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1. Pavo


along the road

that leads down to the lake of fire,

the third peacock on the left

has had his way with you:

the blind peacock,

white in the moonlight

white as a moonbeam

(and just as elusive:

Another twister

trickster god,

speaking out of the whirlwind);

And he asks you,

And you drink.

2. The Kingfisher and the Feathered Serpent

And you wake up

Alone in the darkness

with a broken heart

in the midst of your life,

and you don't know the way.

And you stumble blindly,


in the blackness

for the longing he promised you.

My head aches, min chertz brennt,

and somewhere

down there

is the river of fire;

and yet

though you've lost your way

and everything else you had,

it feels like the way out:

so you follow the Fisher King

who might be ahead of you.

3. Interlude: Caius/Keas/Geesekeys

A bird

like you tried to build a hawk out of parrot parts

reading instructions in Greek

that will turn out to be the manual

for crows.

I wish I could meet one.

She might claw my eyes out again,

but she might tell me a river

that flows to the truth.

4. Bennu

And so

after you have slept with the King of the Salamanders

(you tried to glue

the shards of yourself back


some you leave behind)

the pieces will rejoin

welded together in the fire.

You emerge

Plumage singed, like sackcloth,

streaked with ashes

that fall from your eyes.

The mourning will not frighten you


Josh Burson has recently returned to Maine after going to various forms of school in three other countries (even if you don't count the Connecticut shoreline.) This poem is indebted to too many sources to name, but he would like to send a special shoutout to Al McLean and Robert Ferrar Capon.
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10 Jun 2024

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