Bartimaeus – a poem by Ann Power

Clasp…that holds the darkness…
and it is noon,
and he is fastened beyond his wish
as if wrapped in some morbid shroud without
He, the blind beggar, the petitioner at Jericho’s gate,
who can never look outward on a vista,
never see a star tumbling from heaven, whose sight,
confined to sightless patterns bleeding into umber-red,
knows by feel, by taste, by touch, but more by intuition,
the world’s activities.
He hears the palm fronds that rustle in the morning air,
the sound of sandals on flagstone,
the bells of camels carrying their tired cargo,
the grappling, the laughing of little boys wrestling in the dusty plaza.
He smells the scent of lemons and melons exaggerated in the heat,
and the figs and dates on their way to market packed carefully
in their baskets.
He feels the tunic of a merchant, busy with the cares of morning,
whisper past his outstretched hand,
feels the warm sand filtered between his toes in his sandal and
the small lizard that unexpectedly slithers over his thigh.
Today there is the jostling of a crowd
There is a special excitement…a different crowd…not the one
that gathers for the market busy with the occupations of day,
with the gossip of each passing hour;
not the one that follows a thief, shrill in its cries of pursuit;
nor the one that prepares in hushed voices for the passing of
a dignitary.
Something other.  
Suddenly a brighter darkness.
It is a fire with warmth, without heat,
and he is drawn like the flower he cannot see to the sun he can
only feel in a
magnetism of divine coercion. 
He finds his voice rising from his throat,
uttering the Messianic secret,
discovers himself on his feet stumbling forward
toward a depth he cannot fathom
knowing only the draw and need, seeing
without seeing.
Caught by the force that impels him,
he leaves his cloak.
Frightened, without the conceit
of imagined appearances,
he is aware of hands pushing him backwards.
His supplication, his syllables have a sharpness
that surprises.
Then a question.
Encouraged by the Prophet’s invitation,
he finds himself in the presence of Him who elicits love.
His knowledge no longer reliant upon lateral effect,
he plumbs the depth of certain understanding, the hidden,
now unobscured.
He comprehends as clearly as if sight were his, and it matters
only little that the circumference of his universe is darkness.
Still, in answer to the question,
he names desire.
Then the miracle everyone sees.  It is not
the miracle he feels within, the unexplainable expansion, the
question which no longer needs to be asked but is
Delineation and line and depth and color and 
overwhelming beauty in a breathtaking instant
are his.
He sees the sun and understands the shadow.

Ann Power is a retired faculty member from The University of Alabama.  She enjoys writing historical sketches as well as poems based in the kingdoms of magical realism. Her work has appeared in: Limestone, Spillway, Gargoyle Magazine, The Birmingham Poetry Review, The American Poetry Journal, Dappled Things, Caveat Lector, The Copperfield Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Amethyst Review, The Loch Raven Review, and other journals. In addition, Ann’s poem, “Ice Palace” (The Copperfield Review) was nominated for Best of the Net in Poetry last year.  

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