Issue 9 – Emerson

 

Alex Emerson

Desideratum

Just before dawnbreak,
Go outside, near the hollow oak
Eyes shut tightly toward the sun’s birth.
Stand still, but turn slowly in your mind
Ten times,
Then let your body turn ten times ten more.
Raise your left arm straight ahead,
Open your eyes,
And walk.
Straight.
Never step backward.
If you meet an uncrossable chasm,
Keep walking.
Straight.
For two days and a night.
Rest only when you reach the top of the Withered Stair,
Alabaster tainted with the brown-green of dead things,
And go down.
Carefully.
At the bottom of the Stair, turn left.
When you see Lion Rock,
Stop walking.
Turn right.
Ahead will be a cave.
You must enter, but with nothing in your pockets
And no guilt in your soul.
There are monsters in the cave,
But they will not hurt you.
They may growl and snarl and stare,
But if you leave them be,
They do the same.
The cave slopes downward,
But it is an easy walk.
You will find a lake there,
Deep underground,
And here the slow plink of the drip of the blood of the Earth
As she slowly shapes the lake
From above.
The path will split there,
Just beyond the lake,
And it is here that you must choose,
And let your heart guide you.
Both paths lead out of the cave and into a forest,
But the true path leads to a forest of peace,
And the false of violence and despair.
You can never step backward.
If you are on the true path,
I may yet see you again,
Though that will depend on what you choose next.
Through the forest,
You will come to a small hut.
The woman there is friendly,
And may even offer you food.
Do not ask.
Be polite.
Be patient.
Do not ask.
There is a statue of a squirrel facing east.
You should also face east.
There is a tree at the edge of the forest
A hollowed knot-hole decorates its skin,
And inside is a box.
It is locked.
The Key Maker can help you,
But will not open it,
And will not give you the key without the box.
The Key Maker is not hard to find,
And he is not far.
Once you have the key and the box,
You must return to me,
And then you make your final choice.
In one hand, I will have the key.
In the other, a torch.
The box can be opened,
The contents revealed,
And I cannot say what they will do to you.
Euphoria.
Terror.
Elation.
Agony.
You can set fire to the box,
And I cannot say what will happen next,
Nor what I hope you choose,
But your choice is everything,
The only thing that matters.