Thursday, June 30, 2016

Keith Francese writes

sea, sonoran

I as if desert bracken sewn
upon the dark Atlantic

with the stars’
wavy reflections for eyelets

lay damascene

god is it quiet out here on a Saturday night

the mermaids swum
the sirens sung

only the faint hum of blithering hearts all young and verveful
the glittering scraw of fireflies

on the roiling streets of a faraway Atlantis

Atlantis- -- Thomas C. Fedro


  1. Atlantis
    Being set on the idea
    Of getting to Atlantis,
    You have discovered of course
    Only the Ship of Fools is
    Making the voyage this year,
    As gales of abnormal force
    Are predicted, and that you
    Must therefore be ready to
    Behave absurdly enough
    To pass for one of The Boys,
    At least appearing to love
    Hard liquor, horseplay and noise.

    Should storms, as may well happen,
    Drive you to anchor a week
    In some old harbour-city
    Of Ionia, then speak
    With her witty sholars, men
    Who have proved there cannot be
    Such a place as Atlantis:
    Learn their logic, but notice
    How its subtlety betrays
    Their enormous simple grief;
    Thus they shall teach you the ways
    To doubt that you may believe.

    If, later, you run aground
    Among the headlands of Thrace,
    Where with torches all night long
    A naked barbaric race
    Leaps frenziedly to the sound
    Of conch and dissonant gong:
    On that stony savage shore
    Strip off your clothes and dance, for
    Unless you are capable
    Of forgetting completely
    About Atlantis, you will
    Never finish your journey.

    Again, should you come to gay
    Carthage or Corinth, take part
    In their endless gaiety;
    And if in some bar a tart,
    As she strokes your hair, should say
    "This is Atlantis, dearie,"
    Listen with attentiveness
    To her life-story: unless
    You become acquainted now
    With each refuge that tries to
    Counterfeit Atlantis, how
    Will you recognise the true?

    Assuming you beach at last
    Near Atlantis, and begin
    That terrible trek inland
    Through squalid woods and frozen
    Thundras where all are soon lost;
    If, forsaken then, you stand,
    Dismissal everywhere,
    Stone and now, silence and air,
    O remember the great dead
    And honour the fate you are,
    Travelling and tormented,
    Dialectic and bizarre.

    Stagger onward rejoicing;
    And even then if, perhaps
    Having actually got
    To the last col, you collapse
    With all Atlantis shining
    Below you yet you cannot
    Descend, you should still be proud
    Even to have been allowed
    Just to peep at Atlantis
    In a poetic vision:
    Give thanks and lie down in peace,
    Having seen your salvation.

    All the little household gods
    Have started crying, but say
    Good-bye now, and put to sea.
    Farewell, my dear, farewell: may
    Hermes, master of the roads,
    And the four dwarf Kabiri,
    Protect and serve you always;
    And may the Ancient of Days
    Provide for all you must do
    His invisible guidance,
    Lifting up, dear, upon you
    The light of His countenance.
    --W. H. Auden

  2. The Sonoran is the hottest desert in North America. Its 260,000 sq kms (100,000 sq mi) spreads over large parts of Arizona and California in the US and Baja California, Baja California Sur, and Sonora in Mexico. When Francisco Vásquez de Coronado traveled through the area in 1540, he referred to it as the Valle de la Sonora, and Francisco de Ibarra referred to the Valles de Señora on his1567 expedition, but it is not clear why they called it that. In 1527, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca was part of a disastrous expedition sent to explore Florida; he and only three other survivors traveled across the Southern US until they finally reached northern Mexico in 1536, carrying an image of Nuestra Señora de las Angustias ("Our Lady of Anguish") on a cloth. A more likely explanation is that the name was given to the area by Diego de Guzmán, who crossed the Yaqui river there on 7 October 1533 (the day of Nuestra Señora del Rosario, "Our Lady of the Rosary"). In 1739, Friar Cristóbal de Cañas advanced the theory that the name comes the Spanish mispronunciation of “sonot,” the native word for a natural water well.

    Keith describes himself as lying “damascene.” He may have been having a type of epiphany, such as when Saul of Tarsus was on his way from Jerusalem to Damascus under a mandate from the Jewish high priest to arrest Christians for questioning and possible execution but was blinded by a bright light and was asked by the spirit of Jesus why he was persecuting him; as a result, after he recovered his sight, Saul became St. Paul, the chief creator of the Christian theology. Or he may have had a more quotidian reference in mind: Damask is a reversible figured fabric with a pattern formed by weaving with one warp yarn and one weft yarn. Today they are usually produced in monochromatic (single-colour) weaves and feature soft highlights which reflect light differently according to the observer’s position. Similarly, the term is applied to the art of inlaying different metals into one another (typically gold or silver into a darkly oxidized steel background) to produce intricate patterns. A Damascene process (additive patterning) was developed to allow semiconductor integrated circuits to use copper interconnections, since copper is a better conductor than aluminium; therefore copper-based chips can have smaller metal components and use less energy to pass electricity through them. The underlying silicon oxide insulating layer is patterned with open trenches where the conductor should be, and a thick coating of copper is deposited, overfilling the trenches, and then the copper overburden is removed; the copper within the trenches remains and thus becomes the patterned conductor. Damascus steel was used to make sword blades that were characterized by distinctive patterns of banding and mottling, reminiscent of flowing water, and were reputed to be tough, resistant to shattering, and capable of being honed to a sharp, resilient edge. Damaskeening is decorative patterning on a watch movement made from very fine scratches by a rose engine lathe using small disks, polishing wheels, or ivory laps. Two-tone damaskeening can be created by applying a thin plating of gold and then scraping through it into the nickel plate or simply by damaskeening on the gold layer itself. Either type of reference, however, symbolizes a kind of simultaneous but seemingly incompatible duality, just like a Sonoran sea.

  3. The Sirens (Seirēnes) were beautiful creatures who used their enchanting voices to lure sailors to wreck their ships on their rocky island. They are best known from Homer’s “Odyssey,” in which Odysseus had his sailors plug their ears with beeswax and tie him to the mast of their ship with orders to leave him tied tightly to the mast. When he heard them sing, he begged to be untied, but his crew just bound him tighter until they were out of earshot. (According to Hyginus, sirens were fated to live only until the mortals who heard their songs were able to pass by them, so Odysseus’ action would have meant their deaths; and, indeed, some post-Homeric authors stated that they threw themselves into the water and perished after Odysseus’ departure.) In the “Argonautica,” when Orpheus heard their voices, he played his lyre and drowned out their voices, but the sharp-eared Butes heard their song anyway and leapt into the sea, only to be saved by the goddess Aphrodite. Early Greek art portrayed them as birds with large women's heads, feathers, and scaly feet, but later they were shown as female figures with birds’ legs, with or without wings, playing harps or other musical instruments. Numbered variously from two to five, they were the daughters of one of the Muses and the god Achelous, the largest river in Greece. When Hera, queen of the gods, persuaded them to challenge the Muses in a singing contest, the sirens lost and the Muses plucked their feathers to make crowns. Later, the Romans tended to view their parents as Phorcys, a primordial fish-tailed sea god with crab-claw forelegs and red-spiked skin, and Ceto, whose offspring included a host of monstrous children, including the Gorgons. According to Ovid, they were the companions of Persephone who were given wings by Demeter to search for her after her abduction. In the 6th century, St, Isidore of Seville (Isidorus Hispalensis), the last of the Fathers of the Church, was of the opinion that the Greeks imagined “that there were three Sirens, part virgins, part birds, with wings and claws. One of them sang, another played the flute, the third the lyre. They drew sailors, decoyed by song, to shipwreck. According to the truth, however, they were prostitutes who led travelers down to poverty and were said to impose shipwreck on them. They had wings and claws because Love flies and wounds. They are said to have stayed in the waves because a wave created Venus."

  4. Atlantis ("island of Atlas") was created by Platon to make a point about national hubris. When the gods divided the earth so that each would have his own lot, Poseidon was given Atlantis. He fell in love with Cleito, the daughter of the original inhabitants, and she bore him five pairs of male twins. Poseidon carved the mountain where Cleito lived into a palace enclosed with three circular moats with widths that increased from 1 to 3 stadia and were separated by proportional rings of land. The oldest twin, Atlas, was made the king of the island and the ocean, and his brothers were given subordinate realms. Northward from the mountain, they built bridges to the rest of the island, dug a canal to the sea, and carved tunnels along the bridges (so ships could enter the central city) and docks from the moat walls. Every passage was guarded by gates and towers, and each ring was surrounded by a wall constructed of red, white, and black rock quarried from the moats, covered respectively with brass, tin, and orichalcum, a precious metal found only on Atlantis. This was according to Platon, in his unfinished “Critias” and the “Timaeus,” both written in 360 BCE, and supposedly told by Egyptian priests to the 6th-century Athenian lawmaker, Solon, and passed on for generations to Solon’s relative Critias, who told it to Platon’s teacher Socrates, the semi-fictional center of all of his dialogues: “For it is related in our records how once upon a time your State stayed the course of a mighty host, which, starting from a distant point in the Atlantic ocean, was insolently advancing to attack the whole of Europe, and Asia to boot. For the ocean there was at that time navigable; for in front of the mouth which you Greeks call, as you say, 'the pillars of Heracles' [Gibraltar], there lay an island which was larger than Libya and Asia together; and it was possible for the travelers of that time to cross from it to the other islands, and from the islands to the whole of the continent over against them which encompasses that veritable ocean. For all that we have here, lying within the mouth of which we speak, is evidently a haven having a narrow entrance; but that yonder is a real ocean, and the land surrounding it may most rightly be called, in the fullest and truest sense, a continent. Now in this island of Atlantis there existed a confederation of kings, of great and marvelous power, which held sway over all the island, and over many other islands also and parts of the continent….But at a later time there occurred portentous earthquakes and floods, and one grievous day and night befell them, when the whole body of your warriors was swallowed up by the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner was swallowed up by the sea and vanished; wherefore also the ocean at that spot has now become impassable and unsearchable, being blocked up by the shoal mud which the island created as it settled down." This happened some 9 millennia before Platon’s time.

  5. In the 5th century CE, the neoplatonist Proclus elaborated: “That an island of such nature and size once existed is evident from what is said by certain authors who investigated the things around the outer sea. For according to them, there were seven islands in that sea in their time, sacred to Persephone, and also three others of enormous size, one of which was sacred to Hades, another to Ammon, and another one between them to Poseidon, the extent of which was a thousand stadia [200 km]; and the inhabitants of it—they add—preserved the remembrance from their ancestors of the immeasurably large island of Atlantis which had really existed there and which for many ages had reigned over all islands in the Atlantic sea and which itself had likewise been sacred to Poseidon.” Crantor, a student of Platom's student Xenocrates, insisted the story was historical fact and even claimed that Platon himself had talked with priests in Egypt and viewed the accounts written in hieroglyphs on pillars. The myth of Atlantis has continued to be the subject of art and speculative, philosophical, mystical, and scholarly literature and art ever since, and has been "located" in various places around the world.


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