Gnashing Teeth Publishing

| words that get in your teeth

Goodnight, Taj Mahal by Andre Peltier

Deep below earth, clay and sand, 
deep below roots and aquifers, 
it lies in wait. Like that silent coyote 
stalking her white-tailed deer 
through the brush, 
it waits patiently 
and with the purity of Assisi. 
When Francis of Assisi 
preached to the birds, the rams, 
the donkeys, that Harlem backbeat 
was waiting. The rhythm of India 
and the echoes of conch. 
Where Mumtaz sleeps beside 
Shah Jahan, where ivory towers 
watch ivory crowns 
waiting behind ivy walls. 
Like Cardinals, like a lighthouse 
on the rocky cliffs of Maine, 
they watch and wait. 
From Hibbing down to Cairo 
and from Cairo to old Cave-in-Rock. 
Where the Nolichucky waters 
run crisp and clear, 
the man in the Panama hat strums 
and sings and knows he’ll never fall.
Goodnight, Taj Mahal
Icebergs in Midwestern winter chill 
come faster and faster comes 
the wind, the snow, 
the flying leaves over fallow fields. 
Empty snowflakes watch 
and watch with banjo strings 
the chestnut air of November. 
And when the man cakewalks into town, 
when the tuba sets the pace, 
we see stars and the eclipse, 
we dance the dance of 
aurora borealis, 
and remember Assisi’s dance. 
Who but the saint of Italian imagination 
could free the leper’s corroded soul? 
And as his hands bled, ours bled too. 
Light passes through 
our collective palms, 
and light passes through 
the chestnut air of November, 
but it sure don’t mean 
a natural thing. 
The man in the Panama hat 
descends steps of Eremo Delle Carceri, 
wanders with Paul who was Saul.
Goodnight, Taj Mahal
On the road to Damascus, 
Paul who was Saul fell blind 
from his mount. 
He fell blind from the light of conversion. 
In the shadows 
of the snowy Lebanon Range, 
he waited for the rhythm of India 
and he waited for direction. 
Sailing to Puteoli, 
he waded through the waves of Malta 
and dragged chains while anchors sank. 
Paul prayed to Christ 
and Rhea Silva. 
Twelve centuries battered by Euroclydon winds, 
twelve centuries of eastward glances, 
and Francis bled like Christ. 
The palms of humanity 
split open and wept their tears 
of blood onto Assisi’s white roses. 
Blood pumped to the rhythm 
of blackest Indian night. 
But Mary of Bethany, 
don’t you weep for your brother. 
Don’t weep for the man 
in the Panama hat.
Goodnight, Taj Mahal
In train stations, barns, 
Down dead-end streets, 
Paul’s gale force winds lie in wait. 
Sleepers on station benches, 
entrenched in quilted newsprint, 
wait for winter winds to cease. 
They wait for the rhythm of India 
and echoes of the conch 
to resonate in marble halls 
and resonate with the riders 
of the world. 
And in Il Buco del Diavolo, 
Assisi slept with Italian sparrows, 
the Italian wall lizards, the Italian bleak. 
They kept each other happy, 
winsome and warm in the devil’s hole. 
And the wall lizard freed 
the leper’s empty soul. 
Like a free song falling 
on freedom’s sloppy ears, 
we fly from tree to tree. 
All while the man 
in the Panama hat 
rode off on a broke-down mule, 
so slow and small.
Goodnight, Taj Mahal
In dilapidated barns of Commerce, 
Cornelia, and Dillard, 
in the shells of burned-out houses, 
in dark alleys filled with the ghosts 
of razor-wielding cut-throats, 
the western wind whips and whines. 
It winds around the seven Roman hills. 
Where Rhea Silva met Mars 
and her Apennine twins 
were suckled by the Etruscan she-wolf, 
the western wind reverberates 
with the melodies of India and Harlem. 
When Tallulah Gorge split open and sang, 
the winds sang too. 
They blew to dark 
Tuckahoe caves of Inwood Hill. 
The man in the Hawaiian shirt 
counted one hundred and twenty-five 
words per stanza, 
knowing there would be no more 
and absolutely no less. 
The grey-bearded man 
in the Panama hat 
rode a mule that never missed 
the water in his stall.
Goodnight, Taj Mahal
In the hour of salt and snow, 
a dash of flavor that was Edith 
puts finger to lips, 
secreting that melody of the wind. 
Hushed and hidden, 
the melody lies forgotten. 
The salt of Edith spills 
across the cities of the plains 
and across the great Ghor of Jordan. 
Towards the Dead Sea 
it runs carrying 
the melody of the wind. 
Towards the boot-heal 
of Ionian quietude, it runs. 
The silent spine where Assisi slept 
keeps mum the riddle of Lot. 
From Clingman’s Dome to Baldpate 
and from Middleberry 
to the blood of Killdeer Mountain 
where Sitting Bull, Gull, 
and Inkaduta stood strong. 
Halleluiah, the man in the Panama hat 
rings clear those new, new Easy Rider Blues: 
long, loud, and eternal, 
forever to call.
Goodnight, Taj Mahal
We fertilize those fallow fields 
with our gaze, 
carry the nexus of the universe 
between our shoulder blades. 
Beating on his ribcage 
like a talking drum, 
beating on windows 
like hailstones flying from those fields 
bewildered and naked, 
he’s done the dense dance of ennui 
weighed down by lonely boredom. 
Every hour counts its holocaust 
in tiny ashbins of truth and yesterday. 
In the gelatoria, the salumeria, 
the bowels of the forno, 
they pray to Assisi for guidance. 
They call to the saints to intervene. 
They climb those storied steps 
to Trinità del Monti 
and gaze through opened palms. 
Who was that masked man recycling blues 
and wearing his Panama hat, 
emissary from the violent first day? 
From the crying eyes 
of Charles de Gaul?
Goodnight, Taj Mahal
From those crying eyes 
of Charles de Gaul, 
we count days with each tear-lined cheek. 
When Hirohito cried his A-Bomb tears 
into the A-Bomb ashes 
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 
they washed away the terror of surrender. 
And Peter cried bitterly, uncontrollably. 
And the tears carved canyons 
down Peter’s face. 
And Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus 
like mermaids, 
like sobbing human seals. 
When Assisi received the gift of tears, 
he looked east for guidance. 
Turning eyes toward Yamuna, 
toward The Ganges, 
he begged for guidance. 
The man with the steel guitar 
and the Panama hat 
cried his river of love 
for big legged women. 
He received the gift of tears 
for his sins and the sins of the world. 
The sins of the world.
Goodnight, Taj Mahal

BIO: Andre F. Peltier (he/him) is a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominated poet and a Lecturer III at Eastern Michigan University where he teaches literature and writing. He lives in Ypsilanti, MI, with his wife and children. His poetry has recently appeared in various publications both online and in print. His debut poetry collection, Poplandia, is available from Alien Buddha. He has three collections forthcoming in 2023, Trouble on the Escarpment from Back Room Poetry, Petoskey Stones from Finishing Line Press, and Ambassador Bridge: Poems from Alien Buddha Press. In his free time, he obsesses over soccer and comic books.

Twitter: @aandrefpeltier


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