Robert Kelly: An Alchemical Journal (6)


A lifetime supply of goose-quills. Ocean of ink. First lessons in chancery cursive. Have an erection. Keep it. There’s your college of the spirit sank, she said, keep talking big boy.

It has been my intention to banish all learning from these pages. Only what I have stood under will serve our purposes, gentlemen. Say the blessing &, we will begin. When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one being to sever the biological bonds that have held it to life & amber waves of grain. The purple mountain’s majesty (Yesod) above the fruited plain (Malkuth). Learn the colors. Defer invention. Isnt it just like a burnt-out painter to invent the telegraph. What hath man wrought indeed. I know so little of history I can almost breathe. Remember that old crap about George Washington Carver getting stoned on cotton gin & inventing the peanut whistle? Remember? Remember? God be gracious to my soul, forgive me my inconstant seductions, my imperfect adulteries. The Oracle spake it: Now beating the drum, now blowing the flute, by fits & starts he weeps & sings in turn. God, I’m beautiful! Forgive me my constancy.

The sun sets irrevocably. That’s what it means.

The beautiful thing about time there is no mistaking it. No mistake in it.

Discipline of the heart. Hsin rapturous devours. A sentence without commas, leading to the end of the world.

I asked the angel why he had been sent. He took off his robe & said: I will become one just man, there are yellow flowers in a jug, pink peonies in the olive jar, tiny white flowers floating in a blue bowl. There is a way. Let it find you. Be glad.

It may be that every man is set upon the earth to find one new method of divination. That is, to write one sentence whose syntax is total. Because (this idea is familiar) syntax is the heart of divination, to locate the function of a thing in the structure of process. We must remember that. Who are we?

They bleed every month to renew the earth. Every woman is under the obligation, from at least Pleistocene times, to let some of her blood fall on & feed the earth. And if a woman do no more than this, even no more than throw her kotex into a wood or river or ravine, she shall be blessed & fertile & glad in white water. Conscious of my own temerity, I proclaim that the purpose of most human religions is to hide or deny the secret efficacy of menstrual blood. In all parts of the work. Work is the Earth.

What does the Martian astrologer make of Earth? Through his zodiac he must delineate the positions & influences of Sun, Phobos, Deimos, Mercury, Venus, Earth, the Asteroids, Jupiter, Saturn, & perhaps the remoter planets. I read in a Martian treatise on genethliacs:

[Earth]-native name: Tlas, Tellus;
color:     blue;     god:     Poteidaan
[Poseidon?]. A lesser malefic, of
the nature of Venus and Saturn.
The Earth is above all the planet of
work, of making things. If Earth be
at   mid-heaven,   the   native  will
prosper in all arts and crafts. Our
traditions tell us the inhabitants
of Earth  are   called poietai,  or
makers.   Metal:   antinomy.
Precious stone: Jade. Earth rules the
sign Virgo and some attribute to it
the   sign   Scorpio   as  well.  It  is
exalted in Capricorn and dignified
in Aries. Begin no process or task
when Earth is rising, or it will
never end. To attract its influences,
wear  a  talisman  made   of
antinomy, copper, & lead in equal
measure, and on it inscribe, when
Earth is at mid-heaven or conjunct
Saturn    or    Venus,    the
inverted pentagram   4-    with a
bronze stylus, and around it these


It may be that too much of the writer’s energy is spent on satisfying curiosity. Herman Melville. Peonies in white water. It is four o’clock.

It was almost time for me to be reborn. Him to be reborn. The colors.

They waited at the tree where they would give us wine. Water if we wanted it. I watched her there & tasted the lines of her body. Limes. Lemons. Tomorrow, she sang. I washed in the stream & rubbed lemons against my chest. I waited for tomorrow. Her body tight as taut as   tart as a   lemon.

Lying down into her arms this said itself in my mind: Testimonium perhibere de Lumine. I have come into this world to bear true witness to the Light. Of the light.

So having been born in the right year all things continue to happen at the right time. So here I am in my true love’s house, & watch this Sunday evening go to grass greyly outside. As I write I am aware that not many miles from here my true love sits in her house & waits for me. And further, while I sit here, we sit here, we sit everywhere, that that other one, my true love, radiant in all other colors, knocks at the door of my house, finds me not at home, leaves a cryptic love note jammed between door & frame, goes away.

It is time for me to speak praise of pale women: there are houses where their almost plumed skin gleams beyond any dark that dying day or nature can impose. Through shadows she walks, the house is cold, there is a triumph in her easy quality. But this is the wildness of first fire when the tongues of tenuous flame run up the branch, this is first fire. Our fire, the philosophers say of it, fire to the wise. From this fire (which is all we know of Light) all things are moved to assume their forms (rupa; form’s motion) & utter themselves (nama; word’s emotion). This is a praise of blonde women. First fire pale along the branch. Now this living tree will be consumed, & from its blackened fingers Jean Dominique Ingres will sketch in charcoal the perfected outline of a serene blonde highwaisted enigma, her face turned away, her flesh the first implication of clarity in the physical world. This is the first fire, fire of Aries that begins all years, all possible years, all possible processes. Paleness of blonde women the ground of language, arupa, the unformed formative syntax of the world.

The rhetor crosses his legs, relaxed all zeugmata, untied chiasmus. She waited for him all night while he parsed two highways & conjugated a deponent girl. And at full dawn she told him, when I call you silly I mean you are holy too.

There are no years, there are no processes. Eve’s apple was the knowledge of subject & predicate as different from each other, different from their’ verb. Adam shared.

She blows smoke towards me, goes away thinking I’m so engrossed I don’t notice. Tomatoes in the sun. Getting dark under the trees. The first flicker of boredom quenched in the specific. Sweet coffee. The presence of them, o god the womanly presence!

Grind it twice, until it is powder. In our secret instructions, “twice” means to do it right the first time. Grind it twice & cast it on the surface. Long afterwards, when all the process is done, you’ll find that the macerated powder has accepted half the volume of the water. But now, when the powder is cast upon the seething, let the heating be stopped, then seal the vessel, & let it remain sealed during the saying of the psalm Confitemini domino. Open the vessel, & pour out the infusion. Strain it through sand or sable, muslin or organdy, June or September. Let the grounds or faeces remain in the sieve. Bring to the black water what is white, & to the bitter water what is sweet.

The Divine Thighs straddle the Hudson, the Divine Calves along the banks of the river. God kneels. Allah means: The One Who Grieves.

And I have come to bear what kind of testimony to the Light? What do I know of the Light? She believes at times in an actual hell, where people are fried for being bad; for doing those things we must do? But it all begins with light. Cardinal Mercier, whoever he is, spoke the truth of Christianity for the first time in 2000 years. Sanctity, he said, is taking literally the words of Our Lord. A parable is hard to understand because we are not used to being literal. I am the light of the world.

[… to be continued]


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