Bound in Black


She comes to me in a moon beam
and sighs and sits at my side
to ask me again “how have you been?”
as I follow an ancient rite
(with salt, ash and a queen bee,
the pride of a local swarm).
She’s wrapped in a shawl,
shoulders and all,
her perfume the scent of a storm.

She doesn’t come often, she wants me to wait
down by the window sill,
though I am convinced she can never be late
given her wisdom and will.
Her tresses are auburn, her face is half-lit
by a selenic light
when the darkening sky and the quieting street
yield to the black of the night.

She’s holding three roses: one white and one ash,
the third one the colour of tea.
The magic is old but it comes in a dash
when mixing together the salt and the ash
to pepper around the queen bee.

Act 1

I’ve found a book
bound in black.
It says:
Worship thine idols
and covet thy neighbour’s wife.

I say to a wizen
“I’m still breathing.
My account’s in debit
or rather
in debt —
for no reason.

I swear by this frankincense:
one penny can’t be deemed pence.
It wouldn’t make sense to make sense
of it; burn as I do your myrrh,
you’ll still err.”

(Staff are hauling the leaden head
of the Peerless Master
on silvery castors
further and further ahead.
Turning into a mote,
it’s the head of a goat.)

“Humans stroll forth in search,
then encroach
on the back of a cockroach
for less than a second.
It squeaks, but only when crushed.
Not their goal,
though the soil is fecund
under a barren soul —
A penny for your thoughts!”

“They are aughts
and I am a slouch:
I found
a book
in black,
which I won’t open a crack!”

Act 2

Dressed in tweed
for sailing downwind,
the continental Prof seems debonair,
if lacking in flair.
Wont to forestall gustatory bliss,
his crackling voice is almost a hiss,
yet it seems to support a toast.

“To our nexus of rules, prost!
To the values du jour!
Be worthy of a Masterful praise.
Repulse the lure
of the Maze!”

But I — I am a black friar
in a fog bank descrying
that which peered at me, blank,
dressed in black,
and which I mistook
when writing the book
bound in blue.

Yes, I am a Dominican.
The truth is inimical
to a narrative in support of an action
I’ve lived long and seen
runes not written in lore
but tattooed on skin.
I know they give traction
to black rats’ race.

About face!
thou shalt kill,
dead in the head.
Lacking in will?
thou shalt steal
and torture instead.
Bear false witness!
Thou canst wit this:
’tis for your Master’s good.


Act 3

… and the Professor proceeds to profess
that the Moral Maze is a mere logical mess.
He says:
“Even with a mind scientifically strong
forget being right!
though you could be less wrong
(After all, what is righteousness
in a situation of incomplete knowledge
and conflicting pecuniary interests?
It’s a muddled concept at best!)
You should strive for that,”
and he takes off his hat.


It seems she might scream
touched by thorns of her roses
that’s how close is
her skin.
Her eyes are wistful.
Her gaze is eastward
where the nascent morn
powders the twilight ash
over the black seas’ brine
ending the hush
of the storm.
There a stone of lime
meets a sunrise ray
and the queen bee
is well on her way:
she is free
to find a new swarm.

And I — I can’t help to squint
when sailing upwind.
Nothing is straight:
hero or fiend,
fondness or hate,
things hard to brook
such as that book
bound in black.
My canvas is torn.
ready to turn?..

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