Conan the Barbarian Priest Poet
by DAMIAN WEBER
There is a hole in the earth shaped like a sword where a fire is eternal. In it there is a liquid that burns. Smoke pours out. The low god Crum creates the weapon. The sword solidifies in the molten lava volcano forge crack in the earth. Dark spots in the sword where the metal takes shape look like sun spots. The sword is six feet long (as tall as a Kentuckian — the term Melville used for the length of Moby Dick's penis). The sand is a Mars golden red color. We have entered not only another time but a different world on this earth. It has taken this low god years to forge the weapon talisman standard flag cross. Crum was surely a god to these men because he made metal burn. To spend my days as god over these children Crum growls is there not a man! Crum the low god has a big hippie beard and large feathered hair. His brow is furrowed from years of worry. No one believed he was a god — now this last desperate act to convince the world. The sword is pulled from the fire. A molten mess. A hideous awful blunt instrument for bludgeoning. The lady with the man's face approves. She has jowls like the Rancor Monster and cheeks above her eyes. She has the face of a Nordic queen. She stares into the fire and thinks I am going to kill you. The fire obscures her face as her thoughts become deadly. She disappears into the darkness. Her features become fainter almost fuckable. When I get my hands on that sword she scowls I'm going to cut myself to pieces. Everyone looks on. They are waiting. Each of them wants the sword. The boy thinks of animals he will kill. He could cut a horse in half. He could finally get a hold of the birds in the sky. But mostly he would like to kill the old man—prove he is not a god.
The old man knows they want to kill him. He moves slowly so they think he is feeble. He can't die. They can cut him how they like. He has been cut before — he cut them back. Into pieces. And ate them. And waved them out his ass. The sword is raised in the air. Crum knows this is the moment. They will attack. He looks weak. He lowers the blade and tempers it in the snow. The phallic symbolism is not to be missed. It is used again — to wipe the blade. He knows they will be on him. Let them rush. He lets them cut. It feels good. No it feels bad. But he enjoys it. Like dying in a dream — it's no matter. Let the cat scratch up your arm — only stings. Satisfaction. They see he cannot die. He is a god. Crum. Their god. Now they will learn. He cuts the boy first. I hate kids he thinks. Next the Norse Queen. He sticks the sword in her leg. She is pinned to the ground. He explains to her that she must die then kills her.
Crum gives a speech. It is droll. Fire and wind come from the sky. From the gods of the sky. But Crum is your god.
The boy is back. He has been reconstituted — like meat. He is now Crum's servant. He has wonderful eighties hair. The clouds move behind him. It is good to be alive again he thinks. Right as rain. Next time I kill this old man he’s done. His face is superimposed on the sublime. Best ever yearbook photo. He looks like a young Linda Hamilton. He too is a babe. Once giants lived in the Earth. In the darkness of chaos they fooled Crum and took from him the enigma of steel.
What is this old man talking about? Please stop spitting in my face when you talk. How come the boy asks it's called the enigma of steel when it's a sword? The dad scowls. Crum was angered and the Earth shook and fire and wind struck down these giants and they threw their bodies into the waters. But in their rage the gods forgot the secret of steel and left it on the battle field. We who found it are just men. Not gods. Not giants. Just men. The secret of steel has a mystery. You must learn its riddle boy. You must learn its discipline. For no one the old man got excited no one can you trust. Not men. Not women. Not beasts. This he says (eyeing the sword like a gun) this ... you can trust.
The old man then hands over the sword to the boy so he can feel its weight. The markings on it are clearly Celtic even though this is the time of giants. The boy can hardly lift the sword. But he’ll use it. Your verse is droll he says to his dad. Bad poetry. You say things as you think they should be. Your speech is like you think someone should give. I stand here superimposed in front of the sky on top a mountain. You rely too heavily on the real. I am wholly unreal. Sorry. The poet carves new words into the old man’s arms. Here is language. About to kill the old man he says You have failed the words. He kills him. I killed you dad.
Two riders approach over the snowy hill. Their horses are armored. They are Russian Viking Mongol Futurists. Their faces are painted white like evil teardrop clowns. Some have masks like Japanese samurai some wear fur caps like Genghis Khan and some Soviet fur hats. They are time travelling. And hungry. The staff they carry is a snake with two heads. It is the staff of men who have a second mouth for an asshole. They eat and shit words out the same mouth. They are unable to differentiate. Like most. Hanging off the staff is a scalped human head. It belonged to the last academic poet they encountered who failed to believe language can be made shitting out words.
The poet has killed a deer and brought it into camp. He prayed to Crum you made the animals without speech. They speak perfect words. They are the chapbook I work ceaselessly on. This deer is my first book of poems. I dedicate it to your death. The camp is excited about the kill and makes preparations. They are an advanced culture much like 1850s England with a mill stone to roll wheat. They wear the skins of animals they have killed. Their jewelry makes them a flamboyant clan.
The poet has put on his father's skin and enters the village. Finally he will fuck his mom. He goes to their tent. It is cozy. He goes straight to his tool bench though. He doesn't want to give in too soon. His mom never looked hotter. She's like a drugged Norse queen. Her lips are the poutiest. Her disheveled hair drives him wild — he knows she'll be a demon lay. She doesn't approach him and he thinks God I hate you. What's the point of being a sexy beast if you can't seduce me? He turns away in disgust and gives up. These girls are no help he says to himself as he walks out. He leaves his father’s skin on the ground for his mom to contemplate.
The clan of the two snakes is about to rampage the village. They gallop through the trees. The first sign of attack is a half man half penis animal who perches on a rock and sniffs the air like a dog. He knows they are close. Soon there will be meat in his mouth. Both kinds. He sees him but he isn't scared. He knows they won't kill him. Maybe kiss him a little. The clan heads into the village. Good. He hates them. He runs back to the hut and makes his best friend wear his dad's skin. There is a battle. They overact even in their deaths. It's their need to be dramatic that makes their deaths silly — their words the worst. You do me a favor he yells to no one. The one beautiful word he hears is from a dying man. 18 letters all vowels. It is original — the only believable sentence from this hack town.
In the chaos his mom runs for him. She's so needy he says to himself. But shocked he likes it. It's nice to have a girl need you. He thinks to himself maybe I could love a girl. He now understands what keeps men interested. Of course she had to wait until the village was destroyed. That's so annoying. Waiting until the last minute of your life to finally act. No he was premature in thinking he could love a woman. They are no help.
His best friend fights well in his dad's skin. He has the sword / secret / enigma. He ducks a swing. He cuts a man. Kill that one the leader says. The whole clan surrounds the dad skin — kills him. The poet and his mom look on. The dadskin is eaten by dogs.
The time travelling band of Russian Chinese Japanese Vikings now settle on the mother. She is holding him as they approach. He wants to yell out I have renounced her but doesn't. She is wearing fury boots like were stylish back then and now. She looks like Han Solo. The sword is covered in blood. The poet is excited. He can't wait to see what happens. Is this real life? he asks himself. For once something! Life before was slow motion. Like it was happening to someone else. He decides that from now on he will be alive.
James Earl Jones gets off his horse. He is a beautiful black woman. He has long black hair. He's trying to act. He walks up to her and calms her with his eyes. They are blue which disgusts everyone. She can't believe how weird it looks. She puts up a valiant fight standing doing nothing but James Earl Jones tilts his head slightly with an empathetic bent. He understands! She lowers her sword. She loves him. He looks at her like a creep then turns away. Where are you going? she thinks. He turns around and chops off her head. Like a jerk he must own her before he kills her. Her head falls on the ground — her body stays upright. Then she falls. In slow motion. The poet says to himself Ugly black woman for a lack of anything better to do I am going to spend my life in pursuit of you. I'll give you a head start.
The beautiful black woman moves her hand indicating she would like her helmet. When she puts it on she becomesJames Earl Jones again. Seriously wicked.
The whole encounter was wordless.
The clan leaves the town slowly. The huts are on fire. Heads on spikes. One sexy baby is placed upright and hernstraw hair makes her look like a scarecrow. The clan doesn’t take anything. They take hearts. Girlhearts.
Time is passing. It is now the future. He has a chain around his neck — a slave. A line of slaves. They look like Ewoks dressed in animal skins. In Ewok skins. They walk past a pagan statue much like a penis with a dead body at its base. It has no meaning. Senseless.
The slaves have travelled a great distance. The one that looks like the Artful Dodger has excellent eighties rock hair. He is clearly the hottest. Part little boy part little girl. They are out of the snow and in the desert. One of the boys falls. He is killed. A large javelin — wait a spear. They travel into spring. They are in Monument Valley. The snow capped mountains in the background are superimposed. He is travelling toward the digital west. But they have reached their destination. A carousel turned by boys. It is a millstone for rolling wheat and making fluffy breads. The Wheel of Pain. This is an important outpost. There is a death man on lookout. He is a blackbird. He caws at the newcomers. He has red hair and looks like Ronald the bear Weasley. No like the bully from A Christmas Story. He has Farrah Fawcett hair with swooshy flair. The poet is clamped to the wheel — loves his new activity. He has no other desires. This is a new life. He can't believe it. All I have to do he thinks is do this forever. Never to think again. To kill the poet’s head is a great favor — a poet’s superpower. He kicks a rock as he works. I'll see you on the other side rock. He turns to the boy next to him. I'll kill him first he thinks. Hey you. What's your name? The boy from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory turns to him and says Chuck. He looks at him. He can't believe it. That's cute he says I think I'll call you Andy. Do you know how to fade out Andy? Become nothing? To be strong? I'll show you. I won't say anything for the next 15 years and when I come back l will be my pure being. You should try it. See you on the other side Andy. The poet kills his head and becomes.
Fifteen years later he’s back. Turns on his head. He's now Arnold Schwarzenegger. Neat he thinks. His hair is long and he lost his shirt. When he wakes he looks like a man possessed. The world is new to him again. Another superpower of the poet is to have the world afresh. See he thinks the world is mine. Why would anyone not want to own this world when it is so mine? Hey Andy he says do you see that distance in the distance? It's mine. Oh hey rock good to see you again. Would you like to be owned by me? Too bad rock. I gotta break.
He is huge and has tits on his back. He is clean shaven and thinks what did these fucknuts do to me while I was out? Proving that the external world comes to you when you are ready the poet is freed from the wheel. Another superpower of the poet is that the external world is shaped in the mind. It's like telekinesis except it’s more like active appreciation. You are only as free as you think you are he says to his captors. The red headed blackbird unclamps him from the wheel and drags him up a mountain. Anything’s better than crawling he thinks. As the skin is torn from his back he wonders how humans can survive. It is a marvel he thinks my skin didn't shed. He doesn't howl in pain. He takes a new form. The world swirls purple like an absinthe drunk. No it’s back right again. This world is too easy he thinks.
Sit here! his captor tells him. He barks the order like talking to a child. You use language against itself the poet tells him and yourself. There is no place to sit. All I see is Earth and I don't sit on the Earth. It becomes me.
Should I sit on that mountain behind me? Should I sit on the dinosaurs? I'm playing — I'll sit.
He sits across from the first truly religious dude he's ever met. The man sits on a ledge over a pit. The pit has torches surrounding it and small statues like squatty gods. Together with the believer on one side and the poet on the other this is the new religion. But the poet notices the man is chained and has a hammer for a hand. The new religion is combat. Am I to kill this man to initiate the new world? The man doesn't move — he looks at the poet with complete disassociation. The poet is unfazed too. His is a peaceful dead face. They sit for hours probing each other’s minds asking questions through the air. Did you know your folks? How free is free? You ever been with a woman?
Night falls. The village has gathered. The men wear wigs under black bandanas. The women look like young boys with splotchy faces. Their skin is showing everywhere. They treat the poet like a dog — hand him scraps.
They unchain the hammer — he rises. There is murder in his eyes. He wants to become a priest. He wants it too much the poet thinks. There is a howl among the girls. Sexy. The poet is pushed into the pit. He backs away from the man but is kicked into the center. He wants to let the people think he doesn't have to kill this man. Your religion is for assholes! he yells. An iron fist hits him in the stomach. The man grabs the poet in a bear hug and tries to rip him in half. He bites off the poet's ear — he is awakened. Yes he doesn't need to kill but he wants to. He grabs the man’s arm behind his back in a chicken wing — breaks it cleanly. He rolls him over and breaks the other arm. The man doesn't quit. How ridiculous. The poet breaks his knees and still he thrashes wildly. Hold still the poet says soon you will reach the other side. You want to look like a fish? The poet puts him in a headlock and breaks his neck.
The crowd is stunned. You believe he says this is the new way. But there is no way. Only life. There are no answers. And no gods. Except me. And you. And love. And words. If I must kill this man then I must. If I must kill you ... then I must. But there is nothing I must do. I believe in nothing. In inaction. And the peace of self‐belief. I am not your new god. I am a priest. Learn the way.
The people jump into the pit and touch him like he is holy. He is handed a large wood standard that looks nothing like a Christian symbol (yes it does). They throw another faithful into the pit — the poet fights again. Yum.
The poet finds himself in china. He is locked outdoors in the sun. He is given texts to read as if he were learning for the first time. He didn’t tell them he was a University at Buffalo language poet who studied under greats like Robert Creeley Charles Bernstein and Susan Howe. He likes to read. Especially the post moderns and New York School. All halfbougie collegegrad bohotourists. But he really hates the beats. Too much religion. Not enough history. He likes poetry about poetry mostly. Writing about writers. Process poems. And nice things about the girl you like.
A slavegirl is brought into his cell. The door is locked. They watch. She is dressed in a robe but they take it from her showing her breasts. She does not attempt to cover herself. She stands naked except a brown diaper. She has long brown hair and wears an iron crown. They expect the barbarian to take her but he would rather write about how girls cause constant hurt feelings. Women are like mom. Family to be protected. Fear is on her face. He goes to her — covers her. She is relieved. Don't worry he says girls disgust me. Here eat my food. You'll be my pet. I'll call you RaceCar. I'll teach you the way.
The jailers look through the bars disgusted — hoping to see hot eighties tiger sex. He shoos them away. Away captors of our minds! They walk away in amazement. Certainly he is holy. Or half gay.
At night the China King has a dinner. Number One Kitchen. My biggest fear is my sons will never understand me he whines. What is best in life? he quizzes his sons.
The oldest son speaks first. The open steppe. A great horse. Falcons at your wrist and the wind in your hair. He answers proudly looking at the king. Say wrong to that dad!
Wrong! the king yells. The oldest son knew he was wrong. He likes to egg on his dad who's an old fool who he'll kill soon. The dad turns to the poet and asks him what is best in life. To crush your enemies. To see them driven before you. And to hear the lamentation of their women. The family agrees. But the poet knows this is not true. He only said it because he is captive. He knows what’s best in life is complete peace. To write when you want. Friends who are better writers than you. A house full of modern poetry. Coffee in the kitchen. And NPR all day. A world without women. And after you have created something truly modern — give up and only read newspapers from foreign cities. Maybe start a correspondence with a young poet who tries too hard to be a poet. Like Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet and write about what makes bad poetry. Especially when your poetry sucks dude! That would be a bunch of fun.
Night's on. The full moon is out. The poet thinks if he tries hard enough he can become a werewolf. No. He curses his unresponsive body and retreats back into his mind. Sleep. But he is kicked awake by his jailer. He is brought over to the chopping block and wonders if his head is coming off. If I don't want life too bad I won't get hurt feelings. He closes his eyes. Not to want. It’s his chains that are cut. The poet looks dumb. The jailer kicks him. Go he says you're free.
I was always free quoth the poet.
The poet runs. He runs across the shrubby deserts of China into the shrubby deserts of Arizona directly onto the set of Mad Max and the Freedome. There are black dogs chasing him. German Shepherds — a breed that doesn’t exist yet. He outruns them for miles. Finally they overcome him. No they're wolves. The wolves he wished he became last night during the full moon. Wish granted. He climbs a rock formation with ancient statues not completely unlike Easter Island. He sees a symbol carved into the rock. It is a box on a stand like a TV. A witch! He falls through the opening and down the steps. He makes the most ridiculous noises. Skeletons on the wall tell him he is going to get more than laid. He sees the witch. She is wearing a brown diaper.
There's warmth and fire she says. Do you not wish to warm yourself by my fire? So obvious. She crawls on all fours like a shecar. Her dark brown hair is a mane. She looks at him. She tosses magnesium into the fire—a white hot flash and screams from the dead. She crawls to him as low to the ground as she can. There is a tiger skin on the wall — he expects hot‐eighties‐tiger‐sex. They said you would come she starts. The music in the background is heavy drumming. From the north a man of great strength. A conqueror. A man who would be king by his own hand. Who would crush the snakes of the earth. What is it you seek?
A clan of men who eat and shit words.
She comes closer and closer until she sees he won’t back away if she kisses him. He isn’t pleased but not unwilling. She winces as he jabs her. She starts an enchantment. Zamura she calls out to her demon mom. The cave turns blue then purple. She opens her eyes which are now vertical like a cat. She lets out a tiger yell — her teeth are sharpened. She reaches for the poet and tries to eat his face. Wind comes from her chest. She is completely freaking out. He rolls over and tosses her into the fire where she burns instantly. She flies around the cave and leaves in a streak of fire.
Day comes and he walks back into the world. A dad. The poet looks around at the new world. He wonders which way to go. It doesn't matter.
Food a man calls out. Food. He is chained to the wall. I have not eaten in four days. It's a Mexican.
And who says you will? the poet asks. He likes being a jerk. More importantly he wants to see how Zen the Mexican is. Especially if they’re going to hunt gash together. The correct answer is I need nothing and will have it! Instead the Mexican says Need food so I have strength. The wolves are coming. The Mexican knows the best way to interest a poet is to not say what the poet wants. Poets talk about what they want to talk about. Fucking poets he thinks so easy.
Wrong! Don't think about the wolves. They are only ghosts of the external world. Your hunger is not real. And these chains he says breaking them are not real. Come with me and learn the way. Soon you will reach the other side.
The two walk over a mountain and set up camp next to an ocean. In the twilight they cook ancient animals over a campfire. In the morning they run across the wheat fields of ancient China and over the sands of Arizona. They run and run and run both amazed they never grow tired. There is magic in the earth. A city materializes in the external world. Civilization the Mexican says. The poet could strangle him. He hasn't said a word in two days — then that lie. He knows this isn't civilization but a figment. When he sees a city he doesn't think Girls! like we do today.
They enter the city. The people are Mongolian Chinese Viking Witches from evil snake cults wearing Turkish turbans on camels and Asian elephants. They pretend they are talking but only mouth empty words. The poet can sense something inauthentic about the city. Citizens try to sell them goods. But they are on a quest to shed possessions including their bodies. Especially their minds.
They ask a man if they know about the snakes. He is white unlike the rest. He wears a Chinaman's hat but looks British and sounds American. The only snakes I know of are on those cursed towers. He points up to a smokestack with a ring of snakes. They have spread to every city. Two or three years ago it was any other snake cult. Not now. It is said they are deceivers. They murder people in the night. I know nothing. The man then offers them Black Lotus which the poet assumes is an opiate. That's okay he says if I want to feel something ... I'll break my fingers.
At night the poet and the Mexican try to find a way into the tower. They ask everyone. Even a camel. They reach the tower. But out of the darkness a figure appears. It’s a leg. A woman's leg. She reveals her face. She’s trapped. She thinks they’re guards. She’ll have to fight. She pulls out her sword. Her blonde hair blows across her face. She has cheekbones so high on her face it’s a butt. She’s a beefcake Helen Hunt. With her Roman nose. She wears a leather bikini and has one hundred feet of rope. Her long pale arms are the same color as her hair. She only has breasts because of muscle. You're not guards she says.
Neither are you the Mexican says putting away his sword. Thieves like yourself come to climb the tower.
You don't have a rope she says. Ha (attempting a dramatic voice) two fools who laugh at death! The poet puts down his sword. He looks concerned.
The Mexican climbs the tower without a rope. He uses his knife. The poet uses her rope — her butt in his face. They reach the top. The girl goes first and enters a chamber. She’s almost been seen but quickly hides. Women in white robes walk by with candles. They have long monkey arms. Their faces are hidden and they appear to be handmaidens to the girl without a hood. She is the sacrifice. The Mexican follows but the girl motions for them to go a different direction. The boys climb down to the lowest level. They reach the dirt bottom covered in human bones. The poet kicks a rat.
She sneaks up behind one of the skinny white teenagers — snags her from behind. Now she wears her robe. She has a complete view of the ceremony — the handmaidens take off the robes of the sacrifice. Her hair covers her breasts and she is wearing a white diaper. She kneels before the pit. She’s going to dive. She clasps her hands together like praying to Moses’ god. She starts to sway like she is speaking tongues. She is convulsing and becoming possessed. Her bony hips pierce out the diaper. She is excited to reach the other side.
The boys climb through a pipe leading to a green light. They see the orange and black snake. It's guarding the jewels. It eyes them. They should turn and run. They grab as many stones as they can. It rises up larger than the room. The poet strikes. He slams the sword through its mouth. Black blood comes out. It’s over quickly.
The sacrifice dives into the pit. She screams. The snake has been killed. Its head off. Its body thrashes. The poet and the Mexican climb the rope. They are followed by the girl. They reach the top. Their rope is gone. The girl decides to jump into the pool below. The poet next. Then the Mexican. They are free. They are rich. They go to a bar. The Mexican walks between the dancing girls. He gooses a butt. But the poet is with the girl. He's a serial monogamist.
They are at the table with their big cups. The jewels are on the table. Looks like the poet is asleep. She reaches across to sneak. The poet grabs her hand and looks at her. He grabs the biggest jewel — runs it over her hand. You’re like a diamond he says. You're as cold as ice. You're willing to sacrifice. Our love. He’s quoting Foreigner. He’s expressing himself in power rock ballads. Especially when words don't mean anything anyway. He turns her hand over and holds her wrist by the sensitive part. He thinks to himself I want you to feel this. I want you to feel how sexy this is. He knows nothing is sexy — sexy is to think you're sexy. It works. Her hand loosens. Can you hear me? he thinks to himself I want you. He holds her wrist too long but doesn't care. Lingering has made something unsexy sexy — now everything is sexy. He gives her the jewel. He places it in her hand. He sings He's a fool ... a fool for love. What he wouldn't do for love. He’s singing Sandy Rogers. Once a fool ... you got to follow the rule ... always a fool for love. Sounds like a chance to advance the cause of true love. It works like crazy. You're in the movies the girl says try to be sexy. Take that smirk off your face. But it doesn't matter. His arms are huge and she sits on his lap. He peels off her leather halter‐top. But the poet knows how to touch. He rubs her over like a cat. Her skin shines with vegetable oil. Her spine sticks out like a dinosaur. Her butt is like an oxen. How long do I have to pretend to enjoy this? he thinks. The girl realizes she is losing him and puts his face in her breasts. Now. He is in the present. His mind wanders but it is good to be back. She makes a face like she's seen in the movies of people who like it. It drags on too long. This is a kid movie. Finally it is over. But no. First they must look at each other like two people finding each other. Now it is over. He kills her.
She is back. They walk through the elfin village. A tiny midget tries to subdue a pig. He grabs it by its legs. To what purpose? Next two fat guys grapple. It's a wild world. The Mexican has found himself a girl too. More shots of everyone happy. How long is this interminable scene?
The guards come in. They surround the poet. They’re taken to the hall of the King. It is large and empty. The king has a depression. He is another Britain. His voice is nasally and powerful and grating.
These are the thieves you requested sire!
I thought there were three.
Our companion the girl says died in the gardens. Good one. Lions ate him. The girl thinks to save someone besides herself. Unlike the poet who is in his own head only. Thanks to art. The guards bring out the Mexican—the King gets pleasure out of the lie. Do you know what you've done? the king asks. What daring. What outrageousness. What insolence. What arrogance. I salute you. Snakes! In my beautiful city. Everywhere their towers. You alone have stood up to their guards. And what are you? Thieves! And my daughter’s fallen under their spell. She follows them as a slave. Seeking the truth of her soul. She is to be his! He gives them jewels. Steal my daughter back.
When they are alone the girl begs the poet no. To hell with it. Fuck all. The Mexican agrees. Let’s take what we have. I have never had so much as now. All my life I've been alone. She talks like they do in the movies about not losing someone. The poet says no. He gives a long winded speech about family. About fathers and friends and trulove. It drags on. She agrees and will go with him. But in the night he leaves her. She wakes up to find him gone. Relieved! She rubs her hand where he was the night before. Her breasts slip out. There’s nothing better than being free. Of you. She cries a little. It’s nice to know there’s instant justice.
Finally alone again he feels free. He's on his horse. He has his sword and his thoughts. He's like any guy after a breakup feeling so free (for the first week). So many things he can do now he couldn't do before. Man she was so annoying.
The Ural Mountains are behind him. Even though he’s in Spain. The ground is dry. It’s spring but there is snow. Now he’s traveling through a blizzard. And now over Kansas. He spots hippies. They carry flowers and hand him one. They wear robes that are ripped and brown. They are the Children of Doom. Doom’s Children. They are flagellants — scourge themselves. They tell him to throw down his sword and return to the Earth. But we are the earth the poet says nothing is unnatural. He doesn’t accept the flower. A symbol — not real words. Things in place of words. Symbols represent what you want to say ... instead of what you say. Your language is misunderstood. Your language is for assholes. There is a cute hippy girl with brown hair. A dream. He wants to show her the way. Using words that aren’t replacements for other words. Jerks. He leaves the hippies.
He travels. He finds standing stones that look like Stonehenge. There is a Japanese Wizard. He is a hermit. Luckybastard. Hey I’m a wizard mind you. This place is kept by powerful gods. Harm my flesh and you’ll have to deal with the dead!
Can you summon demons? Your words are nothings.
I would summon the demon more ferocious than all in hell.
The poet laughs. It’s not a good laugh. But schadenfreude. Harm joy. The black happies. Like meeting someone and knowing you will enjoy killing them. They talk about Stonehenge. These have been here since the time of the Kings. Domains once glittered like the light on the windy sea. The poet speaks hate. Domains don’t glitter. Or Glisten. And ... it doesn’t happen on the windy sea. Not a moment for poetry. Start over ... and leave it out. Do flowers grow here? the poet asks. It is a set up. His answer will show what type of poet he is. He expects language about the first flowers of spring. Maybe with poison. If he’s a bohemian he’ll mention some as medicine. Too easy to draw them out. Poets you can see a mile away. For once an original idea! Flowers? the wizard spits. He looks at the poet. The poet smiles. They both laugh. They agree. Poetry sucks.
They drink wine out of a pot. The poet drinks too much. Because he wants to.
In the morning he trades his horse for a camel. He rides into the desert. Warrior? the wizard calls out. What are the flowers for? The poet wants to answer that they misrepresent language. A mockery of a joke about something important to him. A reminder to not take things serious. Instead he chooses his words. Only use words that are original. He kicks the camel and yells For a girl! The wizard cackles. He understands language. Symbols aren’t useless.
The poet rides until he comes to an encampment. There are many hippies. They live in tents at the foot of the mountains. They pray like Muslims by bowing. They have the contented air of self‐satisfied people with nothing to do but enjoy greatness. The poet looks at them with a sidelong glance. He is unsatisfied with his sneering. Why snicker? Why not use his words? A line of women rub each other’s backs like at a rave. It is a meditation. The poet travels through them with the flowers in his hand. The words are cutting his hands. I can’t stand symbols he thinks. The children repeat the incantation Doooooooooom. They meditate on their destruction. The poet agrees there is no hope and shit all is useless. He has asked for oblivion before. He has called it down on dead men. But it is a false paradise. For the weak to mollify the weak. Don’t produce results.
The poet sleeps on the ground next to a fire. He has lit his flowers. He wishes he had whiskey. It’s going to be a long night. In the morning he wakes to a commotion. The children of Doom are moving. They follow a group of priests who wear white robes. They are distributing robes — they fight over them. To the death. When they collect their robes they smell them. What kind of cult is this? He grabs a robe—smells it. He walks among them. He nods his head like a smirking shit. He can’t help himself — subterfuge is his weakness. He can’t pretend to be other. The priests walk in a line. Their white hoods look like Klansmen. There’s thousands of them. They are heading to Death Mountain. They reach a large staircase cut into a mountain. Two bad guys walk down the stairs. They are the actors from Spinal Tap. They have long hair and mustaches. One of them is Lemmy from Motorhead. The other is Jeff Hanneman from Slayer. They’re looking for the poet but he is by the reflection pool. A girl asks him What do you see? The poet answers Infinity. Might as well play up the role. I see nothing ... only doom. She agrees. He stands up and is twice her height. What is this hell?
The princess walks out of the mountain and stops at the top of the stairs. She is a babe. She has a snake wrapped around each wrist. Her arms strain.
I have seen you. I have watched you. For a thousand years … I have watched you. Where did that voice come from? It must be Doom. It Is. James Earl Jones steps out of the mountain. He raises his hands in a fey salute. The poet sees him. There he is. Doom lowers his hands which says You may be seated. Like at Mass. Who among you still fears death? Who ... will not face ... emptiness? The poet looks into his hypnotic eyes. He doesn’t fear death. He faces emptiness.
He is grabbed from behind. He struggles. His teeth are clenched. They yell Infidel! It takes 8 people to grab him. They lift him over their heads. The crowd runs away to watch the infidel be killed. Doom gives up. Mass is over. The princess walks forward. She has a skeleton face and two small slits for a nose like a snake. Still a babe. She makes the peace sign and crosses her arms. The snakes don’t bite her face. They’re like jewelry. She is sad. She wants to feel the death of the infidel. She can read minds. She likes to die over and over.
The poet is incapacitated. He is covered in blood. They throw him in the reflection pool — he is heading to infinity. Doom stands over him. Her hands at her side like a shocked mother. I wish to speak to you now Doom says. Where is the Eye of the Serpent? You gave it to a girl? Probably for a ... night’s pleasure. You broke into my house! Murdered my servants and my pet. That’s what grieves me the most! You killed my snake.
You care too much the poet says to ask for oblivion. You lie … with words. You killed my mom … my people!
With a wistful sigh Doom laments his earlier ways. Must have been when I was younger. There was a time boy when I searched for steel. When steel meant more to me than gold or jewels.
The riddle ... of steel.
Yes! You know it don't you boy? Steel isn't strong boy but flesh is stronger! Look around you. There! A beautiful girl!
A babe is standing on a cliff. There are hundreds up there. Doom looks at her. She lifts up her arms. They are lockedin a mind. She smiles — she’ll enter nothing. She steps off the edge and falls 182 feet onto a stunt bag below. The poet doesn’t see the import.
That is strength! he sneers. That is power! Without words. Doom’s eyes are burning. You talk too much. Contemplate this on the tree of woe. Crucify him!
In the desert there is a solitary tree. The poet has been nailed to it like Romans used to do. The poet has lost his mind. He is daydreaming — hallucinating. He believes he is yelling against a country of morons. It’s because of followers that he is here now. Followers of Doom who killed mom. Followers of the slave trade that bought him. Followers of fights that made him fight. Followers of the presented. And he himself was a follower. To get revenge — he followed.
Vultures swarm overhead. They pick at his flesh. He grabs it in his mouth and bites. Its head falls off. The poet dies. This stupid world. It got me.
In the distance there is a vision. It’s the Mexican. He isn’t running fast — pick it up. The girl is there too. They cut him down. The girl asks the wizard Do the gods owe you favors? She wants him brought back. She’ll fight demons. She’ll pay the price. She’s got no fucks left to give.
Night comes and they start the ceremony. The wizard is drawing runes on his dead body. These words are picturesthat summon demons. He mumbles incantations. Speak up! He has circled the wound on his wrist as a location of power. He paints face tats on him. He is tied to stop the demons from taking him. The Mexican has a jug. He passes it to the girl — she refuses. The wind picks up. The clouds turn red. The demons lift his body but she throws herself on him. She fights with flailing punches. Big missing haymakers. The demons are little worms with skulls. They are transparent and tough to find. They crawl on her back — try to take her. She battles without end. She wins. It’s like falling in love all over again. He is back from the dead. She has successfully fought for love — like in magazines. She’s crying. She can’t believe it. But he’s still dead. She hugs his body. In the morning he opens his eyes. She doesn’t waste a moment. The gods she says cannot sever us. If I were dead … and you were fighting … I’d come back from the darkness … from the pit of hell … to fight at your side.
Conan can’t believe it — alive for one minute and this! There is no pit of hell. And never will you come back from the darkness. There is no darkness … only yourself.
He takes a moment to practice his swordsmanship. It’s good to be alive he thinks. Good to taste the tasty air. Damn I love having this in my hands. He sharpens his sword with a rock. He is lost in his own world. Hacking and chopping limbs and heads. Giving good speeches. The Mexican suggests they steal the princess and not kill Doom. They could get away. Agreed? Beefcake Helen Hunt wants it too. She wants to get away. She asks. Conan doesn’t answer. Instead he sharpens. I came back from the dead to kill and they want to keep their lives.
It’s morning — they ride. They leave the wizard behind. It’s not his fight. They ride over the sand dunes of Arizona. The white sands of New Mexico. The rocky terrain of Mongolia. The mountains of Spain. It’s summer — it’s easy. They’ve found the back entrance to Death Mountain. It is the volcano of Stromboli off Sicily which inspired Mordor. They ready for battle. Conan puts his sword in the fire–in order to melt it. War paint is applied to their faces. They arm themselves with every weapon. They are Rambo hiding grenades in their armpits. They hide little knives in their crevices. The Mexican has his bow and arrows. I get to be Legolas! The crawl a hole in the mountain. It is on fire. Inside is a scene of industrialization. Mine workers stoking fires. They walk like Patsy played by Terry Gilliam in Monty Python’s The Search for the Holy Grail–like Englishmen. The light underground is red. They are stretching people on the rack—except they’re dead. Truly wigged friggers. They’re smelting iron — lifting a cauldron of fire. No it’s a stew. They’re cutting human bodies. Soilent Green. They use the head and hands. Weird. Bodies hang upside‐down like cows at market. Conan hates sneaking. He feels like a wuss.
They follow the stew into the orgy chamber. Naked bodies everywhere. Legs in the air—for no reason. Huge pillows make an orgy. Some are making out pretty hard — that’s sweet. They’re serving wine and cold cuts. The gimp wears a mask. Conan looks at the orgy and takes a mental snapshot. There’s a tiger? The soup is green and the body parts aren’t cooked well — they look gelatinous and white. A babe pulls a hand out of her soup and bites into a finger. Disgusto.
There’s the princess! She’s up top with Doom. He’s in his throne not moving. She lays on the floor next to him like Princess Leia when she was slave to Jabba the Hutt. He is in a trance. His eyes are blue from the spice from Dune. He’s travelling. Now his eyes are vertical slits like a snake. His face is bulging. Holy shit! Doom’s face is stretching. He is now a snake. So he was a god? The snake slips out of his body and into the wall. Carrie Fisher doesn’t notice — she is on muscle relaxants. When the orgy notices the fires they don’t budge. They are in the moment. If I were to die right now that would be no big deal. It’d be the best. Conan runs through the orgy killing only dudes. He dumps the stew. A skull pours out. The cauldron falls down the steps—smashes against the wall. Lemmy from Motorhead has an almighty ax and Jeff Hanneman from Slayer has a huge hammer. The guy with the hammer almost smashes his head like a watermelon — like Gallagher. The lair is falling. They grab the princess who bites and scratches and claws. She hisses like a cat. The girl knocks her out with a backhanded slap. They escape.
Doom is back. He lifts his men out of the rubble. He walks out of the lair and watches them ride away. He pulls a snake out of a bag and stretches it straight as an arrow. He puts it in his bow and releases. From a mile away he strikes the girl. She is dying. They lay her on the ground. She pulls the arrow out of her back — it returns to a living snake. She tells Conan to let her breathe her last breath into his mouth. He thinks it’s melodramatic but does it anyway. Refuse a last wish because it is trite? She dies. They burn her body like the Japanese.
He swears revenge. I’m going to chop off his head and toss it down a flight of steps. He wants to send his people packing — walk away from religion when they see their leader is not a god. I’ll take his snake eyeballs and lick them. Cut his body and free his blood. He promises to never fall in love.
They’ve made camp by the wizard’s tent. They use the large stones as a fort. They tie the princess so Doom can see her. He will kill you the princess says. He has seen your fires. He will come for me and when he does he will kill you. Conan wants Doom to kill him. He wants a fight to the death and doesn’t care who wins. Her taunting pisses him off. He picks up a large rock and throws it at her. It smashes above her head. He grins.
They’re preparing. Turning sticks into spears and sticking them into the ground. Conan says I remember days like this when my father took me into the forest. Almost 20 years of pitiless combat. No rest. No sleep like other men. And yet the spring wind blew. He is getting whimsical reminiscent sentimental sloppy. The end is near. It was great being alive. The leaves were so dark and green then. The grass smelled sweet with the spring wind. He asks the Mexican You ever felt that wind?
It blow where I live too. In the north of everyman’s heart.
What the shit is that supposed to mean? Conan asks. Do you mock? Conan realizes his emotions are controlling his words. Screw it — he wants to be sad. For us there is no spring. Just the wind that smells fresh before the storm. He’s said something poetic and hates it. I hate poetry he thinks. Especially mine. He figures he will let it go. He doesn’t need to say it right. He’s about to die. And the Mexican is going to die with him. What does it matter if he slips into sentimentality and trite pedestrian commonplace hackneyed corny stale tired cornballs? His words will be like him soon—lifeless limp dull flat banal clichéd lame cheesy old hat.
There they are the friggers! They came. This is going to be great. He can’t wait to kill them. It’s hard to tell how many there are — 10? 12? 20? Conan picks up 3 axes. The Mexican has placed arrows around the encampment — ready. They’re so ready. It’s five to one. Good odds. They are close. They bear the standard of the snake shitting the snake. It’s hard to tell which one is Darth Vader. Finally. Oblivion. As expected! He waits behind a rock and attacks a rider by surprise. They are cut in half. He does it again. And again. That’s three. Hope the Mexican is keeping up. Conan kills another one. The Mexican has a spear. He gets one. First kill. He’s on. The guy with the hammer hits Conan. It’s a game of hide and seek in the rocks—now you see me now you don’t. He finds Conan hiding behind a rock and he smashes Conan’s head. But it was a trap. Instead he’s spiked. Conan stands up and looks at him. The look in the dying man’s eyes makes him never want to die. He realizes he’s going to die. He wants to have another go. Maybe this time not such a dick. He watches the dying man with great interest. You’re dying he says not me. It’s good to understand. The whole time you were dead. This is how it always was. He soaks up the sight. He knows it will be him that will die one day. It is him that was always dead. We are both shit he tells the dying man.
While he is preaching the other guy from Spinal Tap attacks. Lemmy — with an ax. But it is no matter. Conan has ascended. He is now light and thought. He digs his hand into his chest and rips out his heart. He doesn’t understand. Do you not understand? Conan asks. It is because you are weak.
Doom watches all. Then rides.
It’s night. Doom is in front his followers. He is atop the steps. He looks out over his children. There are thousands of them — holding torches. It is a beautiful sight. Proof of the sublime. And they believe. He speaks. The Purge is at last at hand. Day of Doom ... is here! All that is evil. Your parents. Your leaders. Those who call themselves your judges. Those who have lied ... and corrupted the Earth … they shall be cleansed. Doom’s Children approve by saying Doooooooooooooom. You my children are the water that will wash away all that has come before. In your hand you hold my light. You burn away the darkness. You burn ... the way!
Conan walks up to Doom from behind.
My child Doom says. You have come to me. For who now is your father if it is not me? Who gave you the will to live? What will your world be without me? James Earl Jones likes telling white dudes he’s dad. What a trip. He’s falling for it. He’s confused.
Have you learned the riddle? Do you still believe in steel? When you are stronger!
Words are shit he says. You talk too much. He hacks Doom’s shoulder. He hacks his other shoulder — rips off his head. He lifts it for everyone to see. He tosses the head down the steps — it rolls forever. The villagers can’t believe it. They turn their heads in shame. They had been worshipping a man not a god. They walk up to the reflection pool and throw in their torches. One by one they quit religion. Without speaking they leave. They set fire to all they see. They still hate everything — especially their absentee dads.
Conan sits on the steps and watches. The princess is there. She wants him. She lifts up her hands in prayer. She is the new witch. As he walks down the steps she opens her arms to him. She bows at his feet. Get up he says don’t bow to me. Conan thinks. He kicks her down the steps. No one he yells ever listens!
Paintings by Gertrude Abercrombie.
"The Wheel" - Laura Stevenson (mp3)
"The Hole" - Laura Stevenson (mp3)
Laura Stevenson's third album, Wheel, was released on April 23rd. You can purchase it here.