Fifteen Eighteen AD – John Chrostek

On the mustering grounds
of Argentoratum, where the Serments
de Strasbourg found its accord,
and hordes of hollow serfs wrought castle stone from tender
valley-grass,
upon that memory of masters, men and order,
the dance of St. Vitus came first upon
the lady Troffea and peeled open
the gatemouths of Hell.

It appeared at first like a compulsory fire.
The power of dance is of the blood,
the liquid heat of the philosopher,
the succor and flow,
the primal speak, the body-self, the beast.
At night, when gods have left us, it is a guide,
leading us into the coppice, the ever-dark and free.
Guided by that fire, Troffea
wove herself into a new reality
and rejected the Gifts of the Masters:
that which was sacrum and sane.

On the mustering grounds
one dancer became many
as evening paled to night,
as crow-songs bubbled
like shears. No one heard the joiners
consent or debate to dancing, no instrument
or melody spurred on the totentanz.
Words were already but wind.

Around the unending festival
of madness, architects of industry
toiled to compile forms and functions
in which to shape the pandemonium,
a fitting frame and stage to attempt a narrative control
and bring the people back from their deliria.
They thought to pin a meaning
to the spreading condition,
to the horror of its endurance, but meaning means
nothing to the divinity of skin.

The dancing carried on,
oblivious to the god-hand machine.
The dancers dropped, the curtain fell,
faces bent forever towards glee.

In time, the fire settled into wild grass
sprouting in the cracks of the floorboards.
The bodies were collected in a pit,
vacant sinews twitching
in the memory of a jig,
and the business
of the masters resumed,
haunted from the rafters
by the madness in its breaking,
as it best prefers itself to be.




John Chrostek is a Pushcart-nominated poet, playwright and author who
works at Powell’s City of Books in Portland, OR. His work has been featured
in publications such as Artemis, River Heron Review, and Cathexis Press

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