CANTO VII: THE FALL
Great plumes of ash and metaphysic churn
and fill the air, swelling and rolling—up
and out—and coating all with cindered Truth,
as Faustus, crowing from the vanguard, bellowed
behind to seething fronts: “Haha! Now shout!—
Storm! The Kingdom of God we claim for Man!—
And know: these figments and their Lord are ours
to make an ending. Onward! Bring it down!”
So all charged wildly in to liberate
and burn—to seize religion’s capital
and pillage Paradise. Trumping on mounds
of pearl-pure shards (strewn remnants of the Gate),
the human armies flooded through, and swamped
the vast, kaleidoscopic squares of Sacred—
whose glowing levels, Glory-led, long laid
their ladders to receive the dead, and souls
Now, loosed inside, they break
to tributary swarms of wreckage. Down
the golden streets and arteries—which beam
their sunray spokes in all directions—men
careen, and violate the mystical
from Heaven. Crackling distant fires, and moans
(as if through fabrics of its Essence) cry,
singing their dying musics down on scenes
of sacrilege and sabotage.
still dazed by grief, sought madly to escape,
and in a frenzy through the halls of God
ran desperate through His rooms and passageways
in search of any refuge.
an angry mob—and
down the other: more—
the world unhinged at left
down every corridor!—
So I run frantic
and flurry through the Halls—dodge crumbing walls
with harp in hand, and outpace pulse’s tempo:
eager to flee—but to what place and harbor
from a falling Heaven I couldn’t know…
Where—where was God? my heart demanded, called
for Him—till out my mouth the same call sounded,
and all of Heaven round me, echoing:
Where, where, where, where?
Eager and lost, I called.
I searched, from room to room—unthinking, crazed—
I flung myself, calling His name for saviors,
screaming for God amongst the empty stone
(now crumbling all around)—
But no voice came.
No answer broke the deafening silence there.
Through all of Something More’s deserted halls
which war had cleared, I found myself alone—
and shorn of Help. Only the echoing death
of something long-important rumbled round,
and in that muffled requiem I fell,
crumpling myself on slatted stones which paved
the vacant Throne Room of the LORD.
before that Kingless chair I wept my loss,
my ruptured innocence—to know, at last,
the truth. For I could put a name to youth,
being now knocked to vantage. —Idiot!
So long—so long—I bought and I believed it—
Damn it—Damn them! Damn hell and God and heaven:
salvation that doesn’t save. From time so young,
too distant to discern, I’d held His arms
and fortress spires impervious—more strong
than any army, any cause or doubt—
and lived in castled comfort, numbed by faith
and confidence that His were arms too large
to reckon with, too much of arms to arm
—at least the hymns and odes I’d sung
were propaganda to that end! My songs
once had the world believe it! Pious frauds!
Bleak lies for naked gods! My anthems: gilt
for kings of air and hollow nations! Chancel:
choir-pit of fools—angelic jesters. Faith:
that but a note can strengthen such a sea
of man’s imaginations, earth that pool,
and over liquid fictions sing so sweet
we might make some Messiah walk across
—and yet believe it.
No. No longer. Not
—no longer could I do it… sing of God
and sing sweet lies. No. I was sick of lying—
and sick of all illusions. Gods…could die…
—but I would not be by the while.
face red, throat hoarse, eyes raw and blurred and throbbing—
I lift my harp, and with a trembling arm
hurl it screaming at his empty Throne
whereon it shatters into shards.
I fell, and wept for what it meant. My God
was dead—and I I I was meaningless…
Echoes: …a pair of distant footsteps clacked,
and entered in behind.
…I heard them near…
but wouldn’t lift my eyes or body up
for grief, and so awaited death.
Probably, those shards told all—
the relics of a shattered faith in songs
with which he empathized—for, finally,
I turned, and, as the crackling fires caught hold,
I read Faust’s eyes beneath the crimson light,
wherein I glimpsed my future.
Up I stood,
and weighing all, I sighed…
he flips around, presenting me its grip,
which, hesitating, I received at last—
and clutched it tight. Heaven was falling down,
I was a singer of the LORD,
but there: no more. My Patron overthrown,
I saw the turning of the war, and turned
myself—to leaders that could answer me,
whose voices, harsh and ugly with their truth,
were audible at least.
For Song was dead.
But far off now, the Christ, Regina Cœli,
and most survivors from the war with Earth
had fled to Heaven’s stronghold—last defense
against the sacking hordes: to Eden’s woods:
a plot enclosed as Zion’s middle court:
its green, its central campus—nucleus
of Heaven’s cell, and greatest cloister for
the greatest Priory of God. Here lay
a lush and verdant dark-green garden, washed
with leafy saplings, dew-glazed grass, and slopes
of emerald fronds and ferns in flocks inside
the heart of Heaven. Deep within its woods,
within the center of the Center, stood
the two tall Trees that once vexed human hopes
of total happiness: that tempting trap—
the mortal Tree of Knowledge and, beside it,
the Tree of Life. One green, the other bright
as fiery maples in the throes of fall,
each could be seen from Eden’s entrance gate.
For by that massive archway, ragged bands
of frightened faces, wounded Angels, saints
and martyrs congregated—marshaled in
and overseen by Christ himself (who’d lost
the tranquil countenance of Sermon Mount,
and wore instead a face so stern to wreathe a whip
for sacrilege against his Father’s House).
All these, beneath the Shepherd’s aegis, stood
in huddled sobs behind the monster Guard:
two soaring, golden lamassu, with heads
of men, bodies of bulls, and flaring wings—
twin enigmatic sentinels, sphinx-like,
and blank-eyed brooding beasts. Yet, fiercer still,
there hung (perpetually swinging up and down)
a flaming Sword: a supernatural blade
ablaze, and turning every way, midair.
This trinity of threat God set to scare
trespassed humanity from treasure chests
of Immortality—when Adam fell:
the obstacles to over-life which man
could never pass (and so abduction-proof
against aspiring human hands). Here all
enclustered under siege, and kept the archway,
waiting as Christ’s now exiled court …for God.
was nowhere… Nowhere to be seen.
The view of Heaven burning stood complete:
a total panorama, end to end
(and weeping eye to eye)—spread out like fire
upon a vista, or a sea. And dull
like distant storms the noise came thundering,
and soft—dampened by air and interval,
and deadened by the sky. The sun was up,
but day was gobbled by the dark—in smoke
that wreathed from Heaven: Heaven conflagrate
Christ stood, and stared far out at it,
pondering Providence (just shy of doubt?),
till the whole world, sick with the accidental,
writhed eerily, and eager for an aim—
cried desperate to his ears for salves and Saviors—
and medicines of Destiny. So… strange…
it seems, that this
he turned, displaying in his look a kind of loss
in sad assurance…
When—as quick—he’s bright!—
ablaze with searing radiance, and bleached
with luminosity. His ocean sash
and crimson robe are gone, and, in their place:
regalia of Messiahship—the plates
and armor of the final Faithful Knight:
lavish with crowns, and flameful in the eye,
who treads the winepress of the Wrath of God—
and on his vesture, on his thigh: “The King
of Kings,” and “Holy Lord of Lords”: the Son;
the Christ; white Rider of the snow-white horse,
transfigured fully for apocalypse
and final holy war.
…When I was young
(not that much older than a boy), we learned
our Bible crayoning colorful, and still,
today, I can recall… those drawing games
in which we painted “Armor of the Lord”—
the Helmet of Salvation, Gospel Greaves,
Breastplates of Righteousness, and all the strange
and martial things to help us learn Ephesians.
…But… boys grow up… and what a mockery
of innocence would it suggest, if now
I said that this was how Messiah dressed?
Is that a farce? Then it is serious:
what once was dreadful proves quixotic jest.
And what is tragic but a helpless hope?
heroic children with their sabers drawn
to meet the barrels over No Man’s Land?
Now, plucking from the air that burning Blade,
he clutched her fire: MACHAIRON PNEUMATOS,
forged in soulflame—and strongest sword to serve
against the crude material of men.
And on his arm: the Shield of Faith.
that dazzling spectacle of heart’s defense,
so potently defiant in its make.
Upon its paradox of circled square:
a pictured life in Afterlife, whose groves
of after-being show a City there
beside her suburb, Earth.
That smaller town
held in its copper orb worlds upon worlds
of wondrous sights: the coming-ins of eyes
to smiling mothers under light, soft hands
of purple to the sky; the dimpled smiles
of later, blushing lovers holding hands
in danced delight, or bearing apples off
in woven baskets from the fields. But…there:
a crack: metal disguises worn by eyes
which saw those-come-in hurting, going out,
and sacrificed for More… There: purple hands,
age-wrinkled, trembled, folding in to lie
forever still, and folded in the Earth…
But by this broken town, so deftly shown
to shine instead, a wider City, higher,
outgleamed its neighbor-place, and seemed to smile
itself: The Afterlife of Earth—where mothers
who passed are mothers present still! and days
of dancing dance into eternities
of holding-hands, and apples. Lovers lie
unbent from youth to wrinkled hands, but fold
themselves together on the earth to watch
the stars. So all that beaten copper rose
to stronger things of blinding gold, and played
in Afterlife the deathless world of Earth…
Thus armed, and blazingly transfigured now
to battle-god from Prince of Peace, Christ turned
his Bride, never to be… and ease
her hopelessness, and wipe her eyes of tears.
He strokes her cheek, and, whispering her name,
says, “Come, My bride… Come come, My dear. Let there
be no more death, nor sorrow… no more crying…”
and wipes her tears away.
“And yet,” he adds,
“I have a fearful vision worth such sighs…
I fight it, though it stays, and seems to say
…I know full-well Heaven will fade. And I?
and I will die
to leave you widowed, lone
and desolate. And one day men will pass
and see our precious house a sepulcher,
devoid adoring—everywhere our spire
or steeple rose to mark our home: undone,
collapsing… stones heaped up in moss, not one
atop the other… Still, it has been good—
it has been good, so good, so good, my Love,
to love you. We,” He paused. “will see each other
So he spoke. She dropped her wind-blown hair.
And both stood still, and both looked off in silence.
But, over the sloping hills,
which gently blended to the cloisterwood,
mankind now rushes—sated with the wreck
and smoke, and eager for a final force
to crown unquestioned victory. Dim gasps
and muffled shrieks rippled throughout the crowd,
who, at the sign from their Messiah Lord,
retreat now through the woods, as Christ’s white horse
—to face the war.
Alone, he musters all his wrath—the Son,
turned Holy Power, pulsing bronze-hued heat
and pouring forth a golden radiance
of armored godhead, idol-like. His plume
of thunder nodded terribly on fierce,
scowl-slanted brow-folds—dark with nemesis
and drunk with righteous Anger. Flaming Sword
and planet-portioned Shield of Faith in hand,
he gallops on, unswerving, for the fight—
a glowing Rider over battlefields
of Paradise—like lightning in a storm!
And up he came—as we came gushing down—
to run these grim insurgents from his Throne.
We met upon the hill. Christ raised his Sword,
and mankind lifted guns. Myself—I stood
with them… held forth my weapon with the rest,
yet… could have sworn, beneath his crest, Christ’s eyes
met mine for just a second—long enough
for recognition to express, You too, my son?
And mine, as sad, replying with a tear,
For at that moment, Faust and Job
called forth to fifty million soldiers: men
of thought who wrote, and thoughtless men of doubt;
men of the New who casted custom out;
men under chains who chafed beneath dead weight
of crowns; and all free-minded men who then
believed them; all the myth-defying men;
and men who simply wanted different myths—
to all these men and women both exclaimed:
“His blood be on us, and our children! Fire!”
And everything around me clouded.
on bullet—as the Son surged forth—and we,
unloading rounds upon Divinity—
so much, so many (as He gallops toward)
a hot, thick haze of gunsmoke overtakes,
clouding our vision with a kindled fog
as we shoot blindly into air.
is smoke and lightning, flashes in the gloom
of red and orange; and everywhere: our shells;
and everything: absurd; as on guns blare
into an unseen void, beyond which lies
Now, the wild barrage relents…
the firing ceases, and the magazines
go still… We stand, uncertain, in a mist
before our Purpose—wondering
if It’s dead.
But the smoke clears—thinned like a rotting shroud;
the vapors dissipate, and we can see…
the body of a disappointed thing.
Christ, writhing slow upon the ground—his arm
still clutching half the Shield of Faith, as just
the lonely Earth, cleft from Eternity,
reverberated like a hollow bell
in crimson hands.
And all his side was blood.
Before I even understood, all hordes
around me broke from our fixed fusillade
and swamped the sloping dale. Upon the Son,
like flies upon still-struggling carrion,
the armies now descend—flushed with suspense,
and drunk with blood’s intoxicants—to size
their victim up. I followed them, unsure,
half-hesitant—went down into the vale
with all these hunters of my God: looked out
and saw them triumphing, as now they raise
the Wounded up. With burning Heaven backdrop—
sky dark; sun high—millions seeped into Eden,
and brought him, mocking, through the archway.
where the two Trees, now undefended, stood
and haunted from their heights, so vulnerable,
the one—Eve’s snare: “mother of Science”—Faust
now viewed with eyes all-whites, and to the crowds
cried: “There! to Knowledge! Bring him there, and there
he’ll die—prime effigy for dogma’s Sin,
and fears of Fire. Incarnate figuring
of ignorance, of damned-desires. Die, myth—
you fiction! Man and Truth now live again:
by the blood shed of gods upon the boughs
Then, with all the ire and strength
he had, Faust lifted him, and stood him up
and propped him hard against the trunk; and where
two branches forked to either cardinal point,
he raised his weakened hands—still bleeding out
from Faith—and nailed them shut into the Tree.
At this, the Son at last cried out, and broke
his lamb-like silence. On the Tree of Knowledge
he wept, and, dying, called to Mighty God:
“Father, forgive them! They would know too much.”
The Son thus left to hang on Nature’s cross
and beam, the army turned to see instead
the other Tree—the midmost-soaring wood
(and highest there that grew): the Tree of Life,
which promised all their Afterlife: all time
Its autumn boughs
drooped such plump fruits they sagged the branches down,
and, looking as to quench a primal thirst,
still beckoned to some deepest part of man.
A single taste might render each a god:
some supernatural and eternal soul,
unchanging and unending ever-being—
for every fruit: salvation from the ‘Death’
which we, of Heaven, only knew about
by Word and ancient prophecy.
instead of harvesting its blooms in heaps—
a torch was set ablaze and lit its leaves!
In one quick rush, the fire flared up, and blacked
the green of all Fertility—and killed
the tree that promised lasting life to all.
The science-minded mechanists and Faust
both fed the flames, destroying what the God
had kept so safe—burning the Grail—the hope
of all Beyonds—from men who’d burned to get there.
But scores cried out who’d lusted for its fruit
(nor fully comprehended yet their war
and revolution’s worth) to scream: “What? What!?
Insanity! Give us the fruit! The fruit!
You’re murdering Immortality!” So wept
the crowds at this new breach, and some of us
(myself included) bounded to its trunk
to try and salvage ashy clumps of rind,
and charred remains of our eternity.
But no: our task proved barren too, and we
began lamenting with our sooty hands
when stern rebukes from Faust broke out: “You fools!
Would you now mourn for what you murdered? Look!
We rose to fell these childish hopes and toys
of souls on golden clouds! these fantasies
of blissful-fields-eternal! Heaven falls
and man is mortal!
Bear that taste,
that ashen taste—it’s wisdom’s flavor: tart
but true. Its realization is the fruit
of this: our revolution!
You’d pick thorns
for shriveled berries—poisons lusted for
since fed so long on sugars: sweets—not flesh!
But hear, dear rebels! I shall bring you flesh!
Manna for minds and water from this rock
to be the Bread—and river out of Eden!”
With that, he ran toward the other Tree
where Christ still gasped and twice struck hard its trunk.
Bushels of husky fruit rained down in droves
and flooded at his feet. He threw his cane
and scooped them up, then tossed them at the crowds.
“Now take and eat! Enough of milk and Dreams!
Eat! Eat the solid food that Knowledge bears
and be like Men
—knowing that god is dead.”
With this command still ringing in our ears,
we viewed our globes—so plump, so thick, so bright—
timid to taste of the illicit truth,
brought them to our lips…
—L I G H T!—
In a sudden flash it blinds the World!
Tremendous!—horrible!—White Light, whose Source
is Light—as I had never seen before!
poured forth and searing from the Sky! a bath
of Power in an all-consuming Light!
and all was drenched with Overflowing.
Where was it flowing from? What was the Orb?
For into Heaven’s skies we dare to look
There: the awesome LORD!
High, looming up, astride a burning Heaven,
a pale Colossus of Eternity
stares down, above the City: arms outstretched—
in the iconic form—and towering
from torso up like a Great Sphinx, half-man
and half-Elysium. Upon His chest
burned fifty million faces: all our own,
providing Shape its contour; Light, its glow;
and in the compound Person that they make,
make up its soul: atomic essences
and imps in His Imperium. With blasts
of lightning, and deep thunder in His stole,
He broods above, His specter haunting Heaven.
And as humanity falls cowering
below, the Great God speaks (which floods the air
B e h o l d I A M t h e L O R D
I A M t h e A l p h a a n d O m e g a I
t h e L O R D a m O n e. E t e r n a l. A g e l e s s. F i n a l.
I A M t h e S o v e r e i g n a n d O m n i p o t e n t.
I A M t h e O n e W h o W a s a n d I s a n d W i l l B e.
T h e M a k e r U n c r e a t e d I A M H e.
And as He spoke, the Heavens seethed, and shook
infernos raging deep in Paradise…
Faust stood up, as all around fresh-cowed
humanity a hurricane blew wild
and filled his frock, dancing his coat and hair
like savage flags—and undulating gulps.
Leaning his weight into the turbulence,
Faust stands, and sneers, and looks, that God’s cast light
spreads out his shadow slant elongates: quite
as large as God (but running lengthwise), one
for one (one dark, one bright): both locked in struggle—
upon the verge.
Then Faustus answered: “No…”
and, biting deep his apple, adds, “You’re not.”
The haunting Giant swayed, His fierce blank Eyes
and deadened look unwavering—unchanged…
…but for a single speck of light that was
the face of Faustus, smothered out: one light
extinguished from the God’s composite: one
burnt out, bored in—a single, glaring dot
that blacked its disbelieving.
when now, against the violent winds, Job stands
and likewise sheds allegiance. “No!” he says,
tasting the bitter fruit of knowing pain
and knowing evil, gulps it down, and screams:
“You’re NOT!” Then, with his disavowal, dims
a second taper—and unlights the LORD.
Now all humanity grows bold in doubt,
rising in waves, and eager to deny.
From floor to feet they rise, unbowing up,
as, to the Sky, they look and state their credo.
So all across the soaring Titan, lamp
on lamp go dark! person by person—fruit
by fruit—as all the beaming elements
in God’s collage are inked, and starry slaughter.
It seemed, I think, like wind upon a lake…
when over tranquil waters blows a breeze
and turns it dark, prickling the skin with chills
and creasing wrinkles on the reservoir:
shivers of cobalt on cerulean.
For through the once-bright body of the LORD
a dimming spreads—spreads out, infectious, word
by word, as every “No!” exclaimed and taste
of fruit eclipses one more face that makes
His chest, shedding His splendor of that awe
they gave—we gave—and leaves, instead, a Man…
A small Old Man amid an unlit orb,
suspended over Heaven.
Then I gave,
gave up my soul—or, rather, then my soul
gave in. For, trembling with the consequence,
I looked up at my decomposing God,
and, tasting Knowledge, whispered sadly,
Two jets roared angry through the air, crossed paths,
and left an X of smoke above the City…
Jehovah held the sky, stripped bare of Light,
as all the final rays declined to dusk…
In this red moment sank the Son of God,
neck bending like a poppy, bowed by rain…
ruined… But—just before his spirit fled—
“It is finished” he cried …and bowed his head.
Then all Elysium was lit again:
brighter, perhaps, than even God had shone.
For mushroom-clouds can light the air so full,
explosions overwhelm, and make us see
how past all gods—or devils—men can be
when they aspire. For on the peaks of Heaven
each jet let detonate the Maker’s dust,
the fundamental elements of Earth
and all the Cosmos: split; riven in two;
and what thin veil still separated man
from playing-God: torn lengthwise, rent asunder.
In two colossal blasts, Elysium’s
great crystalline Cathedral was erased:
obliterated; funneled up, away
in ash and vapor: cast into the wind—
and all the remnant emerald shards too big
to be negated flung in diadems
of burning shockwaves, layered ring on ring…
Up, up the blazing willows bloom! with stalks
of fire, and flowering a conflagration—
two brilliant pillars bearing pediments
of flame, and messy petals in inferno.
…But all of it unfurled. The fireball flared,
and all the smoke and ash, imploding, curled
upon itself—that as the blast concludes,
its gash appears:
the greatest cratered Void
a soul can fathom, tearing through. A Hole…
Where Heaven stood, abysmal emptiness
now glared: a vacuum in the Overworld
sucking it down.
—the whirlpool Void
now draws—The ruins and the clouds
Domes broke to bricks, and burning spires collapsed
to the deep jerk of the voracious pull—
now gobbling everything.
Its yawning gulf
spread out, and ate the flood, misty and wild—
sucked to the vortex like a galaxy
of dust, or some celestial hurricane
with pupil-eye of nothingness. To loud,
horrific rumbles, all was thrust to jilt
and gyre, sucked to the rift—thrown, gurgled down:
Elysium, on fire. Steam, fog and smoke
and crackling thunderheads of billowed gloom,
and all the treaded realm of haze, and film,
dark nebulas, and blood-stained brume, and fields
of vapor where the Angels lay, men too—
collided into chasm: collided, and
passed through: to some deep nether-hades, lost
All that explosion spared
broke up, and sloughed away: great colonnades
wrenched down, and everything obliterated.
And in the tortured air: the LORD Himself,
fighting tornado currents like a ghost:
His million darkened faces fluttered off
into the gorge, a house of cards—to leave
but a ripped King, reluctant though deposed.
We watched, frantic and fearful—pulled in close
through roaring winds, and huddled desperately
round Golgotha. For there, warm Crucifix,
the Tree of Knowledge held: stood firm against
descending Heaven falling into Hell.
Downward She goes! tossed crystal, spire, and dome—
and the LORD God, battered inside the cyclone:
…Who knows the frantic fear of one
caught helpless in the undertow (if he—
from boyhood—doyen of the sea, should sink
in well-loved channels: surf and currents known
from youth, but suddenly turned oddly mortal)
who knows that face—surprised by death and change—
will have some sense of that wild wonderment
which now flashed over Yahweh’s. Groping mad,
in an incredulous new urgency,
He writhes, and fumbles as the whirlpool winds
pull down—till all the bricks and clouds are gone
and buried lies Elysium.
remained—lone Relic of that murdered land—
and struggled on the precipice, His back
pulled hellward by the final draw, and all
Time, Reason, Change, and Freedom, Hatred weighing.
slipping from verge
with nothing more to save Him
from chasm on chasm of such a deep descent—
a fall’s eclipse…
So down His shadow went,
clawing the air, and His deep-crimson robe,
wind-drunk with waves, endlessly falling, falling,
and falling into darkness from the stars.