Reanimated Lavender Granola Switchblade Nun rides again.

Friday, February 3, 2023

The Mandolin, the Bouzouki, and the Oud


As we mount the scaffold
(and when
have we not been climbing?
let there be 
the marvelous kiss of a lively mandolin.
the wry, sensual bouzouki
at least, 
the mournful deep pool of the oud.

Let the hangman arrive
on a plumed black Arabian,
the doula with her arms around his belly.
(and when
have they not been so entwined?
Let her feed him Greek Easter bread from her fingers
with blackberry jam
and churned butter.
There is no word for him 
or us
to say.
Allow him these joys before his task.

Let there be wags
irreverent, wearing bright smocks.
(and when
have they not appeared costumed this way?
let them tell jokes and ribald stories
so that we might forget our aching knees and hearts.
Let them tilt back their heads 
lifting geysers of Athiri wine up to God
alone in His white pagoda.

Let the blind boy in his dusty thawb 
hand us grapes 
as we ascend.
Let him strike the gong 
announcing our circular travels.
(and when
have we ever left these stairs, even in dreams?
Let a young woman lead a gray donkey
peacefully across the streets we leave behind.
Let the sky be almost clear and blue
but for one cloud, one bird,
and one sun unblinking.

Let the rope be strong and well tested.
Let the holy man sleep,
his book falling from his lap like a restless child.
Let our memories 
explode like confetti,
and sleep like lions.
Goodbye, the world will say
and then again, always again,

for Word Garden Word List--George Hitchcock

Music: Zorba's Dance-Sirtaki


  1. "Let our memories
    explode like confetti,
    and sleep like lions."

    And we hit the bottom of the rope, our necks snap like Zorba's fingers while he dances, our wheel of life, death and rebirth faced with grace and forgiveness. Because we see the world for what it is, and our comfort is our clarity. One of the best you've ever written.

  2. Your poetry challenges the mind like no other!!! A dictionary at the ready. I know 'oud' as in Tom Ford's Oud Wood Eau de Parfum which was a gift years ago, I dab it rarely on my neck, hoping it lasts as long as I do!

  3. They're coming, they're coming to get me!! I enjoyed the parade, I'm glad you allowed the hangman some pleasure before he does his job. They all were appealing to fuss about. Good Job!!!

  4. I am again finding myself in awe of the poem I just read, as I always do when I read your poetry Shay! I love the stream of questions that appear throughout and the imagery that makes me taste the blackberry jam and feel the ascending and the struggle in the climb. I agree with Qbit, definitely one of your finest my friend! I don't know if I will get my act together this week. I was lucky to have done what I did last week....but it was all worth it to be here now and read your poetry!

  5. When has a poem been so captivating and mysterious, when? 🙂✌🏼

  6. Shay,

    As usual, I feel unqualified to comment on your art. I could not write such a piece.


  7. This is truly sensational. Such a story. Such pictures. And the ending. Beauty and death entwined on a rope. Incredible.

  8. I found this extraordinarily captivating <3

  9. This is just so captivating and stunning from start to finish, Shay, mystical and heart-stirring, so beautiful. I feel moved reading it. I love the whole thing and can't quote any lines as I love them all but I especially love the 4th and 5th stanzas, they take it up a notch just when you think it can't get any better and then it does <3

  10. Ooh, I love this. Too many memorable lines to list them all, from the "when have we not been climbing" to the "Athiri wine up to God" to "one sun unblinking"

  11. Mesmerized by this stunning poem. Had to look up some words but it was worth it! I love the questions appearing throughout.


Spirit, what do you wish to tell us?