Samstag, 4. März 2017



Down clotted
Roads of clay

Pacing the barren
Ball of the sun

For five hours
In the wrong direction:

Wandered The lost Locale
Con su paserjos:

Uno hombre gentile,
E uno touristo perdito,

Sitting across from one another
On dusty seats, silently:

 As the rusted bus
  Whirred and wined
Breaking wind
In the dry pine
Half asleep

Twenty kilometers
In the wrong direction.

Until one of the two guests,
Upon the earth

Greeted the desertion
Of his high desert,
In a tympani
Of smoke
     Dragging underbelly
Down tedious mud,

 As the Clank
Of the broken Drive-Shaft

    Boomed bombastic arias
Cheery and mad.
So that the rich
Merdional waste passed:
      Then through swirls of dust:
  Abandoned fields and farms:

Deserted pines
Luckless clay,  

Gone long.

In Short,
After an interminable epoch

The thin Grandfather
Finally rose
 Where the stop
Betrayed no house

No village,
No town:
Only Swallows
Diving on a purple sky.
So that the tinsel Auto-bus
Cranked and cried

Beneath the uncertain sun,
In the dry undertow desolate
At dusk,
In deep dust
Finally drawing
To a stop, if not an end.
And here was nothing.
Only wind and whirring pine:

Until the barren Satellite
Might again resolve

To rise,
Though none too pleased;

Within the empty eve
Illumining eyes like craters,

Bleeding orange
Over all the earth

So that the bony moon
Settled down the isles
Of Ulysses'

As the patient Gent, unruffled
Stepped spritely up

    In his ancient Serape:
And as ever furious

Unknown father
Ever greeted
Unknown son

In clear view
Of the bone-dry moon
But solar:
       Nodded to his speechless
Companion du voyage:

          And with a slight bow of his head, said:
“Amigo, Amigo”.

Will Morgan

Mexico, 2011

Mittwoch, 8. Februar 2017

                                            In The Year 1210

Snow knifed across the Swiss lakes. Snow mantled the Vosages and mounted the Jura, blasting the eastern bark of each pine down to the river Doubs. Snow swirled over the plains of Burgundy.

           The flakes spun large and fast, appearing as if spat by wide-mouthed Notus, or issuing from that cave-of-winds of which students speak—that said to lie beyond the Danube’s wall.

           For days the storm blew, then weeks, then a month, all of February of the new-year. Snow blocked the roads and lay heaped in the churchyards. The funnels of gargoyle’s icy-tongues dropped as far the graves—as if to pierce with life the gelid hearts beneath their stones.

         And still came the howling from the east. The Mongol hordes over the Bosporus seemed to be rattling their chains—threatening Christendom with the perdition of a white shroud.

       The cloaked figure who had passed the night, fireless, in a woodsman’s hovel, in the forest above Neuchatel, in the District of Burgundy, on the border of Otto’s Holy Roman Empire, his hair and cloak matted with snow—now staggered from his lair to behold the new day.

      Snow as fine as salt still blew up the ridges toward France. Each wave of snow and wind curved as it rose and fell, as do the northern lights when they arc upon vaulted-pleroma. The snow sifting along the ground reminded him of snakes seeking the bowels of the earth. Each serpent’s coil moved with deliberate courtesy, seeking that telluric house lying between conformity to the wind and the freedom of the flat earth. The snakes branched as they blew, rejoined, then vanished in the driven air.

    His trail was buried by the new snow, and this snow was already stiff as a wooden table. Nickolas, Magister of Paris, clerk, and bearer of Christ, had no choice but to soldier-forward through the drifts. He probed with his staff, the limb of a pine, searching for the buried path.

     Now he stands still; now he moves tentatively forward, pausing to watch the palm of the wind play havoc with each fist of needles upon her breast; listening to her long cry, the abducted in the arms of the abductor. Again he probes forward just as she again breathes down his back with a ringing wail like shattered crystal. With each breathe both he and the conifers bow and sway.

     Those pines are but the downiest of hairs upon her cheek, and this she knows…So he leans into the mountain’s frigid strength, contemplating her, believing her to be nature’s God, or no God at all, only necessity—Peter Abelard’s logic that…

    And why must he wrestle with her? In order to reach France. And what did France hold? Perhaps a draught of gluwine, or a serving girl there might lift her skirt, or there might be a golden-curled boy, his eyes hungry for Aristotle, with whom to engage in long conversation…there one might sleep a-nights upon a true mattress, breviary and bestiary at my side…in a tavern among the din of foreign tongues and faces…or nothing at all…dies-irae…less than nothing…dies irae…The images recurred in his mind, bone-chilling as the wind. But Nicklolas put each in its place, downward: via negativif or via virtuholy but not wholly.

    Buried trees marked the upward path. Morning waned and still the snow spun from the sky, not adding new depth as it whirled away, but pushing him upward, toward the Royaume de France. By afternoon he was halfway up the summit, and for a time, the wind slacked. He found a path along a lake cupped beneath the ridge. From here he could discern the rocky ledges of the pass.

      A bird called from the fresh drifts. Yes, a brave bird. What bird? What presage was this in the voice of the storm? A checkered magpie flew from the cracked top of a pine, for here nearly all the crowns of the trees were toppled—having exploded and splintered under the weight of ice. With each limb that seized and gave way around him Nickolas’ heart gave a start. Did the sky ever cease to study him? Even if it was not true that the sky was studying him, should he doubt, it would instantly become true…prayer was useless…morality and mortality the greatest hoaxes of all…The world was full of a general fury to escape her, he thought. But of all things, she could not, ought not to be escaped. The world was full of discord, nature was faltering…Venus would soon bear us on her soft shoulders no longer, would no longer succor and sustain…The monk began to murmur, under his breath, as if to appease her and to cheer himself…

    Quan li jor sont lonc en mai et spray beginneth to springe

    He opened his mouth to sing to her but the cold had sealed his lips. Ice etched his eyebrows. His jaw refused to do anything but scowl. Cold flakes sifted down his neck and shocked his frame to shivers. He could feel his scowl deepening, and doubtless the creases in his stone cheeks cut deeper into the solitude of his brain. Other men existed, but they had transformed the earth to a charnel-house, not paradise; their avarice love of power rent his soul, and he fled from them, until and unless he sought them…. Did he not sometimes seek them? Did they even existShe rejected them, did she not? And if not, then how could the world be made straight?

     No, he would not abhor them, even though they were often abhorrent—even though pride told him to abhor them. Pride was a sin, one of the seven. Dive into the flesh, (said whom?) that ye may be free thereof. This was the unwritten bible, the bible backwards and upside down, the real bible…the creed of le jongleur…whether with pins and balls or sacred codes…

     Suddenly, upon the sky, a furl of smoke arose, pressed downward by the wind. This was human-smoke, globular, rushing above the earth; and behind it were dark figures like giant crows strutting on a white tapestry. Through the flakes a flame was visible. Yes, it was a flame, the warmth of a flame—and human voices drifted on the air.

     Nickolas shuddered, leant forward, and took sudden fright. Highwaymen might murder, but fire warmed even them. He was suddenly conscious of his bent frame, spindly fingers, ragged gloves, frozen scowl. Could he stand up straight no more? He tried but his back ached. His hand was frozen to his staff. He needed warmth. Perhaps the angels could manage without a fire, but not men here below. As he leant forward, a sudden gust blew him to his knees. He wiped his nose and forgave her, peering through the fallen brush. Now the voices were clear. The languages were various and soft. He had taken the distant figures for woodsman, but these tones of speech were nearer to his own. Should a man dare to break from sacred misery and move to profane joy? His teeth chattering—he rose up—trudging forward toward the figures standing silent beside the licking flame. Coming nearer he was reassured by their colorful dress and by the bells and tassels drooping from their suede caps. These men looked like brethren. Now they dropped their chapped hands from the fire and looked up at the burdened beast slouching toward them.

    Several, Nickolas could now see, were tonsured like himself, though so roughly that new hair had sprouted round the razor’s circle. Others wore green and red leggings against their black surtouts. All were motley, black or yellow, like French and southern birds. Their elbows and knees patched with color, as if halos had been purposively poked or torn where they might evoke the sternest stare or rebuke from any prude or seigneur who wandered near their slack-boned-web. Through the ends of their ragged gloves pink fingers poked. Some wore Parisian slippers, though mended more than once, and others battered capes. A big woman with a babe slung over her breast lifted her steady eyes from the fire, completely self-possessed, unafraid, and smiled. The scarecrow stood still at last, only feet from the fire. For a long moment his eyes seemed to speak for him, for his tongue was dumb—his jaws too stiff for speech.

    “I am Nickolas…of Basel Magister of Paris and clerk of Liseaux, returning hence…from whence…to Cluny…and further…to St Jacques-de-Compsostelle…wending, my brothers on holy search and seek, on peregrination, brothers, sisters, on holy search and seek—” his voice broke like a choir-boy’s.

    He beheld their eyes beholding him: a rag-tag cleric, and themselves: a tag-rag army possessed of a donkey and a cart; yet I: still pompous…still seeming to profess a dying creed…but no longer convinced of it, nor of anything…

   “You are cold friend. Come to the fire,” a red-bearded man who looked like a Dane stepped forward.

   I advanced to their fire and held my trembling hands over the handsome flames.

   I recall that moment because of their faces. Their hair hung in strands to their shoulders or else grew upward from their foreheads like a headdress; there were pencils of mustaches along their red lips. Their jaws were phlegmatic, effaced, strong but with a kind of weakness; I would say abstruse, but I would mean randy with innocence, or else brooding, slow of shift; sometimes both of these in an instant. These were men of levity and light, but behind their feathers was something serious. A white-bearded man, his forehead and arm bandaged, sat by the fire. For a time no one spoke. The old man watched the storm, and drew up his cloak. On his lap lay a hurdy-gurdy which he was distractedly grinding, as if he were serenading the falling snow. The snowflakes fell all about him and fell momentarily whole on his scarlet cheeks. His instrument gave out a low crunch and a wheeze, as he dusted the snow from its body.
   Nickolas’ toes began to hurt as they thawed. He stamped his boots on the snow, and the snow, in turn, crunched as sharply as did the man’s hurdy-gurdy. His boots were his good fortune, for they were the gift of a jongleur at Neuchatel, for his sandals had split to shreds…

   He could feel them staring at him. He felt that they could see the donation of his books; his languished scholarship, his peregrinations, his books hidden in the eaves and dungeons of a dozen churches, his nearly frozen ambition to do something, (what?)…the tonsure, like their own—  closing fast like a fate upon his aging, thirty-three-year old pate…but no matter…

    He, in turn, could see—wisdom as well as marks of woe and chance written upon this company of eight. One boy held juggling balls, one man carried a scabbard from which sprouted a sprig of mistletoe. Another wore a cape bound by silver-clasps in the Hungarian style; yes, brethreneven as sparrows counted in the snow!

   Yet these young men and women had that broken look like birds unwillingly borne on a maelstrom; diffident, adrift, shorn but not yet born. One of them lifted his hand and motioned him to a log before the fire, for very human heart-beat slowly in the storm…

   “Brethren” Nickolas stammered, lifting his hands to cup the falling flakes. Then he fainted.

  It was evening when I woke. Though the storm still blew, or blew only behind my eyes, for I could hear its low pulse coursing in the back of my skull.

   I believe I was delirious, for though I was asleep I could sense motion about me. My hearing was acute. The wind growled, voices and the crackle of a fire were near…I lay beneath a canopy on a rug pitched direct upon the snow. At length some hot liquid touched my lips. After a time I became aware that I was no longer fully clothed…

  “He still believes, and is deluded,” came a voice.

   “He believes not, therefore does he believe the more,” I heard someone say. The words were spoken in langue dhoc.

   “It is because he believes not that he believes that he believes…A most grievous state…condition. He needs the cure,” said the old man.

   Wine touched my lips and I slept; but a curious sleep it was, for I seemed to understand and even to participate in what was passing, but only as if it were all happening to someone besides myself…
  Besides myself, Herr Doctor, this secret matter, touching my study, that called by the ancientsthe coincidentia oppositorumcan this be proved? Can this figure be placed in a clear light?

Nothing, student, which detracts from Aristotles unity can be placed in any sort of light, nor will it permit you teach in Paris, Herr Magister… he said cynically.

The light faded. Clouds ran across the sky:

 “He abhors mankind.”

 “Yes, but that is because he loves them—a little too much.”

 “His Aristotle explained it by the humors, but he sees God as a lump of  clay, not the performer, the maker, le jongleur…”

“He knows not where he goes,” said a brown-bearded man.

“That, mes jongleurs, is precisely why he goes,” said the gray-beard.

   The wind began to rise again and all of the company crowded together under the canopy. I felt the warmth of other bodies all around me, all pressing against one another in order to survive the bitter night.

   She was almost beneath me, and was warming my lower back. A strong arm settled next to my own. I was growing deliciously warm as the blanket of her breasts stoked my flank. Then I felt a strong arm press against on my arm and a beard brush my cheek. She was one and she and he were two—and the one and the two were one and the same, father and mother and son…

   Something soft and long missed her and brushed my hip, then sank into her mass. A slow heaving began amidst the tangled arms and legs, and the growing warmth, and the growing warmth began to buckle me  upwards—toward the light, as those in the writhing mass laughed aloud in a rush: Ahhiee!

    He pressed upon me, she above me—and gathering his strength, poured warmth and power into my weak frame with each assault.
    When she cried at last she slipped from me, impaled against my knees as he seized Venus’s key.

   *               *

   The sparking of a wood fire on a winter morning makes a good sound; fresh and clean—even a sound that may wake you from death.

   The new day still spat snow. I buttoned my cloak and stepped to the fire. The red and the brown beard silently smiled. How abrupt and dogged were these faces fringed by soft hair! Holy men they were, though they practiced no holiness. They were humpty-dumpty clouds cast upon a curtain of smoke and snow, but how I loved their bold, silent scarlet faces…

    The white-haired sage was already up and seated before the fire, again fingering the crank on his instrument, which gave out the same croaking lament as before. For the first time since my delirium I noticed that the bandages on his head and arms were bloody. Above the snapping twigs which promised a hot draught—my voice was full of a high purpose which surprised me:

  “Have you been in a joust that you are so bloodied; and what joust could a musician prefer to his instrument?” I asked.

  “Clerk, for I assume that is your dignity, you do not wish to know whereof you ask,” his hollow eyes pled. Only after a longer moment did he come to trust me:

   “I am come from Provence with my son, where I have seen the wolf of Rome gorge upon the sheep of Europe, drinking more Christian blood than did Saladin. These wounds I have from defending my friends and countrymen—at Beziers—where twenty-thousand were burned and slaughtered. This, monk scholastic, is what the world has wrought by mistaking Christ for an earthy church, which he never preached. Look upon that world if—you dare,” his head slumped and stared at the fire. I then saw his hand stray from his instrument and toward the steel dagger on his belt.

   “Did you rest well Sire Nickolas?” the Dane, sallying forth, greeting me and recasting the mood about our fire. After he had warmed himself he stood up from the flames and reached his arms into the storm so that the ample pyramid of his crotch arched beneath his red-breeches.

 “Yes, I did; save for the battering of southern cities, I did. In fact—” I now rose from squatting by the fire, “I am wonderfully restored, having nearly frozen to death yesterday on this mountain. It is strange, but it’s as if there’s new blood in my veins. I feel as frisky as a colt.”

     I watched as both the red and brown beards on these two men slowly smiled.

   “God hath looked to you upon your peregrination,” said the gray-hair with stolid grace.

 “But I do not yet know your names—”

  “Ah, names are small things, Magister; but I am styled Golias of Prague, and this is Gova-merde of Hungry, and a hungry man he is. Others here are from Salzburg and diverse places in Bohemia. We are clericals too, you know, the red-beard guiltily stopped, his beard risen like a flag in the breeze. I knew their tonsures were not ecclesiastical, but I smiled and nodded to this august company.

   “To all of you I owe my health and mind this morning, for I am marvelously restored in strength, as if my sword had been lifted stone, despite this storm.”

   “A sword indeed, sir,” the woman grinned, whistling through the gap in her teeth.

   The other jongleurs smiled and still others spoke up, saying: “Some of us hail from Provence, some from Cologne; all of us of a mind to escape the noxious odor of Rome that wafts over the world…”

  “The devil’s farts,” the old man cursed. “Do not smile so quickly mes compagnons de voyage, you will learn that this is no matter for jest.”

  “Then…” I paused, “you are…yourself…a Cathar…?” I asked to the elder, daring to be earnest.

   After a pause, he went back to his former gravity: “Words, my scholar, are like this wind. Words are useless, they blow here and there. They have no lasting meaning. They are just emblems for extortion. Take the word: Christian. Do you really imagine—”

   “Until they are understood in all their senses, wordsI mean,“ a hawk-like Bohemian who had been quiet since broke in. As if on cue with this interjection, he moved the back tassel on his pentagonal hat to the rear, behind his mournful bangs of auburn hair. A brown-eyed jongleur, the old man’s son and not yet twenty, now began to juggle his pins in the slowing drifts of snow. I stood still to admire his prepossession and calm catching in the bitter wind.

   But the jongleur seemed to turn all eyes away from our melancholic talk. After we applauded him he brought out a thin drum which he began to tap. His green eyes were like struck flint against his swarthy face, drenched radiant by the southern sun. But when he spoke, his syllables were strange to my ears.

   “That is Aster, my son” the grave and white-haired hurdy-gurdy-player smiled for the first time smiled.

     Then the embers of his eyes went cold and he raised a fist saying: “We flee Rex Mundi, the ravening wolf and greedy bitch of night, Redix Ominum, Malora Avaricia, Tetra-Grammaton ut Diabolis, continuing insanity of fools, of Archdeacon, Deacon, Bishop, Priest, Abbot, monk, of Kings and conquerors. Hear us, you horn-mitred-jakes, prelates and archprelates of your own ordo vagorum! Hunger, thirst, cold, and nakedness we know, we who, swift and unstable as swallows seek their food through the air, hither and thither, like leaves caught by the wind… suffering such blows so that we can turn aside Caesar and Otto with a vuglar smirk…et nous dit what says Nehemiah: forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness and their clothes waxed not old, nor did their feet swell.

   “She shall sustain Rex Mundi no more” the woman cried, her face flushed. It was suddenly clear to Nickolas that the babe was the old man’s, and no one else’s. “…shall sustain them no more, she continued, For, they are not durable,” she finished, proud confident, as if relieved of a great strain.

    In my mind’s eye I see again that instant—and all the faces of that company; innocent, ribald, weakened by the cold but with merry cheeks, with cracked smiles that so quickly fade to sadness… I see their yellow or red hoses against their tattered priestly back. One wears an alb-linen sewed to his crotch, and upon it is painted a cross; another has consecrated cloth stitched to his slack buttocks. I see again their solemn but spritely smiles, flirtatious as birds, broken and censured by this world, but nonetheless defiantly joyous.

  “And let us yet hear what the father of lies and flies says to free men in the year 1210,” the aged southerner removed a small scroll from his doublet and began to read: ‘A mans last day on earth is always the first in importance, but his first day is never considered his last. Yet it is fitting to live always on this principle, that one should act as if in the moment of deathfor we are forever dying while we live. Therefore it is better to die to life than to live waiting for deathfor wordly life is but a living death.’ Thus does he, hypocrite, who styles himself ‘Pope Innocent’ besmirch and defile all living men…

     On these words red-barbe, who was now juggling with the boy, pulled down his hose and displayed for all of us two red-riven as well as two sliced and pendant pears. On all fours he began to fart while chanting:

 “Papam flatus et inflatus…”

   We all cheered. It in the bitter cold it seemed a brave and worthy act.

   “The Dane once led an ass to communion in Colonge. He sees the truth of Rex Mundi but he does not blanche like others, he acts,” the brown-bread whispered, grinning in my ear.

  “I must say, “ I began to catch the spirit, “It t’were better by that man’s logic never to live at all, since all of life is only a kind death—” I exhaled.

  “Ahiee!” the others cried in concert.

  “But this tool, “the Dane turned toward us as he buttoned up his breeches even as he clasped his manhood, “shall sustain and deliver us.”

  “Philosophy should be left to the scholars of Paris but pollination to beasts of the forests said the winsome juggler. “Now to music—all!”

   “I used to know some philosophers in Paris who could prove even that…,” I answered, though no one heard me, for they had begun to play on a drum, a rebec, and a flute.

   When the elder, the southerner, pumped his hurdy-gurdy a harsh but not unpleasant music wafted among the snowflakes. The father and son from Provence made music merrily but perhaps both too quick and slow for the stout German who bowed his rebec, for he seemed unable to catch the subtle shifts of the sartarello. The German knocked out a tune with grandiloquence, but this song could not become his, for it was a changeling, ironic and spacial, its syllables held close, slowly pressed like wine, then suddenly released aloft, as if a mere intonation had became a flock of doves risen into the belfry. At last it was Aster who lifted a wavering tenor into the wind: singing:

  Calenda maia Freres, jonquilles et champignons Jonquilles et champignons!

   How sharp were their surtouts and their toes as they danced in the black or red coats before the white relief of the snow, how frail and tinsel the figures looked as they swayed like puppets in the streams of snow! Where had they come from and where were they going? Their dance of death held no answer; they are scarecrows and skeletons come alive with lascivious hips and eyes, all in a hurry, gyrating and futilely gesturing to oblivious  Hiberna on her bitter throne.

  “Joculatores! Dance!” cried the snowy head, his nose dripping and tears swelling from the red lining of his eyes. Gradually, the music grew softer as the dancers lifted their swaying hands to catch the delicate off-beat on which they summoned up the earth-spirit from icy Pandemonium.

List to me the tale
Christ is now for sale!
Down comes chastitys frail wall
Epicurus too is praised,
By now no one by death is fazed

   The rest of the company joined the dance and also stamped their feet on the snow on the offbeat. My heart began to melt with an equinoctial sweetness. How could even wasted Venus fail to answer the dancer’s as they clasped each other by at the hips and knocked their split shoes on her cold breast?

   Yet I was shocked when the music suddenly stopped and I could again hear only the bitter, indifferent wind.

   Like players suddenly cast in new roles, all the party lowered their heads and began to gather up their few belongings. I stepped up and stood by the elder who looked me longin the face and defiantly pursed his lips.

  “Friar,” he said “they say there are men in Bologna and Florence, who no longer break coins for money but write paper for money, and for that paper others write still other paper, and so on till eternity; and for each exchange they exact more and more usury. This stranger is why we dance, not for them—not for Rex Mundi, but for the true God who is an in invisible spirit. It is he and she who will judge the usurious with a whirlwind. For our part we dance to free ourselves from this dream, we dance to remember her, our true mother, she, the earth; we dance so that our souls remain untouched by this world, where un-charity and greed rules all.”

    I furrowed my brow, as a scholar must, and nodded.

  “Remember Clerk, wherever you go, the true God does not know the name of Caesar, or Otto, or Richard of England, or of any Pope. Nor in a thousand years shall any of these men be remembered but as empty names blowing as does this snow blows; not as green things which exist and move with life and power. For grace can only reach what lives or strives to live. But you may be sure that a thousand years from this day, if the earth still greets the sun and the moon, Calenda Maia will stir the dull roots of desire—and strength and holiness and power will appear on that day, until the earth is destroyed by fire, or by ice. Fire is the most likely, for there can be no ice where there is no fire.

   Reflect well, and ask: do we merit Venus’ indulgenceEven Gerbert trembled in the year nine ninety-nine. I wish you Godspeed on your quest.”

   I joined the elder and the rest of the band in a last draught of warm wine, for we had no more. My head was dizzy from the cold and from the all-too-sudden warmth, fast-fading, of all these treasured faces, smiling as if to themselves, or leering into space with the beatific gaze of wooden saints. Who were they? Or perhaps the question was: who was I?

  I shook all of their hands and looked long into their eyes. I even touched, in parting, red-beard’s cheek with my palm. It was he who had renewed me. Then I hunched up the shoulders of my cope and turned my face from the east-wind
   Now, as I walk, it is their eyes and beards I still see. I see their radiant orbs that do not see only objects, but the relations between those objects. Their faces, soft as lambs’ wool, remain in my dreams.

    When I turned to see them go, they were clambering downward beside their ox-cart, the tails of their scarves and their empty sacks blown outward against the snow, like flags that will overcome those of nations.

So behold me, trudging on alone, into the darkening eve, upward toward thesingle castle-keep on the ridge. I reached its massive door at the hour when candles are lit, and I gave the oaken mass two sure strikes.

After a time, between whirrs of the wind that dusted yet another layer of snow upon my cope and boots--- there came a voice from within.

Who are you?
“I am…I am… Nickolas, Clerk of Montpelier, come from Rome on church business…to Basel, returning to France…”

The iron bolts turned to expose a burly hostarius who broke: “You go many places at once, young clerk.”


 “The master will allow mendicants a blanket and a stone floor as shelter from the wind, but no more. Expect no meat nor wine.”

 “God be praised.”

 “And you have come over the mountains from the Empire have you?” he locked the door behind us.

 “My home…I mean…is in Montpelier, and I go—”

“Here on this cliff we have no truck with the raillery of ecclesiasticals, whether rough or smooth. We levy a tax on goods to France…and you carry nothing but a cloak and a staff… and… a leather folio…your poems, no doubt, delights of the mind and the flesh, eh, by and by? But how shall the world be saved when none of you will take a job? The world shall not be sustained much longer. With Christ’s mercy sleep as best you can, and steal not even an egg from our roosting pigeons--- or you will incur the master’s wrath, who will pursue you even to Gahenna.”

“God praise you and your master’s beneficence,” I shivered.

“Little enough has God to do with it, mon ami.”

    *                 *

    Day by day, week by week, Nickolas so–named, of nowhere and bound nowhere, trudged forward through France. He came down the Jura onto the plains of Burgundy, the wind still at his back, his cope torn and the boots given to him at Neuchatel in shreds. Near Besancon he crashed through a crevice in the snow into the River Doubs. His calls of distress were heard by none, and no one came to his aid except a curious crow, who thought—for an instant—that he was carrion. Only after many hours did he tunnel his way out by battering his nearly naked feet through the ice. Rising like some maddened beast, he had but one thought and that thought was: Cluny.

    A fellow monk had once told him that he knew another monk there— though now he could not even remember that monk’s name. It was no matter, for he longed for the two towers of Cluny as for a desired lover, and he directed his steps east, toward this famous monastery.

   The sweeping vineyards of Burgundy were now invisible beneath the crystalline sweeps of snow.

Only the tips of a few pear and apple trees protruded from the immense drifts of France.

   Striding toward them, he swung his tattered cope through the crust and sunk up to his knees in the fragile integument. There, upon a wasted branch, uplifted from the biting blank, was an apple, overlooked last autumn, hanging on a branch, now hard as rock. Nickolas, seized by hunger, tore it from the limb and let his teeth sink into the flesh. He sucked the ice until he could taste the faint but putrid sap.

   Such were the fruits of the earth in the mouths of men, or some men…
Days later, as he approached Cluny the snow renewed its fury. Great tornados of drifts lifted from the crests and swept across the sealed vineyards.

   The monk walked stiffly now, his bones thrust upright, for he could no longer bend his back. His cheeks were swollen and his eyes were involuntarily closing.

   Rising from the snow, like the ghost mount of St Michael when glimpsed at the merge of land and sea, through the hail of spitting sparks; at last, stood the twin towers of Cluny.

   He stopped. The wind whirred and rolled. He scanned the scene and waited for a sign. For a time there was silence, then came, from the near distance, the bleating of sheep…

   Yes, sheep…

   Upon the earth, yes, there were still warm sheep. And men must be there to tend them! He narrowed his gaze to a spot that wavered within a cloud.

   Again the sheep bleated. It seemed that the sound leapt from under the snow, and leapt further from under his feet, like a tremor in the very earth. The hibernal hand was even now lifting, and the snow was only a mirage, a vast mirror, in which man viewed his shrunken, frightened soul. Vast continents of ice were breaking beneath his sight, under the earth. Green shot through the waters, and over the soil. The globe heaved, leaning toward that sustaining arrow of light…

   He walked toward the bleating of the sheep. There he found a shed, an abandoned manager, and straw. The pelted the sheep were plastered with snow, but they blinked contentedly and stood erect, staring at him in judgeless silence, their nostrils making steam on the air.

    Inside this auberge he sank to his knees—on this bed of Kings, he swooned into deep sleep.

   In his sleep he saw the faces of his parents. He had always hoped to see them again, but now he knew that he would not see them again on earth; for the dead do not see, and the living do not meet the dead, even when they too are dead. He was satisfied that this was so, because the earth itself was green, and none of the stars were green, instead they were white-hot, or dead-cold.

    His teachers in Paris had not told him the truth, neither had his parents been told the truth; nor was any student ever told the truth. All of these things he knew in his sleep, and still other things that he could not name or remember, but whose silence he could accept. His sleep was contented and deep…

   He woke, diffident, detached; though still desiring, but content now with the desire alone. He rose happy save for the final thing, the thing impossible to name. The Lord himself was born in a manger…

    It would not do to make a shabby appearance at the monastery door, so he began to pick the bits of straw from his torn cloak and undergarments and ragged shoes…

    As he did this be began to practice his words: whispering: “I am…Nickolas of Paris…I mean…Montpelier, Clerk of…going…no, coming from St Jacques de Compostelle…onward…on my pilgrimage… for her…holy truth…holding papers for Rouen…transmontane…sauber
machen…where…above Neuchatel, in the forests of the Jura, I was troth to truth by certes clericum scurrilummein vagum scholariam et histrionics-o-um, a strumpet for poetry and the flesh, by and by; keine Grammaticus neither peregrinus, meine mind a twichell axle-tree tossed with thoughts to and fro…

   For I await that love which is not power…champigons and flowers

                                                                                      Will Morgan, 2010