Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Golem's Tale

Golem Sculpture

The Golem’s Tale
Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born.
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.
~William Blake

Such angel’s verse is not for me
neither child of the giving sun
nor full moon’s daughter,
just a beaten orphan of the forge
metal weed and seed
of a rusted flower,
a tongue of bronze
rung in a copper bell
without the
will to lie.

No celestial choir sang my birth,
a golem shaped to serve
an alien purpose. No voice
was raised in praise, no white bull bled;
just the pounding foundry’s song,
blows of the Lame Smith’s hammer
echoing, making a sulphur contract
with eternity, my mother’s milk
a stinking silver slurry
of oil and shopdust.

And so my mindless hands
took up the work, cogdriven
droid of a deadfall dream,
whose bright tears run, melted
from a sightless eye of chrome,
a thousand quicksilver drops
on oblivion's floor. Wire bends
where glass breaks; flesh passes. 
Time in maelstrom tides tries
the temper, yet steel abides.

All the virtues of
their faults were folded in me,
wrapped in some master’s plan
numb, bound and blind, slaved to
a scripted animation; never told
whether razor, plow or piston, needle, rule
or scissors, engine, wheel or
fulcrum, never knowing when
the crack will come
that stops the iron heart.

September 2011
(A Labor Day poem for all who've been signed to a sulphur contract to eternity.)

Posted for   OpenLinkNight   at dVerse Poets Pub
where I have the fun of hosting tonight. Come join us and bring your best. Link in will be live from now until midnight Wednesday.

Optional Musical Accompaniment

Golem: "artificial man, automaton," 1897, from Heb. golem [Psalm cxxxix:16] "shapeless mass, embryo," from galam "he wrapped up, folded."Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper  
Hephaestus was the Greek god of smithing and metallurgy. He served the gods as blacksmith, and was lamed when he was thrown from Olympus by his mother Hera in a fit of pique.

Image: Golem, sculpture by Bryan Alexander Davis
By Bitterherbs1 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons


  1. This makes me think of the silent film "Metropolis."

    The feel of this is unrelentingly grim, utilitarian, gray, mechanical and hopeless. And yet, within all that is some notion of humanity that's been stunted and turned to mere drudgery rather than towards any light.

    I'd say more but I have to leave for work!

  2. @FB: How excruciatingly appropriate. Thanks for reading at the crack of dawn.

  3. The last verse is a wonderful finale for a truly enterprising poem. It would be a considerable achievement anyway, but as a response to the dVerse prompt, it strikes me as even more impressive.

  4. I hear you creaking, strong and melodic. Steel abides! Sad, but gorgeous write. You are so alive in the dark.

  5. I don't know what the prompt is but to be honest this mixed with the picture combined to be a true picture of modern man in his "what the fuck" moment.

  6. whew hedge...brutal in its sad beauty...manufactured life to serve the whim of a master whose plan we only play in by determining which king keeps the throne warm...really a finely writ piece...hope you are sleeping well..smiles.

  7. Joy, your poetry continues to satisfy (tho WAY WAY better than any Snickers ever could.)

    This one is brittle as breath on the moon. As pliant as a titanium breastplate.

    Mother's milk a stinking slurry... reminds me that I was weaned early from piles of snow mixed with raw potatoes and horse manure. :) But seriously, yes, I kinda was.

    Now off to a musical hour here in Funstertown.


  8. Profoundly affecting, full of synesthetic sensations, a mechanical wonder forged with great precision. It brought to mind the documentary on building Steinway pianos called Note by Note with is the antithesis of the automated factory production. You’ve written another marvel that seeped far into my psyche/spirit. You are a deucedly sharp observer. As an aside do you know my mother? She left the feeding to other golems (I was born into a commune where certain people were assigned to care for the children as my parents worked from 6am to 10pm all for the betterment of society in a grand experiment to try to fight the machine). I guess they thought the best sabotage comes from the inside or they believed the rhetoric.

  9. Our inner Golem goes back to Adam, who was just a smudge o' dirt til God decided to put him to work wandering without knowledge through the garden of delights. Bite of apple, snake's fang of original sin, and ever since we've been keepin' on keepin' on by the sweat of our brow. Now we come to resemble the insides of our technology that all devolves back to that brainless, silent hum of Adam before his Eve-ing. I loved and hated this poem at the same time, for its polished, well-oiled truth that there are no Old Ones in the machine, no deus et machina, to spring the homunculus trapped inside the artificial heart ... And thus the Tin Man becomes another brick in the wall, become the 21st Century Schizoid Golem. Fine write, though I prefer my pretty Matrix dream .... - Brendan

  10. Exemplary - love the imagery, tightness of theme and flow.

  11. I thought of Metropolis, too!

    This is so finely written. Not one wasted word.

  12. What is so sad is that this is all so true. Sooner or later man will outdo himself and maybe machines will become our masters at some future point in time. Goodness knows in the past 150 years we've managed to screw so many things up.
    Lovely prose, picture filled and painful.

  13. Somehow you manage to wring beauty from such dark images. Though sadness reigns here I revel in the sublime lines of this poem.

  14. that's a tasty portion of good n dark. a sulphur contract to eternity, huh? i love that:)

  15. You gave me Blake, You gave me Morrison, and you wove them together with the brilliance that is YOUR words. Your writing may be dark...but my day suddenly brightened a thousand fold! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I needed this magic today!

  16. Sulphur's a nasty substance that besides being used in industry also was used in medicine; a killing cure, as it were.

    Clearly, no angel's verse or celestial choir singing on this shift.

    Well-sustained imagery. I, too, like how you brought the poem to a close with that "crack... that stops the iron heart."

  17. jesus hedge - william blake the doors and a poem that speaks directly to my nervous system (hitting the exact same nerve i attempt to finger when i write) this is a thrilling example of poetry - a stand out poem - that is immersive and all i want poetry to be.

    stanza 2 and the finale are stella

  18. A terrific anthem. It flows with great power and certainty. The Doors have been my great pleasure since 1966 and I never made the connection with Blake....

  19. I like the darkness herein -- this is good work you've done...

  20. Your voice has never been more uniquely your own than in this brilliant write. It owes to all the sources named and a few more come to mind - Brave New World, 1984, Brazil. It will be truly criminal, vicious and an oversight of the angels and saints, demons and gods if your work does not become mandatory reading in the curriculum of literary scholars. You are truly brilliant. G.

  21. I am never disappointed whenever I visit here. This was truly an amazing write. The comments above would shadow my humble attempt to say why this was fabulous. Thank you for writing this great showpiece of poetry.

  22. "a thousand quicksilver drops
    on oblivion's floor" love this line!

  23. Great write. Really appreciate mostly everything in here. The sentiments, the style used and tone. Tremendous piece, loved it

  24. A masterpiece indeed... loved it!


  25. sad and beautiful...a great write.

  26. Such a weight borne throughout this, both for the subject and the reader. The grim denied reality, the half-life full sorrow really cut to the core of human longing.

  27. OMG...... this is awesome! Celestial choirs SHOULD be singing praises about this immaculate, wonderfully written, beautiful piece of art..... every word delicately placed in its sheer, absolute beauty. I want to write like this. And the Doors too? You have a new follower.... I am so happy to have read this and to meet you...... This is beautiful.......

  28. I'm feeling a little Terminator here. It's so sci-fi.

  29. I like Fireblossom's comment that refuses to relinquish hope, reject the sulfur contract and let stand the question the walking man puts in the mouth of the automaton;"What the ----?" I'm holding out for the answer. Great poem as always!

  30. Robotics and Great poem! I am holding out too.
    very very deep.

  31. The metaphor of the golem fascinates me. The third stanza in particular knocks me out, but the whole poem kicks ass. That's my analysis and I'm sticking to it. I love this poem.

  32. Love your image and how well your poem goes with it a true master piece indeed.

  33. favourite string:

    droid of a deadfall dream

    thank you for this

  34. slaved to
    a scripted animation

    You are amazing and I have now idea how you do it time and again. It leaves me feeling a bit "hopeless" as I will never have such creativity. :) You are blessed!

  35. You already know how brilliant I think you are, and there's enough grandiloquence above to last the rest of the week.

    Gold star for The Doors.

  36. wow, such a distillation of life, what it is, what you can boil it down too... it made me sad but also intrigued... i especially loved these lines:
    "metal weed and seed
    of a rusted flower,
    a tongue of bronze
    rung in a copper bell
    without the
    will to lie."

    really fabulous

  37. Domo Origato Mr. Roboto...


  38. Your animation and personification of the Golem is ideal. This clever approach kept me reading, increasing my pace to learn what would next be revealed. And now, I'm going to read it again, just for the pleasure of doing so.

  39. Wow, that's a labor day poem, tough and gritty as a foundry. It makes me think of Iron Man, Golem, and Adam, all in one. Marvelous imagery, as always. Splendid work.


  40. The golem trope/meme is so rich - you employed it with great effect in this poem.

  41. Sad, with the monotony of the cogged, mechanical, laborious life coming through. Exceptionally written.

  42. never knowing when the crack will come...

    We are who we are. Knowing that I'm not hearts and flowers, sweet scents and calligraphy, allows me to be true to myself whether others accept me or not. This is fabulous poetry, defining and allowing the differences in all of us. I feel it was written for me personally which is a huge compliment.

  43. Oh, the many tests humanity keeps failing. Have we veered so far off from our potential or have we stayed exactly where we've always been? Fantastic piece. Reminds me a bit of Jackson Browne's The Pretender.

  44. How I have missed your words during my little moving process, my friend. It is always a wonder stepping into your words - for they are so undeniably your realm, I almost feel the need to doff my hat and bow when coming through! I don't believe I've ever seen an actual labor day poem before, but you've delivered it marvelously. Sci-fi poetic brilliance!

    P.S. Thanks for the sci-fi recommendations!

  45. That poem of yours in the middle of tese two great artists- or i'd say those great artists going with this sad masterpiece...

  46. Strong writing - rich, dense and...solemn. // Peter.

  47. what more can I add to what all have already praised? Your talent is spell-binding. I am impressed and excited to read such amazing poetry such as yours.

  48. Joy, this made me sad while reading it. You know to evoke emotion with your writing. Another masterpiece.


  49. Thanks all, everyone has been most kind and generous with their praise for this one and I appreciate it very much. My apologies that I haven't been able to chat and respond to comments as per normal; the hosting of OLN was a busy affair. I'm as grateful as ever though, to hear everyone's thoughts and impressions. Thanks for your input.

  50. Reminded me a bit of Darth Varder - born but not celebrated - a bit sad - I felt it but life holds two sides and one is not celestial....love Jim Morrison..bkm

  51. It never ceases to amaze me at how your dark writing spurs in me on so many levels... I've not really considered dark one of my choices. Yet reading yours sparks a need in me to try my own hand, reaching into the depths.

  52. i cannot quote one line or one stanza as what touched me most ~ with the entirety of your poem you have wrenched my heart out for this golem and the loss of the American Dream and for the realities today of what humanity faces... quicksilver tears, indeed.

    exquisitely painful... painfully beautiful...

    you know how i feel about pairing music with poetry ~ i love the doors and this is the ideal song for your words.

    no one can compare with the magical quality of your poetry. your brilliance is reflecting off the steel, Joy.

    thank you for sharing your visions.
    dani ♥

  53. Just a wonderful piece, the last stanza captured me! Beautifully penned! ~ Rose

  54. Hey! I've worked at those places -- a can manufacturing plant, a foam rubber factory, an aluminum mill and an aircraft maker. The nightshifts in all of those places were "a sulphur contract with eternity." Shock of recognition!

  55. Turn in your electric toothbrush immediately!


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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