Clayton Eshleman

 Morphologies of Paradise

"I  soil  the  paper to  prepare it
for  hallucinations. I  reverse the
day's attempt to assassinate me."

Shamanic jimson in everyone, the human Xibalba
a cosmogonic patch where twisting language retwists,
metaphorizing at the speed of dream, touching
the opaque shoulders of smoking trees, lighting
campfires in the backs of gigantic caterpillars.
This perception of paradise, first apprehended in
the Upper Paleolithic, I experience asleep,
via dreaming. Paradise is close, so close as to be
maddening. Paradise is in our brains.

What Blake calls Albion is this ancient creative zone.
The Fall is not original sin,
the Fall is that abyss between here and original imagination,
which we inherit as shamanic longing.

As one attempts to cross an abyss, metaphors
transmogrify so quickly
the initiate's receiver jams, loses its bearing,
deconstructs, like those divers
making their way through the 500 foot
waterfilled tunnel leading to the Cosquer cave—
the silty kicked-up sediment blinded them,
they lost their way among submerged stalagmites,

In the 1940's the 20th century broke in two.
A revised version of hybrid man
—Auschwitz and Lascaux in the same brain—
complexed its obsession with "homeland."
Fueled with primal glory and Zyklon B, it sings:

    "I'm always trying to get back
    to my little caul shack on Ancestor Delta.
    If somebody else—Kosovar, Arab, or Jew—
      happens to be there,
    I'll claim he is air, and plant my fangs
      in his 'absence.'"

I sat down on the steps of The Ivory Tower and wept. The American's Guatemalan husband had not only been kidnapped but tortured and murdered. She doesn't know but knows, her 11 year old son is nearly cross-eyed with knowing, and I know, sitting on the bed edge, before PBS 12. Trying to gag her terror and grief, so as to be able to carry on with the interview, she finally pulls her blouse up over her face—as if to teach me another dimension of "the faceless woman" said to crouch on a bridge below the roots of the World Tree. I dream of lifting up this head, and assessing its weight, knowing full well it is impossible to weigh the unending assault on women's bodies and personalities by the guardian husbands and brothers.

"Be forever dead in Eurydice."
Be forever reborn in Persephone.
A run runs through the morphologies of paradise.
Boogie-woogie of our diagrammatic sentence:
death and the possibility of redemption in
a single act.

For 1500 years, Eleusis, spiritual homeland of the Greeks. What did the initiates behold—which they were sworn on the penalty of death to not reveal—in the Telesterion?

1]    An ear of corn reaped in silence?

A cereal wafer, the seed-kore, which they ate?


The Divine Child, or Savior, variously named Brimus, Dionysus, Triptolemos, Iasion, or Elenthereros the Liberator, laid in a manger (or winnowing basket), whose flesh was eaten by the initiates in the form of bread, made from the first or last sheaves?


An artificial vagina, kept in the cysta mystica, which they touched?


An omphalos, or birth cone, representing the cervix, with fruits and flowers, and a child emerging from a horn of plenty?


The spirit of Persephone herself, returned from the dead with her new-born son, conceived in the land of death?

Whatever they beheld—since it was said to bestow happiness, the true life, freedom, respite from all troubles—must have confirmed to them: after they entered the earth they would rise again.

And who knows as well what the sacred king saw
the instant the goddess veil was lifted—
an afterlife? The origin of life? A scowl-vale of eternal
Ah, dear tricky veil, you make us think, quest,
you are the rent/unrent conundrum
provoking our initiational probes to translate
the plutocracy of the literal.
Not to lift or rend, but to translate the veil.
The head of Hercules must be veiled
for the god, via omenta symbolics, to be reborn.
Yet we know that rebirth too
    is a halfway house.
                                  No one has been to death
and returned to say: Emily is there, following her fly,
or, Artaud is happy, he has learned to bowl,
or, Pinochet is a 60 jab-a-second forked barbecue.
Dear veil,    speak to us of your fiber origin!

"We, the Mothers of Lascaux, extracted
fibers from celestial plants, located
the entheogens, set undulating
broken lines as coiling winds, winding torrents.
Channels of moisture circulated in our mouths
imbuing thread-like fibers with helicoids strength.
by opening/closing our jaws, working
our entire faces, while breathing, we formed sound
   strands,  speech lattices,
what you call the revealed Word,
   the veil word—
thus to life the veil is an act we Mothers disavow.
To lift the veil would be to see the earth
naked, speechless, as on the first day,
amidst the chaos of origin fiberless spirit,
   the not we knotted."


© 2002 Electronic Poetry Review