Club Paradise

Early days of July, heatwave membraned 
the city, Aura and Zephyr lockjawed 
and left the girl looking a mouldered grey.
Only the wind of expiation blows,
or at least attempts to smooth our rafters. 
Still, ardour conspires with every breath
and makes my voice a giant scallop shell,
scoffed with apologies and songs. Hear me
out: I am as faithful as a coral reef. 
A behemoth backfires in Eden
and sets off total colony collapse.
Hell seems happier. Well, hell, go to hell
then! Easy: hell is in the air outside. 
I will stay, resuscitate our hive 
with what I know of work: transparent words
next to transparent words, ransomed for love,
the sake of love, fresh, renewed, startled back
into place by a breathless, heavy blow
from my hautboy. Gold tremble off my lips. 
We are way out beyond limits now. Too 
far for tears, except the sun brings them on.
It is me. Taken by paranoid seizure,
weeping at the dark deluxe of the sun
like an actor or a Rasta, chanting:  
Paradise once, paradise once again!
But this is rose-pink Florence, infernal 
as ever, interred by the living light
we have half blocked out with half drawn shutters
to make the ecliptic line visible,
so even here we may be “unalarmed
by the vicissitudes of the future.”
Now that’s viva luce. Casual rapture. 
Surety and fidelity are terms,
on pain of death, not to be avoided.  
Pop a paxlovid, beloved, read this
as I tell you that I am the Seraph 
Abdiel, indignant before the devil. 
Do you feel weak in body or mind? 
In spirit? Well, that was unexpected. 
My angelic recommendations are 
cold baths and the movies of Gene Tierney. 
Abdiel I said? Let me now abdicate 
from that tower, for my mind is constant 
changes, as now single in retorted 
scorn for current major minor poets. 
One must have a talent to unmask shades. 
It is your savage gift, and mine, to conceal 
openly berries from childhood forest, 
our heads shawled like witches in the green,
mosquitoes pitched partisans’ melodies,
a half tropical bluff in my left ear.
Solomon’s Mine flourished in my right ear. 
You are as impatient as I am not. 
Everything moves is firm philosophy. 
But moves how? In a flagellum pattern?
I can’t imagine that. Yet I can see
furtive fern, under shadowed, move as such;
as such, when I was a schoolboy, iron 
filings straggled on my desk, ant or rain
drawn, I supposed, by a phantom magnet. 
I know now that it was the Holy Ghost. 
You’ve called me a Christian fabulist 
before, and I’ve played the clown, it’s true, 
but only for your serious amusement,
nightly pointing out the fading dog star. 
I aim each morning to salute the sun. 
What I call progress is antiquity 
in reverse, the wheels off, transfigured light
through the dark sky, flared; immolated; gone. 
In Club Paradise, my father alone
of all the extras had a speaking part. 
A single phrase, a question, when he asked 
got lost in his dreads. Heuristic technique
you could say. Don’t laugh, he’s an amputee
now, still delusional but on good pension.
Flesh of my flesh, love. I cannot go far, 
and I have gone far, and not hear my blood shriek 
with the thought that all of this could be cut  
by a second-string executioner.
My heart rides at anchor telling you this.  
My heart is riding at anchor to tell. 

Copyright © 2024 by Ishion Hutchinson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 26, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.