worn, shining crumpled and white against the wrinkled walnut of his skin, the still-black of his geometric beard. As he washes his hands and feet and behind his ears with the brook's chill waters, as his breath becomes less ragged, as he unfolds a rug to pray by the side of his grazing horse, the peasants gather to watch. His backside in the air, his forehead on the ground, his eyes closed, muttering incantations under his breath – do they envy him his freedom, the open sky for his church? Do they envy, do they fear, his armour and horse and his lance; the conditions of their oppression? Do they envy his stranger-ness, his having known lands they will never know, for they can never leave? Or is not envy at all, but something else altogether?


For when he opens his eyes and rises, they keep standing. No one moves, no one waves a pitchfork, no one smiles. They keep standing and staring and he rides up to them, and says, 'I seek for a place called Dasht-e Tanhaii. Do you know where I could find it?'


They shake their heads. He rides north. He will ride till the pain grows unbearable again, and he has to stop to soothe his mind and heart with prayer. Better to face dragons than to live with this pain.


Which is why he quests for the Beast. The Beast they say dwells in the Wilderness of Solitude, The Desert of Loneliness, the Dasht-e Tanhai; speaking Persian to Wordsworth's daffodils.


XXX


Some days I feel like Palomides, and there is no escape. On some others, I feel like Ibn Batuta. Every city ahead is filled with gold and opportunity, new women to love and leave and complain about and forget.


But most days I'm just me. I sit out by my tent in the Dasht-e Tanhai, counting the sunsets. The days are warm yes, but happy, immersed in heat and toil. But at night the constellations wheel overhead, each a smile I will never wake up next to again. The ache is so much clearer in the desert night.


I wait for him. For I am 'The Beast' he is searching for, the one who's been writing poems in his name, The Palomides Poems. I need him to find me. We have so much to talk about.

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