Book I :  Order in Chaos

I can begin,

I will to tell,

the tale

despite and since

it has been spun before—

of how

the what

we query

has already

been fleshed out

of its darkness,

by what light

seeds best find

the tapestryweaving

womb of


and man

who myths


to being.

Memory, imagine and inspire me.

* * *

Before we will have reached the point where we

can turn and look back and recreate the past,

it had to happen (though it could have not)

that in that knot called a singularity

a cosmic one-in-all-of-one in chaos—

some instability made motion order

an explosion: every thing that would become

spat out in all directions, now existent,

for space itself had now been born; one atom-

form held all at first, homogemorphic

hydrogen, but then these crashed, collided, smashed

together, dueling one on one into

a dual being—helium—heavier

than hydrogen but lighter than later shapes,

the flammable commingling to a stabler

configuration; first flames became first ash.


Whether a god or nature in itself was

in the magic of the universe’s birth – 25

we were not there to say. The terms are blind.

Most likely order then was self-emergent

as it is now also. What is probable

emerges in a burst from what is possible

merely and, when seen, becomes the proven.

This was never seen by such means as we have.

Nevertheless the history of cosmos—

coterminous with the story of homo

fingendus—paints the portrait reproduced here:

after the blackhole pod burst, there was only

flame, hotter than it may ever be again,

which, in cooling, condensed, coagulated

into matter out of simple energy

like clotting blood—and indeed it was a wound

for nothingness to be forced from its womb

into the frightful bliss of open spaces—

seeping from the cracks of the ballooning

universe; in these gaping breaks new massive

nodes formed cells for Titan stars, short-lived hells of

elemental fusion, till cohesion fell

like autumn leaves, and these first cosmic branchings

fertilized to loam the barren wastes of space

in which fields the oldest stars still burning

took root: grand sequoias of the cosmos.

One sister of these living stars was time: – 50

time was born with life, when cycles start to turn,

when what’s rolled out cannot be rolled back up

without some noise, wrinkles, energy put in;

with time was born the inexorable, fate

and tragedy, and (what would soon be seen

when the largest stars reached their ripe old age)

death was born—in stellar terms, demise is

a mimesis of the first big bang of birth.

The music of these boiling points within

the universal cauldron must have been

intense and dissonant like an opera

by Wagner, or an atonal symphony;

but as the leitmotives reechoed and

the movements culminated, elements

infolded, carbon, neon, oxygen, and

silicon, until, when iron hits the core,

the death-cry of the dying hero roars.

This play goes on today; its music moves us.

So also generation and genetics

had become, that is, begun to pass down traits

from mother to progeny directly

(no father yet to mar identity,

as nothing yet had torqued the chromosome

of space into the y of paternity),

until the galaxies began colliding. – 75

Sworls in the continuum of space-time

precipitated arms of stars in strands

like tentacles of an octopus, and some

of the stars along the arms, with the waves

of their magneto-gravitation fields,

pulled and polished iron rocks into orbit

around them, in elliptic planet systems.

The corpses of dead stars. Iron acorns

half-buried in the mire of stellar clouds.

These are the bones from which biological

latency ekes out its chance to try to be,

where time intensifies its density

by coiling electricity into chains

of molecules (tiny atomic heaps)

that boil over billions of years into

a seething sheath of prokaryotic soup,

virus-spiked for organic emergency

out of the mere chemistry of random flux.

Thus it was that how it could have happened

on any number of planets, orbiting

any number of suns, that life evolves,

actually occurred on one dead stellar core

(the third of nine our sun lured into orbit),

some four billion years ago, they say, or more.

Earth was not yet earth, but embryonic like – 100

a zygote of two seeds, dancing to music

of lightning crackling in the still thin air

of atmosphere above the virgin waters

deep below which gases surged from heat vents

steeped in salts and sulfur, while the filled skies

seasoned the seas with simple amino acids;

when these dissolved, miraculously, the swell

and whirl of ocean induced solutions

of molecules that could metabolize—

or barter—good for good and, in the exchange,

gain the riches of a higher inner state.

(So our species bears within it marks of how

both Marx and Darwin would later say it works:

Economy is how our home’s in order.)

Passing over the mysteries of enzyme

evolution, those leaveners of living

breads, and also the deep enigmas of

deoxy- (and) ribose nucleic acids—

those microscopic cooks that splice and chop

and string together complex protein cabobs

according to patterns staked out in the genes—

a time arrived when earth’s more mundane stuff

was teeming with self-replicating monads,

the monera and viruses found within

the Zoroaster granites and Vishnu schists, – 125

prokaryote bacteria and protists,

amoebas, flagellates, unicell algaes,

the geometer architect diatoms,

the first experts in mathematical forms.

At first, of course, only the cyano- (or

blue) bacteria, could proliferate, to

whom oxygen was toxic, and excreted.

But one’s poison is another’s elixir:

as their waste filled with oxygen the ether

it brought aspiring life-forms pure pleasure.

All that occurred within the four long eons

called the Precambrian. But when the airs were

sweet enough, this Paleozoic era

flourished in a riot on the ocean floors

and near the surface, where waves in light were bathed,

and at the shorelines, where granite ground to sands,

all manner and variety of spineless

worms and sponges, the cuplike scyphozoa

whose polyps send out colony medusae,

the heavy-armored trilobytes and mollusks,

jawless fishes, mud-sucking bottom-feeders,

then fish with jaws, a shark, a ray, chimaeras,

then wishful lobe-finned fish which may have been

the first of animals to crawl up on dry land.

After these first daring land marauders crept – 150

up on the beaches, came the full assault,

a mass invasion of the unsettled lands

by low-lying plants and billions of insects—

the psilopsids and exoskeletal bugs—

by amphibians, waterborn but with lungs

to breathe dry air; and soon landborn reptiles

dared to lay their tough-skinned eggs on land itself:

the turtles and tortoises, their shell’s their home,

the spiny and spotted lizards, quick and lithe,

and then, a terror and a marvel, slithing

through the primitive grasses, like a spinal

chord with fangs, a forked tongue, scales and a will

all its own, emerged the first wily serpent.

By this point what is nature? Circulating

chemicals in simpler complex aggregates,

a system now, filtering outside agents,

stratified, with interchange mechanisms:

water, sublimate by the heat of sunlight,

becomes the nebulous substance of the sky,

where flowing, on hot-cold convection currents,

over lands, where altitude determines where,

and how much, will recondense and pour as rain,

which feeds into the food chain and air cycle,

before it drains, through many kinds of vessels,

rivulets, streams, rivers, bedrock aquifers, – 175

back, now rich in minerals, into the sea.

So really evolution is a process

of involution, complexification,

folding-in, creation of intimacies,

and this fact is most evident in the tree

of ascent of life’s vast kingdom of plants.

Take an acorn which, if planted, soon will split

its husk and break the surface of the soil,

and mobilize its brute environs, through its

immolative force, it founds its very self

a niche in space and time to further flourish—

now run it backwards in your mind, discover

the wonder of it, that the acorn should be

able to become an oak at all. Now sound

the possibilities of how: it’s either

that all’s been, presto, given out of nothing. . . .

and that’s all we can say. Or think, instead,

that order has arisen out of chaos,

that chaos is the outer face of order,

that yes, indeed, the long traces of descent

can be discerned, from the coiled fronds and spores

naked on the bottom of the fern’s fine leaves,

(through unseen twists and turns of permuting genes),

into the branching off of the gymnosperms,

whose seeds, still naked, are still no less than seeds – 200

(potent little packets of dormant life-stuff),

up into the branches of angiosperms

who conduct their intercourse on stricter lines

and channels of communication: flowers,

once developed, house a gendered couple who

can dance into that complex talk of sex—

the stamens and the pistils cheek-to-cheek

within the painted blanket of their petals—

and so negotiate their love-death into

those sweet and swollen ovaries we call fruit.

There’s nothing overly mysterious in

what mechanism fostered these enhancements

of form to fine-tune certain urgent functions:

those specimens within a given species

whose heritage well suits them for survival,

live long and propagate their own genetics.

So too then, those whom lady luck shines upon,

whose manner of tradition is distinguished

by success in mating, those rich in beauty,

are nature’s scheme to cultivate herself.

What is absolutely extraordinary—

to those caught in life’s fine web of perception

on the edge of which we shudder to perceive—

is that we ourselves are products of this scheme.

Humans came silently into the world. 225

Perhaps a single hominoid form evolved

into the reflective, upright ape we are,

then, pursuing game, colonized the world;

or else, not one but many parallel lines,

in Africa, East Asia, northern Europe,

developed their capacities to nurture

evolution, through imitating nature’s

own device of ‘many are called, few chosen’.

But even those once chosen risk a fall.

Contemplate the bare bones of the dinosaurs

in some museum of nature’s history

or pictured in the flesh in a children’s book.

However marred our image of them may be,

whatever the real cause of their demise,

they’re gone. They were and now they are not. Species

come and go with momentous rapidity

especially when ecosystems falter.

Ours is a new venture, another wager.

No safety net sustains us but our foresight.

Between the claws of rage and swift feet of flight,

above, in the arbor, chatters the monkeys,

swinging from branch to branch, remarking it all

in their wild hoots and calls, their big round eyes,

prehensile tails and opposable thumbs;

neither the fierce lion nor the fearful deer, 250

but something of both, quick and cunning, daring

and careful, slothful and watchful, ingenious.

The deer could never win a fight, the lion

never need run. But monkeys might fight or flee,

depending on their odds. So we hesitate

to choose, still, just as our forbears learned to do.

Up in the trees, we learned to love the flowers

as sign of impending fruit, sweet, good to eat,

and colorful, and fragrant, so delightful,

and so the natural symbol of desire

which, when revelry of spring hit like fire,

encouraged shy young males to preen themselves

and plunge into competition for the queen.

Imagine now, a landscape not yet cultured

by human art, but forests, grasslands, rivers

dark, not yet even known to exist—do they?

Let’s call it northeast Asia, to place it where

it might have happened, though the name’s more recent

than the maybe wordless actors in this play.

When once again the long dark nights have given

way, so gradually, to dawns of longer days,

when dormant bees first wake, renew their dancing

and breezes shake the sleeping limbs of plum trees

which split their old confining sheaths, remember

themselves in green with seminal solar vigor, 275

so we see the troupes of hungry hominids

awakening to nature’s call for mating,

more eager for desire since more leisure

is afforded by renewed food abundance.

(Though monkeys, as a rule, are most ready,

willing, and able, to do it any time

of year; compared to the other annual

animals, our kind’s a hyperotic breed.

Not males merely either; menstruation—

monthly, with the moon—suggests a likeness

between our halves not all are willing to see.)

A twenty year old male—who, when sixteen,

driven off with some brothers from their birth clan,

had challenged his father the alpha male

for dominance of the she-tribe, then, trying

to assert his strength among his brother pack,

banding together, they beat him off with sticks—

sits in the mouth of a cave he’s found, alone.

For four long rounds of seasons, forty-eight full

lunar cycles, he has watched his back, gone forth

into and beyond the wooded boundaries

of what was known as home, eating everything,

discovering strange poisons, powerful sweets,

learning to distinguish the two, pick and choose

his way through dawn and day, wind, storm, rain and shine, 300

he’s even noticed how stars return each night—

though he’s never had the foggiest notion

of what it might be to ask himself ‘how come?’.

Once, while up a tree, during a thunderstorm,

lightning struck the tree, some boughs caught fire;

our hero, let’s call him Housheng, reached and touched

the burning branch, but soon recoiled in pain;

but reached again, again recoiled, then stuck

a twig into those alluring, dancing flames.

It flared and hissed and caught. He brought it closer

and stared at the fire for a good long time

and staring, wonders, the flame lights up his eyes—

until that bright warm glow nips his finger tips.

He hoots and drops the twig. He repeats his game.

It comes to the same. He tries to charm a third.

Again the same. He smells the hair he’s burned.

Hou plays all day with this new enticing toy,

but, by sundown, all’s left is smoking cinders.

He likes the smell, not least because he’s caused it—

so he interprets the difference he has made.

Since then, some months ago, he’s longed for fire,

and found it more than once, knows more than ever.

Daybreak, in the mouth of his mid mountain cave,

strewn with fruit pits, flowers, bones of rock badgers

and hares, stones he’s liked, laid here and there in rows, 325

he hears afar the shrill calls of a she-band,

a sound that always pricks him with desire

but since his banishment has never fulfilled.

Housheng, no fool, homes in on them discretely,

by means of both their cries and scents secreted,

and soon finds them. He hides. There, in a clearing,

freshly spread with leafy boughs, six or seven

female anthropoids sport around a queen,

hand in hand and foot to foot in a rhythmic

trot and prance, they dance around the center,

just as chimpanzees can still be seen today.

(Not a stitch of clothing, though this meant nothing

to their kind, who had not yet localized shame,

nor yet conceived clothes’ provocative power.)

Hou is visibly excited, and can’t hold

back his eagerness; he rushes in and grabs

one from the queen’s young train, mature and fair, as

the others escape the bower, crying loud.

Docile until he is done, she then runs off

to rejoin her sisters. Out of the bushes

a big, barrel-chested, dark male rushes

at Hou, who’s already halfway up a tree

and edging his way out onto a large branch.

Below, the angry tribehead beats his bare chest,

and frantic, Hou yells back, bouncing up and down 350

on the old dry tree limb, when suddenly, crack!

the branch snaps at the trunk, and down falls Housheng

with the weighty limb clubbing the tribelord’s skull.

Dazed but unhurt, Hou’s confused by death’s face

staring blank at him, and so tries to rouse him

out of this sudden sleep that he’s never seen

in one like himself. But since with other dead

he knows what to do (drag it off home, it’s food),

he takes his prey by the arm and drags it home.

But once there, the lifeless image of himself

does not seem food, but too much like a stranger

something, like one of his brothers, or father,

whose face, remembered, startles him enraging

so he kicks the corpse and runs out of the cave.

Delia, meanwhile (so let’s call Hou’s bride

of late), has been driven out of her birth clan

as somehow related to the tribelord’s death,

has now found the cave, by scent, where he’s been laid.

She lays her own body down beside her lord’s

and curls up. Moaning low she pines away.

In the heat of noon Hou’s advent frightens her

no more than he is surprised at seeing her;

both perturbed, and neither knows just what to do,

she fears this strange brute beast, how he might treat her.

But her fair face soon captivates her captor 375

as in her eyes gazing, he deems he glimpses,

somehow he cannot say, his own reflection,

and his brute heart is sweetened. He sees the corpse

again and flinches. He slinks out of the cave,

and stays that night, on guard, up a nearby tree.

At dawn Hou gathers buds, some grubs and broad leaves,

and lays them in the mouth of the cave, then goes

about his own day’s forage. At noon he comes

back and finds the food uneaten. He sees her

lying beside the dead still. He goes away,

but watches, waits, confused, dejected, lovelorn.

At dawn Hou gathers grasshoppers and flowers

and offers them at the dark cave mouth again.

At noon, none eaten. That night, still none eaten.

Thunder rumbles, dark clouds roll into rain breaks.

Housheng’s skin pricks up, feeling the lightning flash.

He presages the first stages of a plan.

For, before the thunder woke him, he had dreamt

a fiery light illumined his cavern, where

she was lying beside the dark dead flesh heap

now in flames. Now the lightning dazzles his eyes;

he follows his nose and sixth sense through the bush

and finds, just as before, bright, smoking briars.

He snatches a bough, sticky with pitch and dry,

holds it to the flame; it flashes and he hoots, 400

excited as he runs straight up the rock face

to the cave mouth, now grown eerie with shadows

darting ghostlike, empty, on the cave’s maze walls.

Delia jumps and stares, absolutely frightened.

The fire leaps and sputters, Housheng’s shadow

looms behind above him. He raises his torch,

like a blazing rack of antlers, and throws it

onto the dead decaying body. The hair

goes up like tinder, the fatty skin begins

to sizzle and pop, fueled by death gases,

frying just slightly the folds of meat below.

This novel stink of burnt flesh reminds Housheng

of his singed hair and nails. Sheng is hungry,

and falls to tearing into this warm meal.

Hungry too, she joins in. They feed their fill on

legs, on heart, on liver, and that which had been

contained in the hollow globe of his skullcap.

After, she does not forbid his advances.

Delia stays with Hou, a spouse and helpmate

through the summer, fall, and into winter, when

under a wet sliver of solstitial moon,

bright-eyed twins, a boy and a girl, are born.

So we see that accident, no less than choice,

plays no small part in nature’s selective voice.

Housheng meant not to kill the older male, 425

nor Delia to eat her lord and father.

Neither intended to teach those twins the art

of fire-gathering, cooking over flame

rabbits and mice, turtles and whatever else

would pop and spit, sizzle and fry up nicely.

Forces beyond mere intention conspired

to gather some seed inside a psychic egg

that, given time, set free the fragile ego

to whose preservation we devote lifetimes

and burn up individuals in culture

crucibles that can crystallize consciousness.

Invisibly, so many aeons ago,

the brute gaze into other’s eyes, or fire,

sparked a wit of intimation of divine

and in the cyclonic alchemy of time,

of years, months and days, dark and light, the Great Year,

since every repetition makes a difference,

were crafted feet for walking, and infolded

cortical tissue that could image itself.

How, where, when, why did Homo sapiens get

his third name, Homo sapiens sapiens,

man who knows-he-knows? To answer these questions

is end and aim and source of all our science:

how gives soul and world, language and nature

as objects of intellect; where brings the mind 450

to bear on brain and body, deep dark caverns,

bogs and alpine vales, shifting desert sands;

when has brought us to universal verges;

why leads us up and in, vertical to time.

Housheng, you crazy monkey, first dared to cook

your food! All other creatures eat, but you dine!

What feast, what sacrifice, with fire’s mana

commuting raw fleshblood into our cooked meats!

What a blessing, flame, borne into our cavemouths!

What a curse, what burden! See what man’s become!

Your nature sparked our quest to fathom physics.

Our love affair with you is world history.

Between physics and history a chasm

yawns, where flows the river of mythology.

For just as young adults have difficulties

recalling a continuum of events

able to connect them to their infancy

and early adolescence—in looking back

they say, ‘I remember this dream,’ or, ‘one time

we went to the ocean,’ or, ‘I remember

how I was punished but, for the life of me,

can’t recollect what I did!’—so too with us,

our species had a childhood that’s only

reflected dimly in its early stories,

the bones and instrumental toys of which 475

are struck by scavenging shovels and unearthed

from time to time renewing the enigma

of memory’s discontinuous leap when

it crosses the threshold into consciousness.

As deep, as stratified, as the Grand Canyon

dug by the Colorado River rising

out of the Rockies, into the desert flats

of Utah and Arizona, wending south

east of Las Vegas forming the border of

California until it meets the Gulf waves

some fourteen hundred miles from its source,

so the river of the human spirit shapes

the lands through which it passes, and the beaches

where are lodged the voices hinting at our losses

deep as the groundswell, groans of our creation.

So it’s said it started with a world flood.

Variant reports come from the Yellow Sea

to Thessaly, and many in between, that

either some fierce king offended god supreme,

or the whole race of mortals was an outrage,

or else its time had simply wheeled around—

and some now say it could be faintest echoes

of local floods brought on by melting icesheets

between ten and twelve thousand years ago—

who knows, but this is certain: the flood is in 500

our blood, to bathe is in our nature. Deluge

tales flow from depths on high to deep below,

in between we’re swept along on being’s face.

There was a man who was a king like the sun.

When his mind was wise of time he gave his son

the throne, and went alone to far Malaya

to fish for silence along those lapping shores.

Some time passed and he grew to know the sea,

its tides and turns, its surging pitch and flowing,

its own scents and voices, still and still moving.

One morning as he fished he sighed so wishful:

“Ah! If only when this body of mine founders

I might join that force that, flowing through all things,

sustains them in their flow, I would be most blessed.”

So wishing in his heart he felt his pole tugged

by a fish; he pulls and hauls a large sea perch

up on the rock he stoops on. He stares into

its dark liquid eyes, as its mouth gapes open

and closed, the scallops of his gills gawking out

and in, his mind rapt, his soul mesmerized.

He hears, dimly, “Manu, should you save me

from the larger fish, you shall have your wish.”

His vision, in a moment’s boundless span, was

of the world’s course between two waves breaking.

This is what he saw and this is what he heard: 525

A city like no other, yet resembling

many a city, rising down a valley;

its people busy, building, procreating,

its leaders overseeing walls maturing.

Priests articulate the bricks of sacrifice,

plowmen pierce the soil, merchants circulate

the goods that make life better, keep it turning.

Each caste, as in a hive, purifies its mede.

Arts perfected thrive, knowledge in abundance

crafts sciences of government and pleasure;

students master lore of chants and ritual.

Success like honey, rules like milk turn sour

as courts split hairs on tongues as sharp as razors.

Biding time becomes a burden hard to bear.

Darkness and light fall into fierce contention,

blind seers grope for order, dazed by mere need.

Faith is enshrined in the fossil of belief,

for good and fulfillment have become extinct.

Beggars eat stolen bread, no one knows what’s up.

Houses are a mess. Everything is broken.

Narada lived and walked in this time. He saw

maddening transgression of all boundaries,

profligates prostitute daughters’ diseases,

children born to children, fruit trees full of crows,

robbers, on the highways, escaping taxmen 550

in the byways, salesmen disguised as monks,

and anything worth its salt lost all good taste.

Assassins drunk on anger and rage and blood

spilled to laughter like the haze of incense smoke.

Narada could not take it. His heart was pure,

he thought, and longed to know the secret of life’s

powerful mirages. “Teach me, Lord,” he prayed.

“I am devoted to your yoke of righteous

thought and action. See, I shun this evil age

and practice all austerities and virtues.”

“What would you do with knowledge of my Maya?”

asked the god. “Ask for wealth, long life in health, or

a beautiful wife and abundant offspring.”

But Narada insisted, so Vishnu turned

and said: “This desert sun has made me thirsty.

Go fetch me a drink from that yonder fountain.”

Narada went and came to a shaded well,

and when he’d drawn the bucket and filled his cup

he turned and met the eyes of a lovely girl.

She smiled and he was caught by her beauty.

He followed her home, forgetting Vishnu’s drink.

Her family was poor but were gracious hosts

and took to him as though he were an old friend.

Soon he asked her father to grant his daughter

permission to marry him. Soon they were wed. 575

Twelve years passed and three children blessed the couple.

Narada became head of the household when

his father-in-law passed away. He managed

the farm and cattle of his inheritance

so that it prospered and he gained great riches.

The next rainy season poured torrential floods.

Everything he owned was swept away by night.

He took his wife and children and tried to flee,

wading through muddy waters, slipping on stones,

struggling against the raging current, he falls,

and his youngest tumbles off of his shoulders

and disappears in the flood. Groping for her,

he loses grip on his two other children.

His wife slips and slides away into the night

despairing at the loss of all her offspring.

Then Narada fell and hit his head. All’s black.

He wakes on a vast cliff edge. He weeps and weeps.

“Child!” he hears, “where is my drink of water?

You’ve kept me waiting for more than an hour.”

Stunned, he turns and sees the mischievous smile

of Vishnu. “Now do you understand Maya?”

Then all was changed and Manu saw the world

plunged into dissolution for its folly.

A drought and conflagration burned the fields

and parched all creatures. Then a violent wind 600

cycloned down the valley shredding the city

and all that was in the city. Then the rain

poured as only it can at the end of time.

Nothing remained to see or be seen but a

giant sleeping on the surface of the deep,

dreaming into existence the new world.

Markandeya, in this dream, wanders the earth

enjoying the sight of peaceful words and deeds.

He visits holy hermits, speaks with sages,

accepts the hospitality of strangers,

marveling that all is so full of goodness.

Then one day it happened that Mark fell out of

the giant’s mouth into the depths of the void.

In despair he fears for all around him is

nothing but cosmic ocean, still and moving—

“What’s this universe in which I find myself?

Is this a dream? It can’t be real, can it?”

Then Mark sees the giant, like a glowing range

of mountains, and swims toward it but, when he starts

to ask a question, the giant swallows him

and suddenly he’s back inside the dreamland.

Once again Mark travels his pilgrimage routes,

observing the holy order of this life,

regal sacrifices, lavish gifts of kings

to brahmins for astounding feats of magic, 625

folks living life in stages as is proper.

Years pass and, once again, on accident, Mark

slips out of the dreamer’s lips into the sea,

and splashing to tread water, beholds a boy

godlike, under a fig tree, and luminous,

wholly undismayed, playing amid the waves

and Mark muses, “Why is this so familiar?”

“Welcome Markandeya,” he hears, “my child!”

in a booming voice like thunder from a cloud.

And though in no position to be haughty

Mark angers at this insolent boy’s address:

“Who calls me—a dignified saint—his ‘child’?

Who ignores my titles and yogic powers?”

As though he had not heard him, the boy replies:

“I, child, am your father, your source of life,

Narayana, Primeval source of all Life,

Fire of Offerings and Lord of Waters,

Juggler of Ages and Death of the Cosmos.

“At time’s end I make of myself the lotus,

flowering from my navel, Nagananta,

the endless snake, whose petals, whose scales, are

each a system of countless novel worlds.

Know me as the unseen dawn of what is known.”

Then the golden boy swallowed Markandeya.

His heart was flushed and flooded with enrapture; 650

he had to find a quiet place and rest there.

He sat and heard a song, far off at first, then

nearer, then inside, then flowing through all things:

“Many forms do I assume, and when the sun

and moon have disappeared, I float and swim on

boundless seas so slowly. I am the gander,

Lord of time and the universe, hamsa, ham

sa ’ham sa. . . .”

Hearing this, Manu looks up and

sees his light shine from the west down to the east.

The day is at its end. Night is coming on.

Manu looks down and the sea perch is smiling

up at him and says: “You’ve seen all four yugas

passing through their stages like a human life,

a pastime for the being who rolls the dice.

The rising tide of ruin is now at hand,

and the power of your mind has pleased me well.

Manu, you shall be the next new Brahma and,

once your world has sprouted from my navel,

you’ll be its Prajapati, lord and mistress,

pregnant progenitor of every creature.”

At this a wave of bliss swam over Manu

such as he’d never yet felt or known before,

awash in blessing and power, a surging

sense of omnipotence and sheer transcendence

of carnal limitation and shadowed mind. 675

His last scene as a puppet in life’s pageant

before as the puppeteer he disappeared

he saw the fish of Vishnu swelling in size

engulfing land and mountains, rivers and streams,

cities, people, creatures, stars and planet rings,

and he himself tugged atop this cosmic sea

like a barge in search of dockage in a storm.

Then he sank into self-dissipating sleep

wherein his eye swam deeper in the mirrors

of self-refractive consciousness. He was not but

instead became it all and flowed through all and

animated all as breeze blows through the trees,

or cosmic photon rays mesh timespace’s loom.

Wound into a knot of singularity

he nudged, with a thought, all that might and would be

out of into one big cataclysmic burst

that foamed and settled, mixing like blood and milk,

neutron stars and blackholes linking like a nerve

network in a fetus, galaxies collide

and swirl worlds where swords and words can war

and frightful beings can love and procreate

populating his universe with sentience

of fascinating plurality of forms.

His wisdom of the world that he had gained

as a man and son and king and homeless sage 700

served him well in crafting worlds of beings

though he did not act as would an artisan

but all arose through him as if from itself.

No memories anticipated events

nor did past events feed back into a mind,

but everywhere was Manu but no Manu

might be found—except, at times, now here, now there,

some partial being dreamt and would see itself

in some uncanny flash of recognition

and Brahma Prajapati, Lord of Worlds,

would catch a fleeting glimpse of Manu son of

Vivasvant and Samjña (sign lit by the sun)

in the image of the dreaming consciousness

and see himself as he once was and almost

remember. . . . But such sights were mere dream flashes,

dim deja-vus of distant recollection

slipping around the corners of existence.

But each time this would happen Brahma caught a

little more awareness of his own presence

as the unseen power of the universe,

until he had at last conceived the notion

that soon he might receive a shadow visit

from some poor creature that had achieved the peak

of its innate abilities and surpassed

its nature through mastery of faculties— 725

and this great being would be his successor.

In moments of mighty conquest and defeat,

in spasms of artistic revelation

and of orgasmic ecstasy, in rapture

of spirit, or great times of peace or crisis,

when mothers groaned in agony of birth,

whenever entire species moved as one

to overcome some imminent extinction,

Manu caught that nostalgic sense of being

right in the thick of struggling for existence,

the old bliss of overcoming ignorance,

the tang of desire’s aftertaste of shame.

His godlike sense of motion toward awareness

became a force of nature: what pleased him was

whatever brought on hints of recognition,

so each such thing was rewarded with pleasure,

alluring all beings with fierce desire

to find the old face of Manu that was lost.

Countless creatures sought his core of mystery,

the configuration of his elements

knowledge of which would equal its true power,

a cosmos of courtiers and courtesans

coercing and seducing him for privilege.

He dallied between the eyes of ten million

million lovers caught in fatal love affairs. 750

He played solemn peek-a-boo with religious

seekers of the mystic heart of suffering.

He bred antagonists like horses for show

and pulled strings to watch them face their overthrow.

Nothing ever seemed new in his repetoire,

just boring replays of his timeless classics:

like the old confusion of paternity,

or punishing the victim of seduction

through the scorned wife’s cruel fit of jealousy,

then blessing the poor wretch with divinity.

“No, those go on of themselves. I can’t watch them

anymore. I crave the spice of sheer chaos,

some happening wholly unpredictable.

Something to unleash the rabid boar of time,

to wake the sleeping snake at the world’s verge.”

So Prajapati, groping for lost Manu,

laid a plot that would hatch his dim successor.

Little did he know he plotted his demise.

“What I need is a great big world crisis,

to go out with a bang, bring heroes to bear—

some revelation of excessive burden!

Then sit back and watch them weasel out of it.”

Leo Szilard, while waiting to cross the street

in London, September, nineteen-thirty-three,

contending with Lord Rutherford’s nay-saying

of possibilities for atomic power, 775

recalling Wells’ novel The World Set Free,

“Fantastic vision!” he thinks, as the light turns green,

“Einstein, E equals m c squared: energy

beyond belief—but how to tap it? Neutrons—

we could make it to the stars, escape beyond

this warbound earth—if only one could get them

to roll into a radioactive chain

reaction—more neutrons released than absorbed—

it should snowball, possibly out of control,

it’d have to be a controlled experiment

of course,” he thrills to think it as his mind’s light

refracts from these new lucid imaginings,

this crystalline epiphany of thought dreams,

unrolling years of consequence and prospects

unforeseen before in human history—

“But what,” a thin small voice like a gut-wrenching

internal movement murmured, “if it has been

already? What if this huge discovery

were made by Germany?” At this he shuddered,

as though a rumble of more than traffic noise

groaned beneath his feet, now having crossed the street.

“My God, they’d blot out the sun! We must act fast!”

He headed right home, his small exile’s room,

to ponder elements in a nice warm bath. 800


(Book Two: Future in the Past)


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