“Mnēmosynē” by Peter Dreyer

“O Duty,
Why hast thou not the visage of a sweetie or a cutie?”
—Ogden Nash

Abandon beginnings,
make compromises.
    or winning
    ask nothing;

but for articulate payment
rise to the bait,
if needs be,
eating your words.

Flog (if you must) your vermilion
blood, your cold bones steamed
in the conscientious
copy shop of the mind,

crania, skulls exposing
iridescent entrails—
innards of the spirit,
a rainbow of

motley and multicolored,
birds of the soul preening
on all azimuths unashamed.
Conscience, lime-feathered;
common sense, porphyry
streaked with white crystal;
lust, madder—rock ‘n’ roll!
rage, a blippy blue sea,

    but black
    O black!
singular as midnight, black,

    mother memory

Peter Dreyer is a South African American writer and author of a number of books, including Martyrs and Fanatics: South Africa and Human Destiny (New York: Simon & Schuster; London: Secker & Warburg) and, most recently, a novel, Isacq (Charlottesville, VA: Hardware River Press, 2017).

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