AHURA MAZDA by MIchael Shorb This sand and thistle wilderness once held gardens where we greeted fighting Cambyses home from Egyptian conquest with slaves, ivory, gold, a stable of captured gods. We feasted, glittering dancers whirled Priests of Ahura Mazda filled our cups with liquid glory. Waking, we find the city under siege. Macedonian javelins raining down, runners bawling out the dread from Granicus. There's a new god now, Aristotle's prize student, Alexander Mastodon a phalanx of bloody dust spilling into Asia Egypt India like a plague. Our survey indicates a finite number of horsehide insect whisks Nubian slaves loading bales of colored cotton tusks, spices, pottery precious stones and bulging granaries, newly-erected temples. Then it darkens armies roll, locusts drizzle through river orchards, illuminated manuscripts go for fish wrap. Each human's got a part to play. I was the grinning wanderer who played the flute or juggled green bottles in torchlit courtyards, I was the plain man with the shriveled belly, a bricklayer, a sail maker, the man who buried fallen legions with balm and special markings coins lidding the eyes. This process, profit and loss, began with dried fish and carved elk horn, flints and surgery exchanged for water in summer salt in winter. Who knows if anything ever dies? Fall off a Turkish siege ladder at Constantinople into a dark vortex of smoking emptiness and points of echoing fire, see what happens then. A last memory will be the full yellow moon a woman's touch the smile of a friend. Maybe that says it. The ideas we know about. They're always around shuffled from fleet to caravan maybe getting less attention by now being laughed at, ridiculed, abused in the marketplace. I won't make a big deal of this. You simply make less impression each time you exist. Begin as a god deep in the velvet myths of Persia if you must, you'll end up propping open a temple door in the seedy part of town, naming a rotary engine automobile by the time the 20th Century rolls. An excellent system come to think of it. Natural selection among archetypes. Each vehicle becoming its own model of the universe complete with ritualized accessories customized concepts of duty and freedom. Me, I love my new Olympus XL Grand Operatic camper with dashboard pantheon sacred bough orphic stereo tape deck barbed wire doors supply of food, fuel and liquor ensuring our survival, yours in the abstract sense mine in the concrete sense. In this vehicle there is nothing to fear. One recent evening I ploughed through a mob of irate campesinos while turning west toward dusk on the Trans-Amazon Highway. In my spotlights they scattered buzzing and bristling in the manner of the starving gnashing their teeth as the weight of my place in this night-- the only man for miles around with liquor and food, dawned on them. Driving on, I caught a glimpse of a Roman legion lost in the Sahara of my rear view mirror, or extinct deer grazing in a dammed-up canyon. Now is the perfect time. my god and I light up a Cuban cigar, open a bottle of '46 Bordeaux, the magic radio comes on with mankind's greatest hits: Roland's horn, Oppenheimer's mushrooming parody of Mozart's magic flute caress the steaming, bird-infested darkness. Now you will hear a music that does not dream of what is past or passing or to come. Roll up the window to block out the annoying vegetable tides. Listen.