Speaking In Tongues
Guided by Voices

Tatiana Retivova


for Mx

Is this what petit Dennis had in mind?
The spheres now off, the axis barely
holding. Between us — a continental
drift, its faultlines a tremor.
Steppe, taiga, chernozem, Kurgans.
An unravished tselina crawls with minerals
and indigenous lichen. Unruly ferns
propagate and span their way back
beyond Livermore. Potato blight,
rotten wheat, buried treasures of Anthrax,
spores exemplifying Mendeleev's table,
and then some. Nuclear dust. Mold.

Could the Scythian monk ever imagine
in his Julian times without zeroes
that the Nones would since have moved
irregularly, and the second millennium's
final full moon would be at perigee?
And that seven hours past its peak
I might observe the shadow of an angle
that caught your eye, as the orb
passed out of Taurus into Gemini?
Its path, bright and vertiginous.
The better for homing pigeons
to chart their trajectory.

Surely he must have dreamt of us
and all those extra miles we covered
entangled in wires and fields,
endless fields, of Spartina,
hollyhock, pizhma, feathergrass,
and bulrush. Filling our own
private geographies with landmarks.
Paying homage to Gutenberg,
you divine the encoded signs
made by imperceptible others.
A medieval map spread out
below the spheres is closer.

At one edge of Empire, a slight petit mal
dislodges the granite terraces. Black Sea
storms result in salty dew upon my brow.
The Pontic-Caspian steppe is dreaming
of Mixoparthenos, her lower body split into
two coils of snake around a chalice,
a vessel. The mast faces the Varangians.
Sails of Homeric ships flap furiously
over the herculean mating of the gods
on the left bank of the river Dniepr.
Hercules' seed in exchange
for his mares lost in the Hylaea.

Your edge of Empire is nearer
the Three Gorges. A Pacific breeze
perpetually tangles your hair.
Like Li Po on Crab-Apple Mountain
you are weary. There is nothing
I can do or say to lift your burden.
Even the winds I send, signed
and sealed, remain unharnessed.
Set sail, unleash a new design,
follow the moon's perigean beam
along the silk route. Watch honey-
suckle grow. Listen to conch shells...

Meanwhile I still pledge allegiance
to a land cursed by Indian nations.
We both serve the same Caesar
of «the Colonies» wrenched from a
Britannia that once ruled the waves.
Let's clear the seaweed from our eyes:
In the distance, the clamor of weapons.
Three days in the belly of a whale
can turn anyone around. Jonah
obsesses me. As if it were
that simple, complete metanoia: forty
days of fasting and wearing sackcloth.

Either way, I look forward to a
natural death in some haphazard
ecosystem or cave at the mercy of
its genius locus, lars, or pater familias,
with bell, book, and candle by my side.
At least let the mixture of my genes remain
untouched. A proto-Slavic melting pot,
a witch's brew of this and that:
My Cossack whip, gipsy third eye,
Ligurian breasts and Visigothic legs,
Mongolian spot, schismatic wrath,
Scythian hair, and Russian nose.

But you, do «not go gentle into that good night,»
(rage, rage...) put up a splendid fight,
resist the urge to cater on demand,
and eloquently take a different stand,
watch chado grow and listen to the rain,
spell out your wrath in full refrain,
burn bridges and rewrite the script,
give some of us the shortest shrift.
Build beatitude out of the babble,
Hide hallowed tales beneath the rubble.
Restore, revise, review, maintain,
highlight, ignore, indulge, disdain...

Still, what would petit Dennis have thought
of this final leap year of the dragon?
How many hurricanes, floods, quakes, wars
would he have fathomed, if any? I am uneasy.
The dragon moves his tail far too close
for comfort. His fire breath threatens
to burn the sky. A litter of offspring
gathers at the borders. The planets have
conspired to wreak havoc. Only the moon
has sense enough to withdraw
her light from the scene of battle.
The entire Order of St. George stirs,
restless in their untended graves.

So what will come first, the second coming
of Christ or an extra-terrestrial?
Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny when stressed
and far from equilibrium. The scattering
of tongues explodes upon the babbling scene
like heliotropic fractals in some cult of Apollo.
El Ninjo burns itself out in a kind of light-
headed overdose from fire water, tender buttons
from Quetzalcoatl, allowing one to syncopate
trp trp ovr wrmwd nd brncls. Gd wllng...
Oh, agenbite of inwit, but who has unleashed
this blood-dimmed tide of yore again?

Hark! Custer's ghost on the bloody banks
of the Greasy Grass River. He is searching
for his oh not so chivalrous cavalry
annexing lands right and left, up and down,
out of «providential» Manifest Destiny.
How many millions of buffalo was it?
The spirits of the Sioux, Cree, Assiniboine,
Ojibway, Sarcee led by Sitting Bull, Crazy
Horse, Rain-in-the-Face, Four Horns,
and Black Moon now gather 133 years later.
Let him throw the first stone who...
Let me bite the hand that...

Text script scripture, fixed unfixed text,
Homeric epithet. Lark and nightingale,
finite and endless. Evening and Morning stars,
Homer now gone forever, solovey sings
no longer. How many nightingales were
there? The mocking bird learned their song.
Mixed it up with scavenger refrains.
Broken rhapsody under a blasted sky.
Castor and Pollux undone, stitchers of song.
Text no text unfixed text, revised over
Roger over. Watch the wild guslars now roam
the Dalmatian coast, unstrung and starless.

Meanwhile St. Cassian rehearses his return.
Did the Scythian put him there, I wonder or
was it some wrath of God? Hear him
sharpen his scythe and rattle his bones.
Oh Holy Fool of a year, Major Arcana's
faux naif cum enfant terrible. What Arabic
text translated creatio ex nihilo to mean
zero, and put you on the celestial map?
The pomegranate drips once again
from my hands, while Mary's star hovers
between the calendars and Saturn prepares
for the Ides of March, sigh. Persephonically,