Dharma Transmission

From the sun-grizzled sage of the wine-dark seas,
Tongue thick with mead, hand on the lyre,
Voice ringing out through the halls of his king
With a tale of cunning gods and men
And the female victims they traded in,

To a merchant’s bastard swaddled in ermine,
Stinking of old sweat and rosemary,
Pushing his quill across parchment
As he crafts blasphemous odes
In a cold room in Florence,

To a lying Flemish courtier,
Barely keeping his neck from the noose,
Rhyming in flowered deceitful code
Of his lust for a nobleman’s wife
In the guise of a poem on God’s grace,

To the son of a London tanner,
Eyes shining with holy madness,
Scratching the sins of the Industrial Age
On copper plates bearing the weight
Of his wild hieroglyphics,

To the dilettante wife of a dissolute lord,
Skin sallow from craving opium,
Penning incomprehensible sonnets
Of alien worlds and mythical cities,
All bundled tight in her dressing room closet,

To the hollow-cheeked darling of his generation,
Leg and youth blown away in the war,
His brief lyrics sick with a bittersweet poison
Drawn from the mustard air of a guilty time
When killing machines ruined men by the millions,

To a long-haired man packed tight with anger,
Ranting in front of a handful of people,
His verse like a flamethrower sprayed at the world
And all its officials, those in control
Whom he prayed would condemn him as dangerous,

To a quiet professor of slumbering classes,
In his room after dark, tie draped on his chair,
Processing the words to a satirical sonnet
No one will read but his closest of colleagues
And an editor who shakes his head yet again,

To me, a balding ex-shoe salesman,
Alone in my house, iPad in hand,
Poking online for the right sort of phrasing
To put an end to this poem about all those before me,
One more for forgetting by those who just read it.

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