Apocalypse (I)
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,

     fuscohyaline clouds

     coiling heavenward.

                                             The atmosphere

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,

                                             dun-black sky

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

sink back.

Light roars through a prison gate

illuminating a chalk-white tree

                                             over which

     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,

     insectile swipes.

                                             Come closer:

spoonbilled ghosts with longbows mix with masked cacodemons and naked males,

a white banner snaps,

someone is dragged


gigantic ears

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

expressionless faces,

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