A Magus


John Ciardi

A missionary from the Mau Mau told me.

There are spores blowing from space.

He has himself seen an amazing botany

springing the jungle. Fruit with a bearded face

that howls at the picker. Mushrooms that bleed.

A tree of enormous roots that sends no trace

above ground; not a leaf. And he showed me the seed

of strange lettuces that induce

languages. The Jungle has come loose,

is changing purposes.

Nor are these vegetations

of the new continuum the only sign.

New eyes have observed the constellations.

And what does not change when looked at?--coastline?

sea? sky? The propaganda of the wind reaches.

Set watches on your gardens. What spring teaches

seed shall make new verbs. A root is a tongue.

I repeat it as he spoke it. I do not interpret

what I do not understand. He comes among

many who have come to us. He speaks and we forget

and are slow to be reminded. But he does come,

signs do appear.

There are poisoned islands far over:

fish from their reefs come to table, and some

glow in the dark not of candlelight. A windhover

chatters in the counters of our polar camps.

A lectern burns. Geese jam the radar. The red phone

rings. Is there an answer? Planes from black ramps

howl to the edge of sound. The unknown

air breaks from them. They crash through.

What time is it in orbit? Israeli teams

report they have found the body, but Easter seems

symbolically secure. What more is true?

How many megatons of idea is a man? What island

lies beyond his saying? I have heard, and say

what I heard said, and believe. I do not understand.

But I have seen him change water to blood, and call away

The Lion from its Empire. He speaks that tongue.

I have seen white bird and black bird follow him, hung

like one cloud over his head. His hand,

when he wills it, bursts into flame. The white bird

and the black divide and circle it. At his word

they enter the fire and glow like metal. A ray

reaches from him to the top of the air,

and in it the figures of a vision play

these things I believe whose meaning I cannot say.

Then he closes his fist and there is nothing there.


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