April 15, 2012

Jehan de Mandeville, Returned from the East, Orders His Affairs


Jehan de Mandeville, Returned From The East, Orders His Affairs
by Jacob Rakovan

On Michaelmas day, when the divil fell from heaven, we took to the sea and it was a black going, and long ways we came at last to the holy land,under letters from the Sultan,
I saw the blood stained rock where our lord Jesus died and going further then we came to the sea of Ind where adamant stones bristle with the masts of ships and iron, and going on, went through that valley where the head of the devil stands,and saw the heaps of gold and murdered men and touched them not, and came round at lastto the kingdom of Prester John.

And what telling is there of that black king, and the wonders and terrors of his land?
How they honored their dead, throwing gobbets of flesh to the vultures and called them angels, come to take them to heaven, and drank toasts to their fathers from the brimming bowl of their skulls and yet marched the cross before them into battle, and how I kissed the yellow robes of the patriarch of St. Thomas the doubter. In the north of that land there is a wall of steel, set by Alexander, who they call Dulkannon, to bind Gog and Magog, till such time as the earth shall cast it asunder, and beyond that end we could not travel. In Tartary I drank once, from a well they said could keep a man from death, but now, in my own country, swollen with gout and wonders,

I await the opening of that other door, that other angel,
blacker than buzzards against the sun,
wait departure for that other kingdom, that other king.

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Jacob Rakovan is a 2011 New York Foundation for the Arts fellow in poetry and a resident of Rochester, NY.