Amalgam

I
Twice to the Town

Twice to the town I named Amalgam came
a man who had a face and yet no name.
His conversation stung us like a bee
and yet he left us healthier than he.

II
A Poison Seeped

A poison seeped into Amalgam’s well
that bit our throats and made our faces swell,
then left us with a fear of what we drink
and cleaning of the well on which to think.

III
The Pink-White Heart

The pink-white heart of Allien di Cambrose,
preserved by pale Amalgam’s Nectine monks,
displayed on Summer solstice with a rose,
is said to have been made of swine-throat chunks.

IV
Twelve Hours Made

Twelve hours made the old Amalgam day:
first three to warn the people of the Sun,
six more to work under Its fiery sway,
and three to feel the slavery was done.

V
The Minty Taste

The minty taste Amalgam’s root mondray
holds in its flesh grows stronger as it dries:
a cool but bitter flavor that they say
can soothe a burn or kill a dozen flies.

VI
Over Noon

Over Amalgam’s noon a call was heard
that was no robin, jay, or other bird.
The priests knelt down and prayed to God for luck;
the monks then shrugged and said it was a duck.

VII
Calendar

Amalgam’s calendar was brought to court:
in counting out the seasons, it fell short.
Its harvest was too far into the frost,
and every year some farmer’s crop was lost.

VIII
A Blanket-Weaver

A blanket-weaver from the eastern hills
sold forty quilts for three Amalgam jacks:
He did not charge an extra for the frills,
but dropped the price by one to counter tax.

IX
A Robin Roosted

A robin roosted in the cherry eaves
atop the tower of Amalgam’s Hall,
and made its nest of bones and holly leaves,
securing it with mud against the wall.

X
Just Inland

Just inland from the port of Olgamshore,
just seaward of Amalgam, was a town
that looked upland to fill its barley store,
but owed its store of fish to Olgam Sound.

XI
A Charter

A charter from a desert city’s school
refused to mark Amalgam as a town;
he swore it was an ancient, honored rule
that nothing on a stream was written down.

XII
A Lord or Lady

A lord or lady wrapped in ashy silk
was welcomed in Amalgam’s public hall.
Her gender hidden by his silken mask,
He spoke with love, but still she hurt us all.

XIII
A Lady

A lady of a warm and rustic charm:
twelve miles she rowed, Amalgam to her farm,
avoiding all the bandits on the road,
but losing to the damp her floury load.

XIV
A Savage

A savage from the village over there
came to Amalgam in his savage dress.
We stripped him down to nothing in the square:
he then looked native, no more yet no less.

XV
A Period of Silence

A period of silence stood between
Amalgam’s two most valiantly fought wars.
During those decades, nothing had been seen:
a sea of _____ between two lettered shores.

XVI
The Fever

The fever of Amalgam’s holy rage
has now become a warm and quilty faith;
the gods who trampled devils on the stage
are now a single, silent, subtle wraith.

XVII
A Man with Guilty Laughter

A man with guilty laughter in his hand
was poaching in Amalgam’s hunting land;
he had no legal right to keep the kill,
but fed his guilty hunger with it still.

XVIII
The Ferry

The ferry on Amalgam’s river Tee
was built of wood from one white maple tree.
The owners of the tree and boat are kin,
and rats replaced the squirrels that dwelt within.

XIX
A Merchant

A merchant with his cart of foreign wares
set up Amalgam’s only winding stairs.
The upper floor of his exotic shop
was safe from thieves, who’d see the stairs and stop.

XX
A Dog Sat

A dog sat in Amalgam’s market street
awaiting those who bring the butcher meat.
We know to watch — the dog is in our way —
and still we bark in anger every day.

XXI
A Partisan of Strict

A partisan of strict Amalgam law,
which is defined as more a guide than rule,
was thus found felonous: his legal flaw
was holding law an arm and not a tool.

XXII
A Lady with an Eye

A lady with an eye of polished bone
came to Amalgam hoping to atone
for crimes she swore had cost a healthy eye.
We told her things are stable as they lie.

XXIII
A Bear

A bear had wandered to Amalgam town;
its fur did not seem black, white, grey, nor brown,
and since we’d heard of no such other bear
we went our ways as if he weren’t there.

XXIV
The Cornerstones

The cornerstones of Talgam’s many schools
all claimed to be worked by Amalgam’s tools,
and yet we have no masons in our town
so all of Talgam’s schools were beaten down.

XXV
The Clergy

The clergy of the shrine of St. Ambrose,
which stands a landmark of Amalgam’s heights,
all swear the Saint appears in winter snows;
of course, this is essential to their rites.

XXVI
A Certain City

A certain city, stone but worn by fire,
sent to Amalgam seven girls in white
who said the arsonist was hanged with wire,
but still they missed the blaze’s yellow light.

XXVII
A Fish

A fish was dragged, without a single fin,
up from Amalgam’s Tee, and found within
were seven strips of cloth, no blood nor flesh;
the fishers burned the sailcloth, boat, and mesh.

XXVIII
A Boy

A boy with hair like some fine vixen pelt
came to Amalgam during Winter’s bite;
he licked the ground and caused the frost to melt
and left a lock for which the priests would fight.

XXIX
The Ghoulish White

The ghoulish white Amalgam’s flag displayed
was changed to golden yellow by the one
who swore the paler cloth was quickly frayed
under the glitter of the Autumn sun.

XXX
When Dauviere Came

When Dauviere came by Amalgam’s way,
he said he could not leave but could not stay:
forever he was trapped right where he stood,
and then he left the river town for good.

I wrote the Amalgam poems in the mid-1990s while nearly napping under a tree. They were seemingly nonsensical stanzas about a fictional town named Amalgam, its residents, and its larger world. I collected them one-by-one first on scraps of paper, then in a word processing file which I printed and stashed away in a notebook.

In November 2009, I had a dream in which an assassin chased me and a group of dream acquaintances (that is, nobody from waking life) deep into the sub-cellar of an abandoned military building. In a room at the base of a rubble-filled elevator shaft, he warned me to “dig up the Amalgam poems and post them.”

Each Thursday after that, I posted one of the poems until they were all published, on 10 June 2010. I have since decided that they can be referenced either by number (for example, “Amalgam IV”) or by the first few words, removing the name of the town where necessary.

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