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Shaft-Hole Axe Head with Bird-Headed Demon, Boar, and Dragon

Stuart Greenhouse

The one real mouth is under
their feet, 16 teeth-
like ridges on either side of
where the shaft had fit. Long
dust, but
the scene
which topped it once remains.
Look, my friend,
the soul of confusion, is there.
I recognize him by
his feet grasping air,
by his two gold buzzard heads
and their steady sensitive eyes,
by the way he twists each
to an adversary,
spiritual hunger closing
in on his right, physical
his left. He is the only
obstruction they see, the intruder
they arrange their appetite to.
The pinch-bellied dragon
crawls from low
the axe’s nape, his tail scraping air
where the shaft had been; his bronze
scales, his part-bronze
wings, his foreclaws churn
deep the demon’s side, yet still
his hunger is stayed
at the throat
by the demon’s steadfast grip;
his leonine mouth, see,
is windless, his hopeless eyes
transfix nothing
but the unsculpted air we breathe
moving reflectionless
beyond the demon’s twinned heads.
Not so contemplative
the boar
whose dull gaze fixes down
the soul’s gullet
to the line
where the bronze heads meld to iron
clumsily enough for its artifice to show;
where his tusks would be
were his snout not clamped
shut hard
enough that
he strains
from that hold
his back
into the substantial blade which is the point
of this all
and here I, enmuseumed
stranger, am, openmouthed
at what,
drawn to its balance, I hunger
to hold, heft, swing.
There’s nothing
to touch
yet I let the heft slip
its weight through my eyes
to the killing side
of the weapon
as the dragon of it
pulls to the top like the sun, blindingly
flashes. I right
it, note its balance
calls for one to hold it balanced.
Built for killing and power, yet
emptied now of intent
as an acorn, as
we slot together
it concedes
to lie with me
when I lie, rise
with me when I rise,
all the days of my life,
this ancient juxtaposition.

Stuart Greenhouse

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