by Richard Baldasty
If produced unbroken by continuous motion, the pentacle or pentangle, a star of five points formed by extension of the sides of a regular pentagon, holds powers of transformation and manifestation within the physical order of lesser arcana.
—Ferrand Fabricius, On Esoteric Number and Form
Our secret uncle, so covert he goes unnamed, lives alone somewhere mid the deserts of Australia and dines on nothing but fire opals from his thousand mines. He sends us a birdhouse grander by far than our clapboard cottage. We move up, sprout blue-violet wings. Once we master the language of the rose thickets and the song of the thistle flowers, we grow impatient with former diversions and never bother with things merely human again.
A sacred text, ancient yet unread by any among the living, materializes and spreads itself open on the patio table. A breeze stirs the pages. As the papers dance, they warm to emit a fragrance that attracts a swarming of green iridescent beetles. The beetles prey upon the words, then one by one convert into pinpoints of light. They huddle together in the air, coalesce, form a radiant orb like a small newborn sun.
There's a tall man, very tall, dressed like Sherlock Holmes, like a costume partygoer Sherlock Holmes in deerstalker cap, houndís-tooth check jacket, and nubby brown wool pants. He runs. As he moves faster and faster, his spindly legs branch at the knees. They double, triple, quadruple until heís racing along on eight extensions and eight swift feet. Heís running as a blur, like a spider spinning with wind assisting at his back. He throws aside his briar pipe. He pitches away his furled umbrella. A regal Chinese woman, an empress all in red brocade, steps from the sidelines to catch them. He stops; his many legs fold into one. He stands like a flamingo, blushes to flamingo pink, tucks his pink head under his arm as if to sleep like a flamingo or to hide like a Holmes away from ascertainment. The empress, not deflected, kisses him upon the nape.
Spiky crags mottled by snow seem near in the clear, cold air and so defined in contrast to the sprawling chaos of the lowland market. A girl slips out from behind a display of roughly woven shawls. One thrust of her hand against an assassinís elbow deflects him as he aims at a revered elder. Shamed by her courage, young men rush the gunman, beat him, bind him, and take him away for judgment. The market empties, the girl stands alone. She releases from its covering her dark hair banded in silver set with garnets and gold. She begins to turn round, to whirl ever more wildly, round and round until she transmutes to a cone of spun flame.
High tide under a full moon: waves tear themselves from the abyss and throw themselves in fury on the shore. As the waters rage, briny purplish fruits rip free off deepest sea groves. They float up like bubbles of whale breath, like glass globes sundered from fishing nets by storm. Of the seven orders of angels, two — thrones and dominions — descend from heaven to feast on them. Incubi hastening from hell come too, avid for their share. Mutually loathsome, leprous in each otherís sight, the spirits righteous and impious keep generous distances and glance side to side warily mid pleasure, easily startled by shadows that fester in the sublunar gleam.
Richard Baldasty's poetry and short fiction have appeared in New Orleans Review, Karamu, Epoch, New Delta Review, and other literary magazines and, online, at Raving Dove. He lives in eastern Washington state.