PAPYRUS
Excerpted from Rhomaioi
Copyright © 1996 Nurmi Husa, All Rights

Beneath singed and ashy brows
my eyes burn again
with the hopeless tears of adolescence.
Noisily, the market-place opens another profitable day of trade.
The great Pharos rises above the confusion,
white and eternal in the morning sun.

My hand trembles.
The charred papyrus crumbles in my fingers,
scattering across the crushed and blackened mosaic
the precious words of Asklepiades,
or Hegesippos,
or Galen, or Ptolemaios, or Meleager, or Strato, or Praxilla,
or a thousand others now lost forever.
Burnt out of the Great Soul for all time.

I spent yesterday wrestling
with a particularly artful and subtle couplet.
Today, it does not matter.
So easy to destroy and lay waste.

In the distance, the soldiers sing to the glory of their jealous god.
I sit here among the ashes of the past,
here in the empty dawn.
I think of eternity
and weep and weep and weep.







LANDFALL
Excerpted from Carmina Antiquatis
Copyright © 1996 Nurmi Husa, All Rights Reserved.

Our sleek, sharp-beaked lembos, oar-bristling, sail-flexed,
cleaves the pulpy, viscous sea in search of landfall.

Mnasalkes, our brave captain, strains against the darkness and the wind,
entreating mighty Neptune to remember our sweet-smoked sacrifice
and the safe passage promised by the oracle in His name - -
yet the white-tipped heavings thrust us, unceremoniously,
upon the bitter rocks of Kos.

The splinters of our sea-crushed ship twist uselessly in the surf.
Our precious cargo of Samian amphorae,
formerly for the market in Halikarnassos,
is stowed forever beneath the waves.

And yet we live, beaten, battered,
strewn upon the salty, storm-churned sands
like jelly-fish and sea-shells wrenched from the deeps.

We gulp the bright morning air and stretch our weary muscles,
greedily soaking warmth from the guiltless sun - -
paupers all, yet all alive.

O Kriton of Samos, sailor's oracle, you promised landfall
and the gods delivered, less freight-charges.







AN UNREPENTANT TIPPLER
Excerpted from Carmina Antiquatis
Copyright © 1996 Nurmi Husa, All Rights Reserved.

You confer with the ancient poets
. You consult the oracle in their verses.
You wring from the twists and wit and ironies
the rhymes and well-turned phrases that sum up Life,
that capture and repeat the joys,
that diminish the sorrows.

But after a time, such a short time,
the intoxicating metres lose their potency,
and there is no more ecstasy or solace to be squeezed from them.

One can drink only so much wine before one falls asleep.
And then there is the morning-after to fear,
when the remains of sumptuous similes and lavish metaphors
pound in your head and nauseate your soul.

A whiff of the Cynics to sober one up,
A dash of Stoicism to give one direction,
and a new day dawns with mumbled promises
you'll have conscientiously broken by sunset.







A FOREST PATH
Excerpted from Orientalia
Copyright © 1996 Nurmi Husa, All Rights Reserved.

a forest path
the rainstorm passes
trees shiver

shafts of uncertain light
shatter the anxious gloom
slip between the ancient redwoods
sculpting mists into curious figures

behind the ear a captured raindrop
escapes the leaf

and

startles the silence into frightened echoes







SHAKUHACHI
Excerpted from Orientalia
Copyright © 1996 Nurmi Husa, All Rights Reserved.

ONE

bruise of colour crushes giddily against the empty horizon
leaves whisper endless secrets to spiders
toiling in the evening breeze

stones relieve themselves of the day's heat
drawing from the earth a damp silence

a solitary figure
black against the remains of today
sits in silent contemplation

shy frowns and uncertain smiles smother truth
and reshape reality

I hear the ducks quacking importantly on the lake
water tumbling over pebbles
reeds and cicadas washing white the evening silences

a child plashes in the shallows
affirming its existence in the noise of its passing

it is said that tears dry quickly
perhaps
but the bitterness remains
the bitterness remains



TWO

wooden tears
shaved from heart's-kindling
smoulder

melancholy puddles stir in the evening breeze
crush of colour dies noisily in the west

unforgiving horizon
violent and trivial

flocks of crows
swarmings of beetles

plaintive laughter
empty and pointless


hear the water




THREE

one goes to the mountain to find oneself
one goes within to find the mountain

I climb the peak
and find the foothills of paradox

nothing is as it seems
what seems, is nothing

I crave rest, reprieve
I find ceaseless mutterings, empty and disquieting

serenity hovers out of reach
malicious and benevolent

to shroud oneself in noise
to bleed in silence
to weep, to laugh
to be


the monastery of my soul
creaks under the weight of consciousness
and shifts on the sands of reality

yet tears do not come



-o-o- FINIS -o-o-