nebula
A Gnostic, Occult, and Imaginative Approach to Astrology
 
 

QUIPU

Or
The Emperor Cubed

by
Francis Donald Grabau


These poems began in
San Francisco in 1970 when
I met Allan King, and they
continued while we hitch-hiked down
thru San Diego, San Blas, Oaxaca, Tehuantepec,
and on into Quintana Roo.

They began when he said to me:
Ď Touch your shoulder
where it curves into your neck. í
And they are for him,
You
.

(1)

Downtown San Francisco, Market Street,
May, 1970:

I am standing in my shadow, absorbed
elsewhere, on the sidewalkís
corner. Thereís a hole there
in the concrete; thereís a wooden cube
guardedly built around it.

The boards of the cube are broken thru, and a little
boy keeps running past this same corner, humming
-maybe 20 times. Inside, the broken cube
written by finger tip
in the wet
concrete:
Ď I can, you can, we can
I could, you could, we could
I should, you should, we should. í

I turn,
quite ungrammatically,
towards the Emperor, and we
(puzzled) begin
our walk.
(2)
 

The archer steps
into the woods, -thinking
itís the forest;

he wears ten stitches
sewed to his lips; at itsí
touch
the grass begins to sing. several
constructions
converge at once. into
a box. It erects
itself
on the path spread out
under a rainbow.

Fourteen swallows fly by directly
into the mirror; it bleeds
until the moon comes out
carrying the poem: bloodless, in a
bowl of concrete and
silvered ashes.

The archer shoots his arrows; where they fall
a ram appears red in the charging
window; he is wearing
his horned skull
split like a funnel
with two words in between. I eat them, and
climb

down into the cellar
where theyíve hidden
the engine
that keeps the forest
running.
 
 

(3)

You,
are part of a
scheme: the forest is
a cube, the Emperor
sits there, -dividing
trees; no colors are
reflected. The sunlight is
opaque, the leaves
drink it; the Emperor

rests, talking to
the rocks; they burst
into flame.

Nothing in the forest is
burning; the smoke
turns into shadows that
move thru the heat;

if you canít focus
the angles correctly, numbers
will pour out of the sky; they will
drown you. The Emperor claims

this is called
the transmission of mind.
 

4)

In the beginning, I discovered
the Emperor enclosed
in a fog by the sea; he was not
sitting on the forest floor, he did not
advise me to give up
the poem. He advised me

to kiss his lips. I informed him of
the iron bell
over my head; I spoke of
itsí metal tongue, and showed him
all the blueprints. He
put his foot in the ocean.

I swam toward him full of
explanations about the Angels, -their voices
and their wings. A fish hook appeared in the window where
the Emperor disappeared in
that same window; the Magician

walked out of the tall trees, and stood
behind it. The window
transformed itsí clear hieroglyphic
letter into a mirror; that feeling
was perfectly aligned
with the forest; it ran parallel to the river
that opened up at the bottoms of our feet. The red

voice of the Emperor advised me
to give up my lips
to the poem.
 

(5)

The forest has become a jungle; it has
grown down to the ocean. The waves
canít move, the air is
hot. Water; and
fire wonít burn. Rain
collects on the
bearded window.

The petals of my hair are curling; they are in love
with the roots of your eyes.

On the sand there is a fan
turning; itís blades
cut the green snake
crawling thru them. A few dry
sticks
have fallen out of the sun; they float
just above the rippled sand
in the steamy form of a puzzle. Soon,

the camel with shapely breasts
will rise out of the water wearing robes of apples and
purple pomegranates. She will send
cinnamon to the green iguana
from the promising tips of her
fingers; he will blink
his eye. All the world
will go away, and I will say
wait, my love:

there are no windows in the jungles. There are
only mixtures of magic, and funny fish. Please, kiss
me awake. I need to drop

these scales.
 

(6)
 

No bones are straight, are you
fooling me ? They come
out of the black forest, curve
into trick bags, and turn
into wheels: woodmen
are haunted; windmills
wonít spin. Itís the
process of numbers; the magic
of cubes.

Fictitious characters
climb out of the music box, align
their costumes and declare
a dance. Pictures of
paper and card-board houses; pirouettes
and measured circles drawn
from figures of invisible
bones. Geometry

and lipless smiles. Cubes,
poems, and eyeless sockets. Grins
from the dull trees, thoughts
obscure
feelings. Then, when
no one is looking, -they unplug
and come down on us. Tricks

stop;
a piece of punctuation
pushes thru the bag. Tiny
tendrils spin
from a dead belly
to swim the water, and climb up
the falls. Feeling,
at last,
asks, -Wizard,

what are you weaving ?

(7)

Spells,
dry spells,
black spells
drawn thru a conical hat. Daily, the waters move back
leaving nothing but a coffin; a golden
and sealed enclosure,
~~~ spiraling
under the green leaves; letters inscribed ornately
all around it; one black nail
thru the center. O
the Pain of the exquisite
undead; no true or
honest description
whatsoever. When
will I find your heart ? There are no more

lips of yours on mine, merely
figures of speech. Our words glow in
wishfull communion but we know
itís just the Pope; just
another card we draw, another
major secret, a trick
in our hidden game. Look ! -he lifts
his gloved hand
but no song comes forth, no love
sounds between us. The moon
turns orange; drops into the mud; there is

a circle moving
inside us, a circle
moving around our cloud. One blue
flame leapt for an
instant, -just once,
between us, forming
our curious covenant; it melted down
our manly words into
a cabbalistic stew; but now a new
and queerer brew
emerges
announcing armored hearts. O Emperor, just

when I think Iím near you
these coffins come
floating back in Final Judgement. Enchantment
wears us out; conjuring
your spirit toward me
will never work; it ruins
my mouth. Maybe
we two Wizards are actually
Fools, and our cryptic love

simply holds no humour !

(8)

Ah, the figure
thatís beginning to be here
is a sort of a whale. She comes up
under the moon, and rolls her marble belly ! The moon

is polished; itís a rounded womb; itís a silver dot
that spreads itself over my face. The wavy
lines of itís orbit pull, they tug
on the white whaleís skin. Her tongue
canít find the ocean. One immense
water arrow shoots
up out of her spout ! And I have
noticed
a cleft in the wood of her
left foot. This

has nothing at all to do with me. Her memory is
ivory and spilled upon the sand. Iím really not sure
if sheís a whale, but the sunlight
is beginning to dry it. And you

suddenly choose to tell me
you canít swim.
 

(9)

Innumerable boxes

hang in the trees; each one
transparent. I canít
find the way, and bang
against them. There is nothing

the sky can do.
I touch my shoulder where you say
it curves into my neck. Oh,
if only we two

magical little boys could
drop our sexy cloven
hooves, and sing the
wonderful, watery

whaleís song !
 

(10)

What do you mean, ice
cubes ? In the middle of the performance
the dancer stopped, tore off his leg,
and threw it into the audience ! All the

chairs demanded an immediate explanation
for the use of the number nine, -which
simultaneously
threw open the doors. The music

went backwards into the curtains
revealing strawberries caught
in a thick riot of red. A voice came over
the very loud speaker and
pronounced the entire affair, -Poetic! It wasnít, of course,

or maybe it was. I donít know; I was too busy
counting the velvet cataracts that preoccupy me and you. But there remains
this incredible residue of blood, and a trick voice
recorded in ice cubes, transfixed
by so many squares. It all

must have taken place before
the invention of the wheel, which was
delayed because the ruins
contained no example of the knowledge of a beast
of burden other than man. With
the bananas
which have peeled themselves in the back
seat of the car, we must insist on
a thaw. (there is no
backseat in this car ! ) In fact,
we are walking together
and there is no car.
 

(11)

These stones suck at your mouth
gathering me up like a flower, and the moon
swallows her tongue
in a ritual aimed at the stars. I watch

the flutter of your little finger erecting
calendars in the corners of my throat. But
the tortoise who governs your movements lights
that cigarette you smoke, and when
itís finished, only

the centaur can count
all the words stuck
so mutely like arrows
thru the walls. Finally,

the construction of roads in too many
directions stops. Itís dark, -and quiet, and
we listen to these odd stones
inscribed with numbers; and they
walk ( footlessly )

thru the night !
 

(12)

Yes, I confess
the forest was designed by the archer; itís constructed
intricately of arrows; itís
an obstacle. Run

for your life ! Itís certainly
no easy path. The face
forgets itself in this forest; the lakes,
the rivers and oceans -all supported
by numbers. Entirely. This forest
is a sieve; the roots
strain
thru the screens. Virtual
reality. The archer
walks on his compass over the
digital grass: flowers wonít speak to him. He has
driven his abstractions thru their tongues. He has hung birds
inverted in the lake; itsí bottom
is a mirror, itsí surface
shattered with screams. This forest

hurts. There is no way out
except the window, but the Emperor
guards that. A letter is singing
in the archerís head, sending out trapezoids,
octagons, rectangles
intersected by inaccurate planes. Blood
is conspicuously absent from numbers; division
is in boxes, subtraction
is in cubes. I will kill
myself in this forest. The Emperor
will understand; maybe he can
kiss it away. The other leaves arenít happy
either. But they
donít cry: thatís
why there arenít any fish in the lake,

thatís why there isnít any forest.
 
 
 

(13)

Kundalini:
a word designed to indicate
space; a forest
in the heat within it. I will

draw you a map. Itís
the picture of my left hand. Itís
magic. You
can put yours in it ! A tower

erecting itself in
the heart of the forest, a fortress. You can feel
your blood move faster. Music
in the space between things, as
for instance, to take
a walk.
 
 

(14)

The odd stones move
in the chocholate covered night; somewhat
bitter, calling themselves
stellae. I know

I keep saying that, but it doesnít
help, you donít seem
to hear me. The air here is

crowded with sublunar programs
that canít be rejected, and even if
there is a secret Ėyou can never be sure the wood
is not between your teeth again, with those
neurons
conspiring in row houses to shift
their masks and call us all our own
relatives. They push
unseen buttons
just before you stab the pyramid
rising slowly from the middle of
your chest. Who broadcasts these
waves of feeling ? So seductively
sweet, so subliminally
dark; thatís what
the dancer stones
ask: Are we

ever ourselves -footloose and
fancy free ?
 
 

(15)

To be this far
into the forest and still
not know what it is. Pendulums
hide in the trees; clearly

itís a measure of space. I see
a hook; the hook is covered by the front
of the head. The front of the head is crossed
by the black nail. We are building
a broken clock. You can understand better

lying down beneath the trees, -if
you cover your eyelids. Somewhere between the number 4
and the number 5; itís an arrangement of lines
difficult to unfold. Reject
it. But I
am inventing a word: Forest ! Listen, they
are making noises beside us
in the darkness. A room

that has so many faces; a cube
where the moon climbs up
inside our eyes. I am

moving toward you with
a house ! Itís in the
real trees; itís
timeless.
 

(16)

O, god
your body has discovered me
sleeping in a tree of numbers
and I nestle my nose close to the triangles caught
in the pit of your arms. Hair, and the smell
of your teeth on the chalkboard
biting the dice. You
are the tension of stomach I am running
against; the dreams
or the burning configuration of lines smoothed in the flex of your
muscles. The death of your beard and your hair
was the total collapse of a building. Skyscrapers
move, clinging to the screens in my eyes; you
put your tongue out into the clutter of taste
I keep collected on the strings that spin
under my up-tight ass, and
the sweet kiss of your sweat is a book full of planets. We are
coming to the shore of the sky
where mellons lap on the lips of itsí knee
and neither one of us

can count !
 

(17)

Quipu, appear
as multicolored cords tied
into knots. Mysterious; but what
do they know, theyíre only anthropologists, seeking
to deceive us. I am certain
that once upon a time there was a window, and pieces of
sky falling thru it. There were five nails
suspended
in the air of that window. There was a curious attempt
to draw a letter, or to call a person an image. There was
a system of measurement (now long forgotten) and a
woman, too. A bird impregnated
by a hole in the air, and a presence, not at
all anthropological, but hovering
with hidden wings. It called
itself no name, but stuck itsí beak
thru the glass. Immediately, words wound
around itsí legs binding it. Light
bled out of the window, fell
in shafts thru the trees, -a shower
of shining swords. Only the angel
was blinded. The trees
remained mute, talking merely
to themselves. O my tongueís clever code; the
multicolored knots of the heart
tightened. But I
went right on tying them and
love was well hung.
 

(18)

The elaborate feathers of the priest
rise up out of the sea
in an impassioned utterance of wind. And in
the elegant night
fire
leaps from the ends of the trees. Then
the rattlesnake coils in
perfect elliptical undulations
that no one will ever understand. But

the time will come when
I will listen to you and
you will listen to me. And this
burden

will lay itself down.
 
 

(19)

You always have the forest with you, but you have to
come each time to the ocean. A fire
burned on the beach. It didnít
start itself. The Emperor
lit this fire. The fog
rolled in; and where it thinned
a real seraphim stood, song
pouring from itsí form. We floated
in the midst. It was radiant, a wind
of light too soon disappeared. The air
shook and shimmered with holes, brief
clearings. The fog
soon returned, the fire
still burned. We mixed

our spirits on the sand; soft
ashes thru angelic
hair. Memory
can change everything. I remember: fog,
the touch of wings,

and his hot tongue.
 
 

(20)

O your lips
move toward me
over the bridge like the fingers of Paracelsus weaving
alchemical tid-bits to drop among the stars, or
the inclined plane, yes the simplest machine
sunk in a coffee cup revealing both your inclinations
and her asthma. She has been speeding thru copy books
secure in her fear that roasted almonds are not all
we have cracked them up to be ! With
each pause the turnstile as well as the mirror we walk on
requires an additional 5 cents to empty the raisins of worms caught
secreting their grandmotherís fingernails in pearl-lined constructions similar to the fall of words, unbroken, over highways ruinously filled in with green watercolor obtained from second-hand mexican tourist shops linking your spinal column
with the sack on the back of Santa Claus, -to say nothing of his beard, or
the tubular problem represented by the brick
chimney down which none of us is
able to descend. Why not
quit these knotted quipu ? Love
(we know) is

a supple cord, a liquid and
totally tetrahedral yes !
 
 

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