The Pomegranates of Patmos

Tony Harrison

We may be that generation that sees Armageddon.
Ronald Reagan, 1980

My brother, my bright twin, Prochorus,
I think his bright future’s been wrecked.
When we’ve both got our lives before us
he’s gone and joined this weird sect.

He sits in a cave with his guru,
a batty old bugger called John
and scribbles on scrolls stuff to scare you
while the rabbi goes rabbiting on.

He seems dead to us does my brother.
He’s been so thoroughly brainwashed by John
‘I look in your eyes,’ said our mother
‘But the bright boy behind them has gone.’

And the God with gargantuan γϱαψoν
commanding that crackpot to write
is a Big Daddy bastard who craps on
the Garden of Earthly Delight.

If that sect’s idea of a Maker’s
one who’ll rid the world of the sea
I’m sitting beside watching breakers
he’s the wrong bloody maker for me.

Who believes that their God began it
when he’s ready to end it so soon,
the splendours of Patmos, the planet,
and the sea and the stars and the moon.

There’ll always be people who’ll welcome
the end of the sea and the sky
and wail to their God to make Hell come
and rejoice to hear the damned cry;

a date ringed in red in their diary
when they know that Doomsday will be
sure they’ll be safe from the fiery
Gehenna engulfing, among billions, me!

I tell him it’s crap his Apocalypse.
I’m happy here in this world as I am.
I’d sooner wear shorts specked with fig-pips
than get all togaed up for the Lamb.

If begged to go up where their Lamb is,
those skyscrapers of chrysolyte,
kitted out in a cloud-issue chlamys,
with no darkness, then give me the night,

night with its passion and peril
Patmos with pomegranates and figs
not towerblocks built out of beryl
and glazed with best sardonyx.

When Prochorus comes back from a session
up the hill in the cave with the saint,
he plunges me straight into depression
and, more than once, has made mother feel faint.

All he sees is immediately made
an emblem, a symbol, a fable,
the visible world a mere preaching aid
even the food mother lays on the table.

An Apocalyptic cock on his heap,
Prochorus crowed as I tried to dine:
‘Awake, ye drunkards, and weep
and howl, all ye drinkers of wine!’

In one of his scrolls envisioning Hell
where the divine allowed him to delve,
in Joel, son of Pethuel,
(he added, the pedant, 1.12!)

he found a quotation that made his day
and he tried to use to mar mine
how pomegranates would wither away
and shrivelled grapes hang from the vine.

He tried to convince me but didn’t succeed
as I spiked out the vermilion gel
from a pomegranate that its seed
was sperm of the Future flame-lit from Hell,

an orb of embryos still to be born,
a globe of sperm globules that redden
not with the glow of the Aegean dawn
but the fires of his God’s Armageddon.

My orb of nibbleable rubies
packed deliciously side by side
his roes of doom-destined babies
carmine with God’s cosmocide.

The pomegranate! If forced to compare
to claim back what eschatology stole
what about, once you’ve licked back the hair,
the glossed moistness of a girl’s hole?

He could take a gem-packed pomegranate
best subjected to kisses and suction
and somehow make it stand for the planet
destined for fiery destruction.

But in Kadesh in the deserts of Zin,
I asserted, the children of Israel chode
their leader Moses for dumping them in
what they called an evil abode.

They called that place evil, and why?
(ask your divine, he should know!)
because the deserts of Zin were dry
so that no pomegranates could grow.

They saw no hope of staying alive
without the fruits you’d love to see blighted
(see NUMBERS XX.5 –
not bad for one branded ‘benighted’!).

Prochorus wasn’t prepared for debate.
He and his sort preferred
pouring out endless sermons of hate
and from us not a dicky bird.

The more he went on about how our isle
would vanish along with its ocean
the more I spat kernels and flashed him a smile
and ate more in provoking slow motion.

And what made my brother really rave
and hiccup and spit 666,
what finally sent him back to his cave
were my suckings and sensual licks.

Each seed I impaled I’d hold up high
as though appraising a turquoise
then with a satisfied sensual sigh
suck off the gel with a loud noise.

Apoplectic with Apocalypse
his eyes popped watching me chew,
he frothed at the mouth as I smacked my lips
at the bliss of each nibbled red bijou.

So that verse (REV. XXII.2)
about the fruit tree with 12 different crops
was my brother’s addition, if John only knew,
as a revenge for me smacking my chops.

But I knew that I’d never be beaten
by his brayings of blast and of blaze
and since then, when disheartened, I’ve eaten
pomegranates to give joy to my days.

And their flowers are also brave and red
a redness I’ve seen intensify
when the storm pressed down and overhead
the darkest clouds massed in the sky.

When the stormclouds bear down their most black
at the moment the gloom looms most low,
the blown bright balausts bugle back
their chromatic jubilo.

The Doomsday Clock’s set at 5 to.
The lovers I follow have time for their stroll
and to let their sensual selves come alive to
the Patmos that gladdens the soul,

the Patmos of figs and pomegranates,
the Patmos of the sea and the shore,
Patmos on Earth among planets,
Patmos that’s Patmos and no metaphor.

I’m so weary of all metaphorers.
From now on my most pressing ambition’s
to debrainwash all like Prochorus
made moonies by metaphysicians.

But my poor brother could never respond.
I couldn’t undermine his defences.
His brain went before him to the Beyond.
He took all leave of his senses.

My brother’s heart was turned to stone.
So my revenge on St John’s to instil
in lovers like these, who think they’re alone,
the joy John and his ilk want to kill,

and try any charm or trick
to help frightened humans affirm
small moments against the rhetoric
of St Cosmocankerworm.

And I follow them lovingly strolling
by the sea I was always beside
with the breakers that I watched still rolling
though its 2000 years since I died.

Though the rubbish that’s out there floating
show these days are far distant from mine,
no one should rush into quoting
St John the Doomsday Divine.

Some can’t resist the temptation to preach
‘The End of the World is Nigh’
when they see the shit on the beach
or white dishes scanning the sky,

and the johnnies jostling for searoom
like the eelskins of very sick eels
Prochorus would see as new signs of doom
and the angels half-way through the seals.

My charms are mere whispers in lovers’ ears
against the loud St End-It-All
and Prochorus would say my present career’s
like the Serpent’s before the Fall.

I know nipples brushed by fingertips
that mole up out of their mound
may not arrest their Apocalypse
but it brings the senses to ground.

Lover and lover, a man and his wife
so grounded assert the sheer
absolute thisness of sublunar life
and not the hereafter, the here.

And maybe senses so grounded
will not always be straining to hear
the moment the trumpets are sounded
when the end of the world is near.

And so subliminally into their Sony
I’ll put words that I’ve long thought obscene,
a dose of that dismal old Johnny
but more as a Weltschmerz vaccine,

a charm against all Holocausters
and the Patmos Apocalypse freak
and give them the joys that life fosters –
they go back to work in a week!

I follow them walking arm in brown arm.
I sit near to them in the taverna
whispering pagan words as a charm
against the blight of this isle’s World-Burner.

By the beach that’s a little bit shitty
what I’ll sow in these lovers’ brains
is a pop poemegranatey ditty
with six verses but seven refrains:

1-2-3-4-
5-6-7-
their silvery fire
is staying in Heaven.

Seven seals, love,
and it’s said they’re at six.
We’re lucky to live
with starlight and sex.

1-2-3-4-
5-6-7-
their silvery fire
is staying in Heaven.

The stars shine. The moon wanes.
Your left hand undoes
my 501s.
I count the Pleiades.

1-2-3-4-
5-6-7-
their silvery fire
is staying in Heaven.

To hell with St John’s
life-loathing vision
when I feel in my jeans
your fingers go fishing.

1-2-3-4-
5-6-7-
their silvery fire
is staying in Heaven.

Your turn to count.
My turn to lick
your moistening cunt
like a fig, fig.

1-2-3-4-
5-6-7-
their silvery fire
is staying in Heaven.

No stars are falling,
all the figs ripen.
I have a gut feeling
the World’s End won’t happen.

1-2-3-4-
5-6-7-
their silvery fire
is staying in Heaven.

The stars won’t fall
nor will the fig.
Our hearts are so full
as we fuck, fuck.

1-2-3-4-
5-6-7-
their silvery fire
is staying in Heaven.