Forsaken, the Carthaginian Quartet. Poem. Joseph Armstead

…the warm waters of the Punic ports stir fitfully…
City of Bones, languid and arid, it sleeps,
skeletal ruination of Phoenician dominion,
Hellenistic citadel, on the eastern shores
of Lake Tunis, once a sandy jewel
in the crown of Elissa,
birthplace to Hannibal,
and legends of endless war…
the squawking of gulls threatens the silence

1.) Confessio Nunquam
— my voice will hide —
the membranous gates
to my secret heart
are stitched shut, sown
of coarse thread, spun of denial,
I let nothing bathe
in the revealing light of day,
hiding nakedness
behind a fragile,
cracked, mirror-mask,
a spiders’ web map,
faultlines of the psyche…
— Sssshhhhh—!

2.) A Strange Blindness
History obscured
behind a wall of lucid dreaming,
soft-focus P.O.V.
through the vaseline
smeared over a camera lens,
I clutch the Past to my chest,
cautionary, restrictive,
custodial, prenominal,
let no picture escape, no image
be seen, no tableau unfold,
sub-rosa, clandestine,
none can know the Truth…
— cryptic, let sleeping dragons lie — 

3.) Sigmund Benedicta
…shamed, I camouflage my ferocity…
I am struck mute.
searing magma of flaming tears
behind eyes swimming
in the memory of damnation,
while shameful denial forms the lyrics
to a song stuck in my throat,
words set to the music of heartbreak
waiting to play
before an audience
eager to judge…
chaotic, quixotic, impracticable and dreamy
my anarchy seeks its voice
— hush, I will not speak —

4.) The Justinian Variation
the dam breaks, the levees are overrun,
the hot stones of the rocky shoreline hiss
as the waters cascade inward from the harbor
the necropolis coughs its myths
into the air, fable and folklore
dancing with skeletal ghosts
through the haze of antiquity,
and the waters rise yet higher
and the sun-baked ruins grow cool
The sound of my voice astonishes me:
bygone phonems, repressed grammar
and disremembered syntax mix
with nostalgia
creating a lullaby
for ravens.
Unrestrained, I sing
in the City of Bones,
the squawking gulls
my choir…


Joseph Armstead is a suspense-thriller and horror author living in the United States’ San Francisco Bay Area.   Author of a dozen short stories and ten novels, his poetry has been published in a wide range of online journals, webzines and print magazines.   A mathematician, Futurist and computer technologist, Mr. Armstead’s poetry often defies easy description, but frequently includes neo-classical imagery, surrealist viewpoints and post-modern themes.


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