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Viet Nam Generation Journal & Newsletter

V3, N3 (November 1991)

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Poetry by Norman Lanquist

Cruel Embroidery

Firedrakes and water serpents, too, that breathe with human bone.
In acid greens and shocking orange.
Across each shoulder bear the promised pearl.
Contend with birds, plumed like no one's
Ever seen outside a violet fevered dream.
Chills and sweats, ten thousand bees that yield
Vermilion's ache for irezumi.
Lead quaking to a steaming Asian bath.
Can only far-away yakuza men now recall
Stern samurai bushido Way?

Among us all, though, move the secret ones whose mark
We sometimes see, they sometimes proudly show:
Winged horse and unicorn, wheels and amaranth,
Bleeding hearts, tearstheir loyalties and ogres
Yet crawl their scapula and spine.
They meet and recognize the mark;
They all know the fresh ones' scabbings itch.
The shoals of skulls hint gruesome death in life.
Tigers' bursting skin reveal the hollow earth,
The hell within: each marked man and woman's private walking hell.

Oh, horrorshow nightmares of needles' prickling reversed
From inside, from insidethat no artist's hands attend!
The pictures form themselves through sweating blood; our inmate
Goblins emerge, take grinning shape and
Occupy the map we once thought our flesh:
The hairy beast leers now manifest from captured bellylands,
The anaconda now your leg, frontiers of hands
Now belong to demons' claws
That what's drooling dark inside is now
On fanged display for all.

Jeering at us then, could holy water seas begin to exorcise
Dare contain their rage and fears?
Set free (the host is left a gutted tenement)
What could their hoof bring to us but grief ungentled?
Those tattooed are wise:
The devil named is devil tamed;
Immobilized in light, red spiders squirm only by
Their masters' muscles' twitch:
These owners pinned 'em down for once and all
And tagged 'em on their daily skin.

Is out and in the very same sewn up by colored line?
Covered eyes regard us from around his hip.
Blue wing swallows flit for us who know him well,
While anchors hold him safe and firm.
In the sun we see the cross and rock he bares,
While eagles take him through the hours.
Her breasts in truth become the crescent moon,
And fawns lie down within the roses of her loins:
They bear their stars before them;
Flaming angels guard their hearts, each moment's a premiere.

Norman Lanquist is a college teacher of writing in Southeast Arizona. "Cruel Embroidery" first appeared in body art quarterly , Great Britain. Lanquists' publications include three chapbooks as well as poems, prose and photography in the biker press, in academic journals across the country. He was an editor of the Gila Review and has read from his work at colleges, conferences, cafes, bookstores and prisons from San Francisco to Montreal to New Orleans and San Antonio. He is a Harley rider and a member of the Easyriders magazine Biker Hall o'Fame. A Vietnam veteran (US Army), he carried an Eleven Bravo MOS and pulled courier escort duty from Sixth Army Command, Presidio, San Francisco. A novel, Long Roads, is in progress.

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