by Clayton Eshleman
Ember-prancing blasts, wine-
shafted light boiling with the ashen hair of volcanic spray,
horned men on ramps scuttling between gutted towers with pikes,
particle fed with fleecy scorch.
The sky grays as if a dry ocean were tidal-waving through,
whitecaps where buildings were,
fire like raw
running amber wounds,
pricked by falling, arching bodies,
wastes in the night sky, wastes
merged with mountain char-
Below, in the rust fire lake, specks of drowning plebes like streaks of mold,
an army pours across the molten opening of a bridge led by
a salamander-saddled ghoul.
Windmill with slats of streaking flame.
Out of a boiling blood bay
naked clumps writhe and wave, to stumble or
Light roars through a prison gate
illuminating a chalk-white tree
a long-tailed warrior climbs a ladder
lit by curlicues of fire, liquid and
cinder-red, swooshing across
maddened ants, or twig-folk without anatomy,
spoonbilled ghosts with longbows mix with masked cacodemons and naked males,
a white banner snaps,
someone is dragged
like bloated gonads
press against an Omega blade
dead silver in the blackness.
A hooded churl
tries to pull a dying man up into an earlobe pouch.
Is there ground? Or only the swarming murk of
shifting vision encasing itself in a grand putrification?
Below an enormous cow skull a bell tolls
the rope is pulled by
a fat bogle raging with glee,
his tail coiling down
like a speckled eel of shit.
"Are you ready to ascend?"
the bird-headed moth inquires.
He's wearing armor over his bird legs,
has one claw on the elbow of a mold-white naked wretch shivering
in the hot icy dark.
With his other claw, Beaked Moth touches the ladder up which a fat lout,
an arrow sticking out of his ass, is climbing,
a jug hanging from
his hockey stick, up, up,
past fire sputtering in the hollow
tree leg stuffed into a rowboat
out of which a red-beaked puck grabs at
something in the swill.
Where are we? Is there location, or only
self-augmenting pythogenic diagrams?
A second hollow tree leg, rag tied around leprous ooze,
this one too in a beached rowboat.
From this leg a branch drives up through the hollow egg body to which
the ladder leads.
Inn of the Scarlet Bagpipe,
rinsed fire-red inside, there a soul and his mates sit transfixed by
one whose whole head is blood-red.
The Inn 's head at the front of its shell is turned
so as to look back, perhaps Bosch himself,
long straggly ashen hair, mouth caught between
smile and sneer, the right eye very lively,
as if surprised,
staring across the hump of upper tree arm shell "shoulder"
at something beyond the lower left hand corner of the panel,
something "off stage."
Our painter as
rotted twin trees, emptied egg,
World Tree and World Egg from the viewpoint of putrification,
deterministic Apocalypse of man's existence on earth.
The Inn owner mind is
a rotary parade, brain as a testicular bagpipe
source of semen? Is this an alchemical disk
holding a bagpipe retort? A white-capped hag with claws
points the chanter, the reed pipe smokes,
figment-folk trundle the disk in caricature of The Cavalcade
-just now I spotted a red bug-like creature
dotted white like Amanita muscaria, ridden by
a naked male, is Amanita involved?
On a smaller ruddy disk,
lizardhounds feast on knight guts. Hovering them,
a black red and white moth-winged fish-mouthed warrior
thrusts his sword through a clutch of helmeted
naked males clustered about a leafless tree
(same position in the panel as The Tree of Knowledge in Eden )
a giant metal lantern door swings open,
the interior is packed with more helmeted nudes on fire.
This disk rests on a second Omega cleaver, under which,
and into an overturned jug, a cardinal-hatted "Aristotle" wearing spurs
rides a naked dug-swinging blonde, reins pulled
tight through her mouth.
As if nightmare were to be
photographed, flash frozen. Many of the naked have
closed eyes, or dots, blotches where eyes should be,
who are they? Who am I? The triptych a kind of mirror
facing me, likewise a mirror. Between our banks
a drama surges, ripe with circular cease and wheel.
Other excerpts from Improvisations by Clayton Eshleman in ActionYes #1:
A Bosch Apocalypse Update
Fantasia off the Force of Bosch