Oriflamme

Sometimes I ask for a vision or a beginning phrase in the morning before rising, something from the nightside to bring waking dreams into the day. This morning, I saw and heard horses–many of them, ‘massing.’ Everything always means more than one thing, so they were gathering in numbers like troops, but for a ritual purpose–some sort of dedicatory mass. The word ‘oriflamme’ spoke itself as I saw the letters form in my mind’s field of vision. Nothing else–I had no idea what to expect when I sat down to work. What you see next is what happened:

9 January 2021

4

I Call My Own

The horses are massing along the near border–the wild ones, who never would tolerate men.

How distinctive, the sound of your voice in the uproar–it carries me back to the way we were then,

when our general sense of our place in the herd was still largely untested. It’s been tested since.

Between us, we’ve borne a hard workload of speakable torture–enough to make any saint wince.

A rider on one of the horses–he cannot be mortal; the horse would not bear such a one–

has suddenly raised up the true bloody standard–the oriflamme–under which no horses run

but the ones who, afire with the spiteful unholiness mothered in heat by the sunless resolve

of a species of ongoing horrible story behind the red flag sacred forces devolve

into shuddering chaos–and then–complete silence. Nobody fallen will rise up again.

When she goes out after dark and walks ever so carefully down the red dead-body lane

overarched once by high orchard-branches in flower–now she will never see petals drift down

or their earlier vast pollen-clouds–she has only a long hollow pathway through scenes grey and brown

crooked columns of refrozen snow for the moment, a sad way to go for a nymph of the spring.

Maybe by day’s end she’ll lie so surrounded by hooves, she’ll be swimming, red flag on the wing

in the dust of the road as it runs into ditch-water, drowned either side–Was she destined to lie

beating away, like the heart of a bird on the back of a mare through a lunar-blue sky–

Those horses would never consort with the likes of mere mortals before–is there change in the air?

Only the Moon in her eyes showed the blinsight behind her how flourishing–how sweetly fair–

her kind face in the dreams of the weary combatants, resting between painful breaths on a name–

and then raising the standard again–this one blue as the Moon in the time of the healing blue flame

that awoke her before it was dawn to the masses. The horses as were, children born to one mare,

were carrying well-laden branches of apples and blossom together and climbing the stair–

the first took forever–and then the next series in spiraling form as they swarmed higher still,

gathering pace with their own slackened reins in their teeth as they laughed and let love work its will.

When apples turn red in the Sun of late summer, but blossoms keep coming, and winter no more,

she sits by the fire with her children all round her and tells them the tales of imperial lore

and the legions and standards–how heavy the battles, and how long the wars and their failing campaigns–

and the flags trodden dead underfoot by the maidens whose mother means nightmare to those who want reins–

along somebody else’s stretched neck–but pure kindness of gentle regard as the weather turns mild

in the fresh air of blossoming spring to the lovers who first came this way seeking after a child

who ran laughing before them and led them to–learn how the lore of strange weather can turn on a line

of such vanishing fineness–She tells you, the horses–they’ve never loved men–but for one I call mine.

About J

formal verse poetry and commentary
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