I have shared a couple of my poems on my blog in the past (Why Osiris is Green and The Christmas Tree). Now, I have a new poem, just finished this week, that I want to share. While the poem will not likely appeal to many people, it is precious to me and perhaps some of you will enjoy it.
I started it more than three years ago and have been trying to finish it since. I would sit for hours at a time struggling to eke out a few words that could match what was in my mind, and then, exhausted, put the poem aside for a month or more before trying again.
First, a few points to help you enjoy the poem more.
There are a couple of places in the poem where the rhythm requires a non-standard pronunciation. Those places have been marked with an accent over the vowel. For instance, “crackèd” should be pronounced “crack-ed” not “crack’d.” Otherwise the words should be pronounced as you would normally read them aloud.
My poetry tends to be complicated, and this particular poem is probably the most complex yet. It utilizes some very obscure language, references, and etymological connections, so I am including a gloss of some of the words after the text.
This is not a nonsense poem. It is based on true events with multiple layers of meaning.
And without further ado…
The Kingdom of Pissemyre
by J. Max Wilson
East of the cemented waste, the aspen stood, a sapling still,
And there a few aphidian peasants leeched their lives from phloem’s rill.
They lapped the aspen’s sweetest sap; rapt in bohemian blissmare, blind—
And sapped the sapling of its health (though still it prospered of a kind).
Then came the Bishop Barnaby and Stinkfly Deacon forth to feed,
And sanguinary sermons spoke with lurid liturgy and creed.
And so, by priestcraft’s gory glut, their doctrine inadvertently
Restored the tree to verdant form, though only temporarily.
Then from across the crackèd desert came the Piss’myre army, strong—
The ‘nighted nibelungian host marched one-by-one as ‘counts the song.
And up the sapling, up they marched (still one-by-one-by-one) until
With formic might the pissant host subdued the lesser peasants’ will.
The dreaded deacons then received the doctrine they themselves had taught.
The bloody bishops banished were, to starve to death for all they wot.
And in their place the Piss’myre lords set up a new society;
A kingdom grand, a great machine of order and efficiency:
“Divide, assign, to each allot a place, a part, a role to play;
To each his branch, his twig, his leaf, an overseer to obey.
Revoke their freedom every whit, yet to their vice impose no let:
To cultivate and harvest more their sweet, mellif’rous excrement.”
And gladly, gladly did submit the chattel to their slavery,
Contented only to be free to wallow in debauchery.
So nurtured by their overlords the lech’rous population waxed,
And ‘neath the load of sponsored sin the aspen sapling’s blood was taxed.
Through sun-scorched day and dark new moon, the kingdom throve thus for a spell,
And still the tree, all wan the leaves, drew strength from root’s deep, clonal well.
‘Till on a night an august storm with thund’rous wind ‘rose from the west;
The trees all danced ‘fore God’s great breath; from each its wrath obeisance wrest’.
The scent of dawn hung o’re the earth, while sun’s ascent revoked the night,
And lo, what new apocalypse dispensed now was by mourning light?
The jagged edge of xylem cracked; the leaves pressed wet against the ground;
Behold! The Kingdom down is cast! It’s unseen canker now is found!
There! bored by pissants through the pith, an hidden tunnel had been wrought
Up through the trunk, through which the yield of sin-crop might be swiftly brought!
And compromisèd thus the constitution of the sapling’s core,
The aspen could not then endure the storm and tribulation sore.
To ev’ry kingdom, vast or microscopic, certain laws are laid,
And exhortations, prophesies, and types and shadows in them played.
And so a warning sign is raised to kingdoms great and persons small:
Beware the taste of honeydew, lest thou like Piss’myre also fall.
- pyssemyre is the Middle English version of “pismire,” which is an obscure English word for “ant.” (see pissant below)
- phloem is the food conducting tissue if the tree.
- mare is an archaic English word meaning “a spirit or demon” and is the root word for nightmare. I have coined the word blissmare based on this meaning.
- bishop barnaby is an old name for a Ladybug beetle in English folklore.
- bishop comes from the Greek word “Episcopos”, which is also the root word for Episcopal. Epi-scopos in Greek means literally “over-seer” so the use of overseer later in the poem is intentional.
- stinkfly is an obscure name for a lacewing insect.
- nibelungian is a reference to the race of subterranean dwarfs whose hoard of riches and magic ring were taken from them by Siegfried in Germanic mythology
- formic means “1. of or relating to ants or 2. of, derived from, or containing formic acid” The Portuguese word for ant is “formiga”. In Spanish the ‘f’ over the last few centuries transformed into a silent ‘h’ and the word is now “hormiga.” The word is probably related to the smell of the formic-acid secreted by ants.
- The same smell of formic acid referred to by formic is probably the reason for the reference to “piss” in pissant, as well as in pismire, meaning the smell was associated with urine.
- wot is the past tense of the archaic English verb “wit” which means “to know.” It occurs 9 times in the King James translation of the Bible.
- let is an archaic noun that means “an hinderance” or “obstacle”.
- melliferous means “bearing or forming honey.” Some types of Aphids excrete a sugary substance called honeydew. Certain kinds of ants will herd aphids like cattle and harvest from them the honeydew.
- chattel is a movable piece of property, specifically a slave. It is etymologically related to the words “capital” and “cattle.”
- throve is the obscure past tense of “thrive”
- clonal is related to “clone” and refers to an organism descended asexually from a single ancestor. Aspen trees are often part of a vast, clonal organism consisting of many trees with shared roots.
- obeisance means “a gesture or movement of the body that expresses deference or homage”
- apocalypse is Greek for “to uncover or reveal” and means “revelation” but the poem also references the secondary meaning that has since developed, with which you are familiar: “end-of-world destruction.”
- xylem is the woody portion of the tree.