from The Walk

A path divergéd in the Arnhem land
between two crops of fallen weatherstone;
I took the upper path between the rock
and walked until I found myself alone.
The paths converged, but for a strip of sand
where dead men drank from drying watering holes
and spent the last of old man’s buck between
stubbies and one-arms in country saloons.
They sang for me a riddle in the scrub
with rhymes about the water in the well
and that they would not go to Nhulunbuy
because the land was all that they could tell.
I threw me down a pitcher in the hole
and brought up to my lips a mouth of sand
and wondered that they were so glad to see
a dead man's well dug in the dead man's land.
I wandered to the bar, but there alone
sat drinking with a scepter in his hand
upon a sun-drenched timber for a stool
a boneless man with silver teeth like stars.
He said, "the sands will eat your discontent-"
and waved against the table like a tree -
"let drink, and see that Paradise at hand;
the pilgrim here will find no industry."
And then the sourest and discordant sound
out from the window-borders synthesized:
"For man is God, O hail Immanuel!
the Gnosis pleased, and come with man to dwell."
I jumped; at once there was nothing but sand;
I sank into the pavement of a sea.
I ran until my feet could run no more,
held up upon an arch of ancient stone;
and still I saw mirages and visions,
queer stills and things that moved seductively.
And still I looked for that old, narrow path
that once had beaten hard upon the rock.

There was a gate between two poplar trees
convolved by time into a whorled form,
whereat the gypsy rag wailed minor tunes,
and there the caravans did not pass on.
There women lolling stayed where camels drank;
and I stumped up without a hope in hell
perambulated through the no-man’s-land
and slept within the hollow of a dell.
And in my dreams there was at last respite:
but in the grove, the creatures of the night.
But even there my heart was wholly still,
as if approached by some immortal hand;
and leapt within the flowers of a field;
and soundly slept within Immanuel’s land.

There was another gate beyond the gum
locked green within a swarth of ancient vine,
where terracotta men with hands outreached
diverged, and made the straight path serpentine.
Their industry was hammered out of gold,
and I in mind too weak to stand alone
a moment awed at this horrendous sight
before I fled, again into the night.
And here, though man had tilled the thirsty dune
and made the dry land contradict the sun,
the thorns came too; with every herb a thorn.
O for that day when death is bolted down
beneath an endless floor no more to rise,
and heaven not a parallax of home.

It’s evening now, and time is at its end.
I walk into the everlasting halls.
The glint of imperceived candelabras
and happy dancing feet haunting
mismatched and panting, spiral-spiral stairs
and aloes that grow from pianolas
unplayed and loud in static ivory.
Here twisted aisles and nonsensical frames
paint walls; footsteps outpace feet; shadows flit
and segregate themselves from mortal clay.
And men walk into the eternal day.

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