Thursday, September 22, 2022

Above All Forgetfulness

‘Ahmad ibn Yahyā ibn
Jabir al-Balādhuri was

Legendary of memory
And for, allegedly, dying

Of addiction to the marking
Nut he chewed to try to keep it,

For which posterity gave him
His sobriquet, Balādhuri,

The marking nut, semecarpus
Anacardium, up-hearted,

Close relative of the cashew.
Did it, before it killed him, help—

‘Habb al-fahm’, nut of apprehension,
‘Habb al-qalb’, nut shaped as a heart?

With its black, corrosive fluid,
Honey to medieval doctors,

Notorious in its heyday,
Thought to stimulate thought by warmth,

It may have been more like absinthe’s
Green fairy, or magic mushrooms,

Or any muse, of chemical
And/or divine capacity,

Serving no more than derangement,
Fables then cooked up to explain

The strange gifts some persons possess
To remember and to create.

Or maybe it actually worked
And worked well enough to be worth

Its ultimately fatal price.
It’s a nice story anyway,

One of the oldest that remains,
The one in which a human trades

The human core, the human soul,
Their very life, the human heart

In exchange for abilities
That mark them as someone apart.

Story’s the moral of story.
If there were a trade, a bargain,

A deal made with witch or devil,
With a green fairy, with spirits,

A deal made with the marking nut,
Then it’s alright. Then it’s ok.

Yes, that person had some rare gift,
Priceless—that was the deal they made.

Maybe he never chewed the nut—
Smith nor Faustus met the Devil—

Eve never encountered the snake.
Maybe there was no deal to make.

The rare mind’s possessed of rare gifts,
Then, as for all, forgetfulness.

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