I came to the University of the Universe.
I came to the place of words seeking sustenance for my soul.
A decade of drought had parched the vapid landscape.
The famine was familial, the ennui unending.
Nurturing had been neglected.
My thoughts were emaciated, my emotions distended.
I hungered. Oh, how I hungered!
Daily, then, did I enter the hallowed portals.
In the cloistered colleges of convivial congregation
I gorged wantonly on the banquet.
I drank beyond my fill of the wines of sensuality and intellect
until the blood of grapes and the blood of men
ran down my face and soaked the hems of my garments.
Then did I laugh the laughter of inebriated indulgence.
For I, I too, could join the feasting.
Day and night did I return to the table and never, never could I satiate myself.
It is a wonder to me now that I would have been satisfied by so little.
And when I was bloated with the novelty of new minds,
I came to the place of shadows where the upright do not walk.
Or, maybe… maybe… we do all have a dark side after all.
And there, in the darkness, I met my nemesis.
I loved you, Scheherazade. From the first moments, I loved you.
What coincidence of cosmic synchronicity caused our cycles to cross?
I cannot say.
But in the time we had, Scheherazade,
you showed to me the wonders of the universe that immortals inhabit.
And you held me.
You held me
In your arms I resonated to the rhythm of eternity.
Nightly, daily you wove your tales
as if your life depended upon your so doing.
Only the tales kept you from the executioner’s sword, Scheherazade, and only for a season was there commutation.
For you were under sentence of death.
You had donned the black cap and had pronounced yourself guilty.
The bailiff awaited the final instruction to take you down,
and the jailer rattled his keys impatiently, even as we met.
Your gravity wrenched me from the mindless monotony of my obdurate orbit. Turning, tumbling, trance-held, transfixed in the light of your gaze, was I.
In a sempiternal leap of the soul you carried me to the heavens
where Mercury and Venus were your playmates.
Cordelia, Ophelia, and Desdemona were your intimates.
Juliet, Rosalind, Oberon:
And I, I too became a Galilean satellite in the orbit of the divine.
Per ardua ad astra, Scheherazade, per ardua ad astra.
I sought a mirror for my soul, and I thought you a void of reflection.
Yet you reflected not, Scheherazade. You were void of reflection, you were void.
Te deperire, Scheherazade. Dulce et decorum est pro amor mori.
Oh, so matter-of-factly did you show unto me Shangri-La.
For you were a diviner.
Water, and the dreaming hearts of men, did the divine, divine.
And Shangri-La was in my blood for you to see.
You chided me for the baseness of my intercourse
as if you knew from the first that that my high places had not died,
but merely were unconquered.
Your gaze bore into souls as mine will never do.
Thus it was, you moved me,
and I reached deep into my inner sanctum,
somehow to locate gifts worthy of the divine.
I scoured my kingdom for the richest I owned and was shamed that my offerings were barren.
Yet it was that my poor and humble tokens did distract you for a little.
You condescended to break your journey through the heavens for a spell.
I soared, Scheherazade. You promised me it would be so, and soar I as you taught me. We flew so high.
I fell so low.
But you were so high, Scheherazade.
You were so high.
Never should I have thought you could be satisfied with me for more than the shortest of seasons.
Never should I have risen in hope to dare to dream you could be mine.
I knew from the first that I could not reach you.
Would that I could have made it otherwise!
But our unity was transient while I hungered to be your eternity.
For it is unpardonable damnation for a mortal to love a deity.
And it is oh, so foolish for a goddess to stoop to love a man.
You knew this Scheherazade, you knew.
You tried so very hard to warn me.
Yet I would not see.
And for a season you allowed me to convince you it could be otherwise.
For an eyeblink I fooled a deity.
It could not be ever thus.
We cross the primordial boundaries at our peril.
We tear down the barriers set for our protection without regard to consequence. We step into the minefield of forbidden love
and are shocked when we are destroyed by the devastation we have initiated.
The dominoes fall.
The gestalt begins.
There are no innocents.
We are culpable.
Mea culpa, Scheherazade. Mea culpa maxima.
Whom do the gods consult when they seek permission to love a mortal?
They approach the throne rooms of dead kings.
A petition did you present there, my love.
The royal decree was swift and favourable,
the exoneration complete.
But still you could not believe it.
Still would you not accept that the king did bless our union.
So high was your morality, Scheherazade, so wide your guilt; so deep your anger.
So let us sit upon the ground and weep oceans into the graves of dead children.
Let us rage our affronted aphorisms at the inherent injustice of the universe
and the moral systems better men than us design.
Then shall we make pilgrimage to the Shrine of Incredulity,
adding to our number from the lost souls we meet
as we pass by the villages of the damned.
Malum noster hereditas est, Scheherazade, noster hereditas.
Did we delay the execution day, my love?
Did we postpone the slow, sad steps of Aphrodite’s priestess
as she approached the cell,
sacred book in hand?
What last rites did she read as you walked the final walk?
Who waited to execute you when you had ceased to weave your tales, my love?
Who held the Damoclesian sword that terrorized you nightly?
Did you dare to dream that if you sculpted another universe of articulation,
my unseen hands would hold back the blade?
Or perhaps you wished that I would add my strength to the executioner’s arm
to make the cut more clean.
The only executioner, was you Scheherazade, only you.
If ever you could confront the Dark One in the visitations that terrify you;
if ever you could turn to face The Faceless when the black times come;
if ever, ever you would allow your screams of terror
to be attended by the Apothecary of the Soul,
then you would know.
Then you would see that you were not held accountable.
So why must you crucify yourself in absentia yet again?
And why, oh why, oh why, would you not let me love you?
We know why, don’t we, Scheherazade?
You and I know that to love is a sin.
Only a god can love a god.
For otherwise do the Furies rage and are not be stilled.
Ever was it thus.
Mortality is made of commencement and completions.
We had our ending, Scheherazade.
It’s illumination bore through me in the dark.
Never have I known such pain.
It took two to cradle me that night.
I watched the sun rise with them
as I had watched it rise with you so many, many times.
But it chilled my bones.
Its light was frozen.
The sun will not rise upon me again, Scheherazade; nor will its light warm me.
Gaia will live; but I will not feel it through your hands.
The strings will orchestrate; but I will not hear them.
The arboreal inscription remains forever in the bark;
but I will not see it through your eyes
nor ever through my own.
It is a monument that will yield to the ivy growth of time.
Which future generations of Pan’s children will uncover it
and wonder at the handiwork of your passion?
We are impermanent, Scheherazade. Time is the cancer in our blood.
I am driven from the face of the earth, and your face I shall not see.
I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer in the earth.
But I shall not dwell in the land of Nod. East of Eden I shall not cast my gaze,
nor ever shall Enoch comfort my elder days.
Yet you have marked me, Scheherazade, lest any finding me should kill me.
And the mark is the legacy you have left me.
It is precious to my soul.
I will hold my legacy high
and display the gift of the goddess for all who will turn aside to gaze.
I still come to the place of words.
And now, in the University of the Universe
they esteem me as I once esteemed you.
The paradigms are broken.
The banquet is over.
Only the discarded remnants of garrulous gluttony lie strewn across the table.
I hunger no more.
I am satiate.
In the sweat of my face do I eat bread.
© Michael Forester