William Carlos Williams

Jean Sans Terre Leads the Caravan

Have I a hundred years since or
A hundred thousand tramped these wastes
With a track more vulnerable
Than fire of the sun that hastes?

My camel leads the caravan
Through centuries of rusted sand
To find as might any profane wind
The key to the oblivion land

My great-grandparents long since
Have worked this sea and no less
Could their passing shadow have brought
To yoke the ancient nothingness

Although life's mortal light
Would wring their hearts about by day
Still they had a candle lit
For antique love to find the way

In me their ancient skeleton
Of gold calcined by the years
And my new flesh tries as it may
To fill it with heavy cares

I hear the red wolf that howls
On the cavern of my blood
Cracking the bones at nightfall
Of the dream again abroad

Sail on sail on slow dromedaries
And traverse eternity
From the quaternary dawns
To the tomb's near certainty

My kin with limbs of gold and ebony
Die of thirst and of hope the most
At both my wrists I open the veins
That may prove to them a host

I wish that my love would rot
And never see light again
If by this final sacrifice
A young god be born in men

If without Alp to water
From the desert's lifeless skin
The freshness of a rose should rise
And a cloak of sudden green

No bitch will I need to chase
The hunger of a jackal
Enough that my faith revive
And the aurora of my choral

Offering those who covet
Slow camel and proud lion
Salt from my weak moist hand
The strength of my religion

spoken = Leon Branton