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Paradise Shrugged: Songs of Exile



songs of exile

J.T Spalding

Shakespir Edition

Paradise Shrugged

Copyright 2015 J.T Spalding


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(with trumpets)

He was an elephant

I was a worm

As worms are

Boneless and furless

Humbled to roam

Among shrubs on wet fields –

Hedged in by thorny thickets…

He came by hooves and trod a path

For my journey and

A route for my escape

He was the tree

Whose boughs were overhung by many leaves

I was naked to the sun

And he gave me leaves

For my coverage

Lentils for my porridge

And weed for my pipe

He was an eagle

I was a man

Nameless among men

Faceless among gods

He gave me a hand for my lifting

And a feather for my ink

Now at first light

When the moon is slipping out

I kneel by the candle

And I sing songs…

I die to go to heaven

But not to see the Evangel

Nor the holes the soldiers gave him

Seeing that he had betrayed me

With a thousand kisses

I should pay him a visit

After I have smoked pipe weed

And made rings and arrows

At the feet of this elephant…

I die to go to London

But not to see the Queen

I have pumiced my beak a thousand times

In a thousand mountains –- to soreness

For this song

I should learn to speak in tongues of Elves

As I have the tongues of angels

I shall come to your light naked

I shall bring you an offering -

A quill, a jar of ink

And a plea to have my name written underneath yours

He was an elephant

He has trumpeted a song

To the dance, I shall come

I shall hew my tree from these thickets

I shall hollow it

I shall cut the elephant’s ear

I shall weather it under the sun

I shall make a drum

For the dance

I shall go to London

I shall play my drum

And I shall invite the world to excuse me dance…


(for flutes)

Doomsday comes out of ancient presages

Reaves us of our tomorrow…

Of our laughter

Of our dance

From their hills,

The gods are silent as we die

The stars hold back their twinkle

As we drown –

In the silence of the night

That wardens our laughters

They gloat over our misfortune…

The day comes with a smirk

And goes…

The world rolls on by

Eager to reach Armageddon

Leaving behind the songbirds

To sing us a dirge

To strange lands, we repatriate

Bearing with us our backpacks,

Our flutes of polished bones

A sentence of exile to strange lands

And a song to sing with deflated lips…


(for horns)

King Star

Lion claws of the dreadful nights

Even if you have forgotten we your sons

We invoke you –- out of the waters of the beginning

With thunder and lightning

Hold us in you embrace

Hide us from this present darkness

Cover us from our nakedness

A proud eagle waits under the sun-glazed skies

To presage your passage

Out of misty mountain-tops

A boat waits for you

At these slippery shores

To bear you to your homecoming

A virgin shall be your first mate on board

Hear us out of the depths

Our cries and our silences

And receive our totems

Of fire and ice

Chariot of fire for our dragon-captors

The grave that lie in wait

For our bones and our laughter

We pledge with a heartthrob

Nakedness in the mornings

We pledge our laughter in the evenings

Rise out of the east

And laden us with hope

With hope…

Show us a route

Lead us with a procession of trumpets

Out of the captivity

Of dogs and demons…


(for tenors)

Like deodorised linseed

Thrown to canvas

Slowly ascends my song

Like castles out of the winter ocean mist

And the night

Wakes us with an imprecation

Athirst for morning

But the forecast that spoke yesterday said

That tomorrow will not be brighter than today

Ill tidings,

Catcalls out of hell’s paradise

Summons us to the dissension of

Tears and blood

And the hunter’s dog

Threads with stealth

Bearing captivity and exile

For we worms

That roam the wild

With an elegy for the forest

Ever on our harmattan-blanched lips

Hope abandons us

Leaves us gazing about

In the night for a star

Flapping tentacles of desire

Like roaches waiting out of nocturnal shelters

& the winds come

Bearing with them a cloud

Of locusts –

Exile for our harvest

& the star comes

Leaves us with hollow bones –-

Exile for our flight

& the star shines

Upon us in fury

Weathers our skin

Reaves our blood

Of its warmth

Mother earth leaves us

Without a covering

As a mother gazelle does

When the hunter’s gun

Paws the lonely air

Its powder smelling of death

And exile

What shall I say to thee

Oh angel of ill tidings

Shall I not have myself shaved

To stand before the night

And to ask with quivering lips:

Which route shall I take

Shall I not saddle my horse

My hope

My laughter

My bones and my sandhouse

For this journey…

Shall the songbird not pumice her beak

For this song

Tell me, you who know what tomorrow will be…


(for altos)

Bloodbaths and bloodshots

Garrison of the Martian nights

The ruddy glow in yesternight’s sundown…

Our song leaks

Out of slit drums

Paws the air

Sirening the sleep of demons

Under the banner of love

The sword appears out of its scabbard

And virgin blood sputters

Out of our muffled cries…


(for flutes, strings and muffled drums)

There is no more talk of rains

Among men

None ponders again

Which way the clouds will roll at noonday

They have killed the rainmakers

The dry winds weather their skin

Roasts their lips

Tempers their bladder

Which way will the train go

What is the colour of the priest’s collar

Jesus is coming soon!

The trumpet will sound…

There is no more prayers for rains

As there are now too many ravens

That furnish their feasts

Out of the famine

The clouds hold their breath

Giving way to the stars

To scar the skies from underneath

The earth to which they no longer

Give libation in the mornings

The clouds wait for totems

Of blood, of sweat and of tears

To answer from the mist

With thunder and lightning…

And deluge:

The pregnant skies groaned in labour pains

The ears drummed

A song of death

But we did not dance

The clouds cackled with lightning

And thunder


The waves rose and fell and

The beast with it

We stood at the shores

& gazed at the leviathan’s nakedness

& the sun disappeared to its shadows

& we heard the waters break

But we did not run

& the mountains disappeared

But we did not bring a boat for the flood

The fishes disappeared into the deeps

Out rode the beast

We prayed to the hills

& the hills prayed to the forest

& the forest prayed to the shrubs

& the shrubs to the earth

& the earth…

The earth found us unworthy of her embrace

& men became fish

Mermaids came feasting

Blood became beer, bones became bread


Forgotten days

Out of memorial places

We invoke you

Appear out of your legends

Cause the solitude in us

To forget about tomorrow

Tomorrow that comes to strip us of our hope

Laden us with desire

For yesteryears

Of the days we stood counting the stars

Of the days we sat watching the birds

Of the…

All like a print made on the sandy shores

Have been lost to the waves on its rising

& the beast with it

We invoke you

Hear us out of your legends

Bring us to the fane of animal innocence

Make us an offering of immortality

Of glory and honour

Kindle in us a strange fire

By which we can melt broken swords

And smelt new ones

The days that gave us our names

The wars that gave us our heroes

We beseech you out of eternity

Into which you have entered

Hear us out of the waters of the beginning

And we promise with a heartthrob

Never again to forget…


(with chants)

once upon a time

when we were angels

then men gathered about us

clutching at our feet

with both hands

asking for a portent

they pressed through the crowd

to touch the hem of garments

they spread their handkerchiefs

and knelt

at our feet

then men were beggars

then the world had a more than smile to give

then they had fanes

at which they laid totems in our names

and said prayers

then wise men followed the stars…

but the angel in me has died

they killed the angel in me

with sticks and stones

then they stood apart and

they watched him die

without even a song

to which they sang along

they watched him drown

with his lamp held close to his bosom…

(as chants)

& the earth out of its four corners

Breaths upon us winds and monsoons

& we are gathered as skeleton

Out of our closets –

With a fetid fragrance

As an army of grasshoppers

Out of a lonely forest

To the valley of dry bones

And the body is given as libation

To the earth and its hungry fellows

& they eat the flesh

& pick the bones

& leave us stranded on these shores

With an elegy on our broken lips

As we lay about in the grave

Having only the memories

Of the days we stood and fought

With the sword in hand

But now forgotten

By this impudent girl named world

Who has hoisted her breasts

& reddened her lips

& moistened her face

& inflated her hips

& has set off to Armageddon

In search of a new lover

And mate…


(for chants)



Can these bones live

What say ye to these bones

What say ye the winds –

What say ye of the woman

Of the touch of her bosom

Of the moans of her passion

Of her nights which we once

Stood and wardened

What say ye of the chatter

Of the children at play

What say ye of

The stories that father once told

What say ye of

The song that mother once sang…

What say ye of

Our laughter

What say ye of

Our hope

What say ye of

Our tomorrow

What say ye of

Our bones

What say ye of

The deluge

What say ye of

The dream

What say ye of

The world

What say ye of


You have heard of the Sermon on the Mount

But have you heard of the sermon from the valley

Will you hear of the sermon from the valley


(for guitars)

Blind faces at crossroads

Sticks lead this procession

Of dreams and

Of shadows

Darkness patroons our voyage to the ditch

The shadows of forms

Overhang our faces

To the canons, we trudge

With a song

Stevie-wondering about our predicament

& the night waits for us

With a cold and cruel embrace

The night leads us on

To an island of dreams

Maroons us without a shot

And rows away whistling to the tide

The dream lingers

The dream becomes a nightmare

The dream…

What say ye of the dream?



I draw in my breath

— Envoy to the flute —

And second mate to the song

As the sun

At first light

Draws its sword

From the scabbard of night

And shatters with a thunder strike

Our window panes and blinds

Thrutching through and past

Atomic crevices of glasses and cotton

The grave mourns the theft of a bone

Like a blackened breast

On a child’s weaning

It weeps…

But can the dead sing a song

From a strange land?

The whirlwind passes us

Carrying our forebears

In decay and dust

& the age unfolds its threads

Like a ball of yarn

Down this side of the hill called time

& the gods look on

& on & on & on

Like dogs in wait for crumbs

That may fall off the tables of men

& the sun-glazed skies

Rises to the noonday

With a resolution to

Weather our skin

& the leaves draw their breath

& the forest cackles to the sun dance

& the silent shrubs

Strain under the canopies

Hoping to be invited to the feast

Doomsday comes and goes –

& the prophet comes and goes

& goes and goes

& the coming and going is without an ending

& the day runs to the river

For a baptism

But there were no priests

& there were no rites

At the passage

& the face runs to the mask

& the sword to the scabbard

& the midwife closes her eyes to the pregnant clouds

& the hero departs without a song

Leaving us to the captivity

Of dogs and demons

& the earth breaths upon us

Storms and monsoons

Hurricanes and thunderstorms

& the ram colludes with the tether

& the tether with the post

& the post with the earth

& the earth…

& the madman comes to his feast

Dragging his feet

With a whistle on his lips…

& the maidens redden their lips

Hoist their breasts to the feast of eyes…

& the moon drags us to the

Snow-blanketed mountains

& leaves us…

With wishes, wizards and were-wolfs

& the jaw grits

Mates with the tongue

For an imprecation

& a new day comes

Sings us a song

Foretells its own demise

& leaves us on this shore

& a full moon sears itself into the night skies

& empties the sky of its stars

& the feast comes

Finds us drunk and full

& the feast

Repatriates with its kegs

Of wine and barrels of ale…

& the prodigal breath

Runs to the winds

& the winds to the stranded seas

& the sea to the earth…

& the earth…

Nostalgic days, we bid you come

Hear us once again

Bring us to the mountain

And make us an offer of

Glory and honour

Sing us a song

To which we can hum along

Kindle in us a fire

For this feast

Of swords

Lead us to the pyre

For a sacrifice to the gods…

For a star comes out of the east

To weather our skin for their hide

& then the journey will begin

& the journey will continue

& the journey will end

My breath paws the air

Unclutches itself with a goodbye

Thrutches itself through the flute

To make its passage to an eternal exile…


(with hums)

Rings and arrows


Softly ascend my libation

To the sky gods

To the embrace of air and mist

Rock shields on paperboxes

Furnish us with fire for our feast –-

Shy undergrowths of the fiery forests

Follow us to this feast…

As I draw in my breath

To the song –-

And the leaf rises in the wind

On and on it goes

Like dust in the whirlwind it rolls

Ponds and ducks

Ducks and tails

Tails and feathers…

Softly ascends my libation

Softly rises my breath

To the embrace of air and mist

And breaths

Leading the procession

To an eternal exile…


(en sotto voce)

Astride the cold night

The white stick weeps

To the heat

And down its slender cheek

Drops warm tears of wax

Astride the windy night

The flame sways with many shadows

I lay down my egghead at your feet

To be scrambled into a meal

By the flame

In a pool of animal blood

Even the sun goes to sleep

In the mountains

& the birds to roost

In the trees

& the anvil to cool

In the workshop

But here we are

In each other’s lusty embrace…



I saw Death in a day dream

He held the singing oars

Which sang of the demise with devilish rapture

Of the rendezvous with forebears

Of the kisses, the hugs

Of the tributes that will be made in passing

Of tears and those that cry them

And of cheeks that ferry them down to the earth

Of memories that stand in pile, fold over fold

Of streets of gold and of seventy virgins

Of the star that will blaze our paths

Of the day that the ship will make port

Why should I wait any further

Why should I continue to wait

For the horns to sound out

Of the prostitutes’ waking

I should have myself shaved

To stand clean before the naked night

And to ask:

Where is the route I should take?

Why should I wait

For the day to break

Why should I care about the priest’s waking

Why should I care about the rites

And the one who holds them at the passage

Why should I pledge my heartthrob

To a maiden

Why should I give her my laughter

Why should I give her my nakedness

Why should I sing her a canticle

Why should I owe her a canzone

The elephants shall trod a path for me

Out of these thorny thickets —

Then I shall borrow a leaf from the trees

Then I shall sit by the river

Where men gather to sing strange songs

And finish this poem…


(for ballets)

The Vision:

Out of the distant nights

At sundown

Hear the distant drums

And the feet in accompaniment

The berceuse that summon

The sun to its sleep

Farther into time slips the vision:

In the darkness,

See the sun grieving

It lays about cold

Its hands and feet bound by the spell

That wardens our laughter

Farther into time slips the vision:

Out of the shells of the western mountains

Night is hatched

Night comes with its hammer and chisel

I hear its heavy strides

As the candles begin to appear

From the cupboards

To meet the dusk

Farther into time slips the vision:

See the night

With its hammer and chisel

It hollows the marrow out of our bones

And alights to the wind

With our hope

Our laughter and

Our dance…

May – November 2013

Paradise Shrugged: Songs of Exile

  • ISBN: 9781310096976
  • Author: J. T Spalding
  • Published: 2015-10-26 18:05:07
  • Words: 3127
Paradise Shrugged: Songs of Exile Paradise Shrugged: Songs of Exile