The Hound of Empedocles

by David L Major


The hound of Empedocles is deep in slumber;
his dreams are hot and of Nickneven,
and other awful Scottish hags.

Nidhogg the serpent gnaws
at the root of the ash
and all the while,
unconcerned that this may fall,
Empedocles in his purple robe
regards the breeze that scours the clouds
that through the day obscured the view;
the airships of the Northern King;
battlefields that stretch and
sprawl on black and golden sand
where the Emperor has ordained
and raised his hand
and so our mighty and ungainly
Hephaestus made so thus:

Prometheus lies, laid low,
surrounded by his precious, senseless, clock...
Prometheus lies in chains
among the hollow senseless wreck
of the ship that ruled the sky
and was in turn
the flagship of the Emperor’s fleet ―
the mighty Roc that crashed and burned...

The hound that slumbers on
lives in Copenhagen and the Port as one;
one bronze sandal chewed in each,
depending on which eye is open;
on which hand the deity that dances
raises and the sky below its feet
unravels to a pulse
and in that pulse does play the tune of separate notes
that bind all Copenhagen and the Port as one
to the wheel that turns in concert with the sun
that rises on Copenhagen and the Port as one;

* *

The rain persisted until it filled the world,
seven boroughs of the town are islands now;
between them water lies dark and deep
and full of things that of dark deep violence speak;
and all the streets are gone,
and all the air is dark;
and the baker and his wife
sit surrounded by their sourdough
and the sputtering flame that flecks
the dark face of all the world
with a little light, and all is lost...
but in Copenhagen they have burnt the toast.

The hound of Empedocles is deep in slumber.
His dreams are hot and of Nickneven
and all these awful Scottish hags;
Nidhogg the serpent gnaws.
Such is the root of the ash.

* * *

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