It’s like the old Tarzan movies:
White hunters find their way barred
By skulls on sticks.
The Park Service has erected
A pavilion on the rim.
Beware, it says.
Quicksand. Flash floods.
How to Resuscitate Lightning Strike Victims
One warning tells.
It pretends helpful information,
But it is another white skull.
On a sideboard, the complete caveat €”
A man pierced all through with sticks.
We are loath to look on it, but do:
It alone rates five full skulls.
Thirty-five-year-old male, it says.
Not enough water.
Core body temperature one-hundred-and-eight degrees
In an air-conditioned ambulance.
Expected to recover, but €”
Suffered liver and brain damage.
I don’t understand.
Did he recover, or didn’t he?
Ah €”that is not the point of the skulls.
In the old Tarzan movies
The skulls, the shrunken heads,
The bad juju, B’wana,
They mean, this could happen.
The tribe that inhabits these parts €”
The fierce Park Service €”
They maintain all hearts of darkness
Beating in these wilderness.
No doubt they know already
We are here. B’wana,
They have much bad juju.
Yes. I can see that,
And I wonder what I have brought with me
To ward off potent spells flung at the feet
In the first few steps of a journey.
Flash Flood. Come.
We have met many times and parted
Always on good terms.
I would like to see you again,
Old friend, Flash Flood.
We are no strangers.
You caught me by my ankles,
Then retracted your claws;
Your tongue’s rasp.
Perhaps we shall wrestle again,
You I am not so sure about.
When your gray matter thunders
And your synapses
Fire between heaven and earth,
Let me not be found in those corridors.
Fall elsewhere, flash elsewhere, Lightning,
And I will tell all
Of blue quarrels bolting cloud to cloud,
Of electrokenetic harpoons
Havocking lone junipers.
Thus I shoulder my pack
And pass by all skulls,
Speaking soft words
*”Gramarye” is the old spelling for “grammar,” meaning a primer. But it is also an old word for “magic.”
Originally published in Irreantum (Summer 2003): 20-21.
One thought on “Desert Gramarye* by P. G. Karamesines”
I love this. We communicate so much fear to our children that we are driving them from experiences with nature. So nicely expressed and written. A wonderful poem.