Impromptu: Reporting from La Mancha

Joseph O’Brien

For Max Pizarro


God almighty! The puissant progress of it all! Arch-mad with digits,
The 20th century summed up through a fogged pane of sky-blue limits,
Its typeset changes out each Pater Noster for news, front-page and back.

These are outside happenings which remand nothing—for thou art
Naught to me! Yet they require my innermost fealty of stone-to-heart,
Even as the stone grows smaller, harder, more cardiac.


I was a Roman Catholic infant in my time, the wooden splinters
Of my cribbed cross a plastic rip-off, too much like the cheap white collars
That parsons and pardoners go about detaching from the present. 

But bitterness stands not so tall.  No, not in the saddle. Who am I
But one who sleeps and rides a nightmare, anorexic and shadowy,
Of sword and cross? Who am I—Sancho?
                                     A too modern, too silent 

Cipher sweat-beading full-tilt at wind-steepled surfaces. Yes, between
Guilt’s breath, my sin’s interim will game to play on purity and preen
With impatience. (The old pearl-quest of knighthood—too fusty, I know.)

Abolished manliness, meanwhile, locks itself in Castle Desperation
Like naked Adam bound in his bonds, rooking his racked and
blood-checked brain.
Ah, who can see beyond the visored vizier’s human frontier? Sancho?


I confess now I’ve pen and inked my lance for freer, less forgiving furrows
Than Camelot, itself now a bank of kitschy Caesarian casinos,
Its indigenous emeralds inking blowzy pulp into federal mint.

And ordinary time papers over the heart’s continual round of feasting;
While the moveable feast rivets fonts of pleasure into time’s clock spring—
So, God help me, let time feast away at flesh, but I pray this heart’s flint

Falls like stone, this joust-jouncing errant’s, saddle-rousted by love
--God’s lance.