laqskins oracle

yearning to find meaning
in the myriad noises and images
crowding his senses day in day out
without offering answer or solace
abbé boulah turned at last
to ancient traditions
augurs, high priests, i ching
recommended
by well-meaning friends and traitors
intrigued by the image of high priests
standing in solemn silence on marble terraces
of mediterranean holy sites
watching the flight of birds

what were the rules
the key, the connection
between the patterns of geese
making their unerring angled way
across the path of helios’ chariot
or the silent circles
of black-winged vultures
waiting
for the death of some suffering creature below
and his own troubled questions

he did not find in himself
the indifferent strength
of knife-wielding priest
slashing the throat of sacrificial sheep
filling earthen bowl with its blood
summoning shadows from nearby woods
to approach and drink
arranging the innards into signs
predictions, interpretations
revelations of hidden meaning
of deeds of helmeted leaders
gathering warriors for vengeful raids
upon some other sun-drenched island
turning the bowl, reading the signs
into dark pronouncements
that would retain their ambiguity
premonition of death or glory —

sighing, resigned accepting
his lack of oracle secrets
he poured his questions upon still waters
swirling ointments on the surface
the sign of the question mark
vanishing in the spreading oil
moving the swirls with his breath

gathering patterns on parchment
offering to the rays of the morning sun
murmuring, muttering
what others might have called prayers
he returned to the images
dried memories of random flows
tried to read meaning
into swirls and crisp edges of pigment
spaces receding into infinity
galaxies of distant universes
mute signs made up of those infinities:
promises or warnings?

only to find his dreams

doubts and memories mirrored
in the textures and surfaces
of those infinite questions
no answers to hold on to

he sold the pictures
to aimless passersby
who were actually
looking for picture-trophies
of ducks

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