Waking in my room above the Clear Light Cafe, I slip into my patched robe and descend to the kitchen where i wash my face, start a fire in the iron stove and make what I call coffee here at the charred edge of history and the end of Time with a big T. A few nows later finds me dining on bannock and coffee in a bombed out upper room that serves as a deck for surveilling the village below and the ashen waste beyond. Presently I notice a figure in black threading the empty street in my direction. Even at this distance I can tell from her gait that it’s a woman, one with no nonsense on her mind and soon I see that it’s my dear Lucida. As she comes near her face turns up to reflect the morning sun and I wave. She waves back and soon I hear the door jingle open, her steps on the creaking stair and here she is, coming for a hug and breakfast. Eagerly she tears into her bannock and something in a tin she has brought with her. She passes the tin which I sniff then taste on my knife. A ghost touches my scalp and I whisper one word: strawberry. You have strawberries, I say. In old cans loaded with sugar that some call white death.
Yes, she says. There are cases of it, in a warehouse exposed by the shifting dunes.
We best call a meeting, I say.
Let sleeping dogs, lie she says.
Yes, but not starving neighbours.
Of course, she says, but that can wait. What you been doing?
Still talking to the Red Monk, I say, roughing out his story. He’s currently locking brows with a philosopher in 5th century Alexandria about his way of communicating with the gods.
Oh the gods, she says. Where were they during the holocausts?
They were burning, I said, and pouring oil on the flames.
And where are they now?
Having breakfast, I say, and doing what they can to survive.
I’d like to talk to a god, she says. How would I do that?
Depends on the god, I say. The philosopher Proclus described it like this. First you have to choose which god you want to link with, preferably one for which you have a natural affinity. If you like the sun you choose Helios, if the moon: Selene, War: Ares, Love: Aphrodite.
What about the children of Night? she asks, with a different voice.
Some like it darker, I say. Perhaps you would like to commune with Fate, Doom, Death, Sleep, Dreams, old Age, Pain, Revenge, Strife, Deceit or Sexual Pleasure.
I thought sex was the province of Eros, she said.
Eros was the god of sexual love, I said, it includes all pleasures that are ruled by love but excludes any that accrue to cold hearted fucking or rape.
Death and I are already close, she says. No help needed there. I could have a better relation to Sleep. I guess belladonna or opium would bring me closer to her but I don’t have either of those, yet.
The Red Monk says he met her once, in a crypt under Alexandria. she was surrounded by torches and her face was hidden behind a mask with two curved tusks, I say. A mask of hide.
An animal, she says, with tusks curved like the new and waning moon. I’d like to meet her.
I know a place, I say.
The green hill is still there, half buried in grey sand, its charred top still surmounted by nine grey pillars supporting nothing but the pale sky. Between the pillars we approach the low dome of age worn stones, pass thru the entrance hole and descend the ashy spiral stair by the faint glow of an unseen source and presently come to a tall, curved gap in a curved wall. Stepping thru the gap we find ourselves at the rim of a vast sphere, seemingly clothed in a tapestry of vistas, each framing a long road or avenue along which processions, small groups or individual beings are travelling to, thru and from this intersection, this tiny node in the warp and weft of inconceivable emptiness.
Now Luci and I are moving toward a tall figure which has magnetized our attention. It’s robed in the same fabric as the outer sphere and it seems to be instructing those who come to pass, about which paths are safe or wise or otherwise worth taking. Then the figure turns and I see that its face is a blur of possible beasts except for the bright, curved tusks which resolve at last into a disc of light around a human face. I bow toward that face as it bows toward me and as our eyebrows touch I hear it say, Ah, Light. Things are much more visible when you’re here. Then the moon beast bends to touch brows with my friend, asking her name.
Lucida, she says, tho he calls me the Dark One.
Nothing is more lucid than a clear night, says the Guide, a perfect medium for luminous things.
And you are?
Like you, he says, a medium, a guide. What are you looking for?
Poetry, she says, I weary of all this circumambulation.
Straight to the point then, he says, and sings:
I loved your master perfectly
and I taught him all that he knew.
He was starving in some deep mystery
like a man who is sure what is true.
At this point I begin to feel uneasy. The story is getting away from me the nominal author. But that verse has been going thru my head intermittently for hours, days and I begin to see maybe why. As Lucida and the guide continue to chat I put my guess into the following words:
The deepest reach of my poeticosophical quest so far is my understanding that I don’t and never will possess more than partial knowledge of the ultimate nature of existence, the cosmos, things as it is, what is actually happening here and now: this hand that moves the brush, the brush, the ink, the paper. When I reach this point I am suspended in mystery but I’m not sure what to feel about it. Is this the ultimate epiphany? Part of me hopes not because it wants that hunger for a deeper understanding and the thrill when it is reached.
Lucida and the portal guide are still in conversation, not noticing my absence, which has only been a moment really. If I’m starving in this great mystery I’m like a person at a banquet who can’t decide which dishes to eat before he becomes the skeleton at the table.