Emperor Norton

Steamcurls from canal surface
writhing in ghost arms around his head -
praying on his knees in the road
before any blood was shed, by blades
of glass electric, silence
holding the striking hand

as before sunrise
a fragile paleness
for building cities
viscera of bulls

scattered into the black bay
sinking into unreflecting water -
trees cold to the touch
leaning and darkening as if for a burial -
deep in the wood,
lucid dreams of a titanic return
only the innocent left unburned

Incarnated once in a hotter land,
nailed into history: the traffic
backs up for miles behind the praying emperor
- haloed in emptiness -
gulls will not fly over the chaos maker
nor clouds form in his sky.

Divine fingers uncurl the roads, spines
shudder under mountain vertebrae,
lakes spill as their eyelid beds grind open
a madness
of hard-dreaming hobo bones
unbroken, the chill of centuries -

Our shadow caster -
sunburned, longing for sleepy rain -
churns blood through river-smooth stone
the ebon pool, angel hands
to encompass stars
flung a hundred leagues
ribcage lightning conductor, judgement
of the heart and nerves -
today only

the stillborn children hug on the riverbed
alone in the morning of the sea