The home-sick and astute eunuch, Lulu, watched Balian sleeping.
If escape from the consuming tyranny of consciousness was immediately
possible, Balian would chose to remain sleeping.
His days seemed to be consumed by changing, meaningless and awkward desires.
Awake, he soon walked into boredom, felt uneasy, was quick to take offense.
It was violent action, intoxication and restless whoring, that made his puzzling consciousness only almost bearable.
Standing face to face with the enemy, hating the qualities that in them seemed
to mock him. Just in the chaos of crazed battle, where time seemed to stand still, did he discover order and enjoy the shout of release.
There, in the focus of slaughter and torment, he forgot to hate and moved
with blissful arms as if he were already dead.

Lulu, crouched in the window's deep frame, watched him sleep.
The bare chest rose smoothly and quiveringly fell, a flesh of mute oily scars.
He studied the face which, freed from the stares of others, forgot its grim expression. Light dust blurred the forehead and the tip of his nose, made ambiguous the boundary of his lips.
Lulu found a rag and wet it in perfumed water.
Careful to make no noise he approached Balian who turned, groaned on the hard pallet, on a pillow smelly with straw.
Lulu wiped his brow and neck.
The foreign, haunted man remained asleep, deep wherein he fled a cold mountain that beckoned to him in the desert. His eyes opened thinly in slits but saw nothing of the afternoon. Lulu wiped his lips. His teeth were chipped and stained in lines of fractures in the enamel. His breath was full of wine and bile.

He slept well then, devoid of desire, without dung or paradise.
In this calm water dove dreams like sharks which Balian fed with himself.
His blood as it erased his dreams exuded a flavor like cloves or roses
or pepper dipped in hot wine.
The desire to get meaning out of all things, even disguised in awkward forms, rippled his clarity of sleep with a sense of foreboding and exhaustion.


In a  cloister in a tower over the dungeon of the Krak des Chevaliers,
where mingled like smoke the smell of books and soft candlewax, Balian
met a monk.
"I am afraid," Balian said.
"Only natural. We are in a state of sin," replied the sharp monk.
"You don't believe in sin?"
"I mean something different."
"Is Lucifer tempting you?"
Balian peered at the man with disdain.
He fornicated among the village women, everyone knew, and always was eager
for foul wine. This monk walked into battle holding aloft the True Cross
and committed murdered for his merciful God. But this monk did not blush.
"It is never temptation of the flesh," Balian said. "That is too easy."
"Be honest. Between you and God - ."

"I feel bliss that is beyond anything of this earth or - ."
"Or what?"
"- beyond."
The monk's attention instantly narrowed, sensing blasphemy.

Balian knew what, obviously, the watery-eyed monk wanted to hear
that could betray him to the Inquisition.
"What bliss?" asked Sarcofanus, scratching an itch on his chin.
"It is puzzling -  yet a sort of knowledge."
"How so?"
"Beyond knowledge."
Do you see visions?"
"I do not know."
"Either you see or you don't. How can I help you if you lie?"
"Moments when..But I see nothing is everything."
"The void?"
Beyond any void - a void too simple, I can't explain."
"And you feel bliss?"
"But -  a moment. How long? And then there....great fear."
"Only fear? It is repentance. Knowledge of damnation."
I am in darkness. The sun rises for a moment and sets again and again
I am in darkness. Perhaps it is just the darkness I fear?"
"Are you in the darkness now?"                       
Balian trembled.
He desired with all the fury and the strength in him to reach out
and to destroy the walls.... of the castle...of the one quick
movement to grasp what it was that lay beyond what afflicted him with its light not like any light, with a meaning like the emptiness after defecation.
Soon, before one or two words changed the color and smell of his brain - a fear like the one of a child awaking in a strange room chilled his eyes so that the walls of the cloister seemed to pale over with a whirling pattern of frost.
His eyes widened as he resisted the cool insinuation of freedom.

"Pray with me!" Sarcofanus said. "Our Father who art in Heaven,
hallowed be thy Name ..."
Balian followed the same words with his voice, desiring to feel, to envelope
each word, each phrase, with devotion, sincerety, and truth.
"...who art in Heaven...."
Sarcofanus's eyes turned up in his head as if he saw through the stone castle straight to the Angels. He vibrated with mysterious fervor, yet inside remained cool with arrogant certainty.
Around the cloister lay illuminated manuscripts and thick rugs hung
on the walls to block the desert's nightly chill.

One squared window allowed to enter a circle of light that proved
the existence of worlds of dust playing stagnantly over a chalice and a piece
of burnt parchment.
"Thy Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven..."
The smell on the hot wind come over the desert sand.
On the wall behind the bulk of Sarcofanus, who knelt on the stones,
hung a rug whose sprawling design, certainly of wild complexity, lay
partly obscured within the dense weakness of light, the fluctuation of dark. Balian, too, knelt, facing Sarcofanus.
Sarcofanus came to the prayer's end, then repeated it.
followed him.
Then to the third repetition, and the fourth, and so on
into parallel multiplication.

Balian groaned beneath the weight of words and talk of paradise, angel, devil,
and God, round and round like an axe spinning through space, like the skipping rope of a child, like the seasons at their thousands of cycles, being born and dying.
heard the words exiting his lips, felt his tongue twisting to the roof
of his mouth, and grew aware of echoes from the stones.
"This is not my meaning - ," Balian said.
"You see Lucifer!" Sarcofanus shouted.
"Why not I see God!"
So you see God?"
"I don't know - ."

"The truth from you or face damnation!"
Balian fought against his temper.
The artery in his neck reddened. He shut his eyes the more to reconcentrate
the thing tormenting him -  if it possessed form that could be seized with
the fever of imagining.
He felt a wind, hitting neither hot or cold, on his face, whistling and vanishing.
"The truth!" Sarcofanus cried. "Expel delusion! Correct discrimination finds God!"
Balian stuttered within himself.
"You shit - !" Balian said.
The monk's eyes rolled up at him, bulging white in its sockets with blue centers. Balian struggled to see within himself into relics of memory and feeling in order to render into words exchanged between men what it was he saw or felt, the ghost compared to which everything seemed a foolish game, a screaming worm in an apple full of holes through which winds of hallucination whistled.
And yet - yet, the thing itself was..was nothing...less than nothing.
How to describe what seems to make no sense in terms of any experience
a man attains in his given life of wandering, fighting, memories, and lust?
What are the things that claim importance and then turn to dust, first dust
of gold and then silver and then bronze and then wood and then the dust
of the fields and then less and less, and then you realize it is only the reflection of the sun at morning, noon, and night that you dreamed of
and of the thing itself that you thought you cherished, perhaps; the thing itself you never really knew.

Ah, Balian felt it in his self in the language within his heart:
a cloud that comes and goes and changes shapes, untouchable, finally unseeable: what is it - it is everything, it is nothing.
And the blood in his veins turned to dust and love and blood again.
"Wake up!" Sarcofanus shouted. "It is Lucifer who prances with you
in his manifestations!"

Startled out of concentration, such darkness where Balian knelt colored his breath. His foreboding of clarity, like a metallic taste of air on his tongue -  cut off, it became rage.
He sprang, looming over the monk who challenged him.
"Be still!" Sarcofanus commanded. "Sit down - ! Sit!"
Balian cleared his sword.
"Who are you!" Balian hissed.
The edge cut past Sarcofanus's collar past the artery of his heart.
Reddish-blue gushed out of him, tinting the dim incandescense of the surrounding. Sarcofanus cried in surprise, then blood and mucous exploded out his mouth. Sarcofanus toppled forward at Balian's feet.
Blood continued  gushing out of his body, going stronger and stronger,
wetting the cool stone ceiling, running over the wall hangings.
stepped back from the corpse, wide-eyed.

Trembling. Cold. When will the blood stop?
Holding up the sword, he plunged it into his eye.
And felt nothing. He plunged it in deeper. And felt nothing.
He screamed.
And awoke, finding Lulu at his side.

THE COCKROACH            

Balian grabbed his own face, feeling it all over for blood,
and looked at his fingers and saw only the glisten of his bodily oils.
But he did not believe his eyes only, he smelled his fingers and tasted them
with his dry tongue for the familiar flavor of blood.
The taste was barely salty, with the smell of straw and stale meat.

"Only a nightmare, my Lord."
How do you know?" Balian asked.
He looked out the window and pressed at the wall beside him.
He felt bis hand stopped hard by the rough surface.
Light scratched at the dust gently afloat between the walls.
In the distance over the castle's grounds the rolling of the dunes
blurred behind the old unchangingly turbulent atmosphere.
"It is not night!"
"But when you sleep, it is always night," Lulu said.
Balian spat on the stone floor, missing a cockroach
that scurried from a piece of onion.

What did the Fool know?
As Balian reached for a wine goblet, he noticed the cockroach
squeezing into a crack in the stone and it disappeared.
Somehow disturbed by the insect or by the crack, which he wasn't sure,
he got up, squatted down, and felt the line of the crack with his fingertips.
The crack was a fracture in the stone and went deep through it.
The cockroach must have passed through to the other side.
Balian set down the wine and left it.
He got up, his eyes roaming cautiously about the chamber,
as if he expected to see something that would challenge his belief.
The table with a cluster of dry wrinkled grapes,
the polished chest of his old treasures, silver candle holders
from Acre streaked with wax ending in bulbous shapes at the base,
colorful wall hangings of complex designs, his armor and weapons of war,
stained and dented.
They were in place.
There appeared nothing different about them.
The unexpected remained invisible.
He saw nothing that was new.
Indestructible motes of dust, ever bouyant in the air,
seemed to coil with his vision.
The sun posed heavily over the battlements. In the distance, the ever-changing shapes of the dunes like waves frozen for an instant across the horizon blurred under a lemony glaze. And here and there the glints off spear-points and flat steel. A fooling breeze off the hot land scalded his face and bruised against
his scarred shoulders. Again, the breeze conjured for him the image of an ocean that lay far off beyond the tents of Nur ed-Din.
Water running through a sky moved through clouds repeating themselves forever running into a blaze of cool light with the feeling of an ocean.
It affected the terror that Balian felt from his dream,
displacing it somewhat with the sense of a silly tingle.

Lulu thought: Pain. Glory. A silent man. A heart I do not know.
I studied mysteries in Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad, at the esteemed universities.
I tutored the Calif.
Philosophers saw my knowledge as exulted, and I was young.
You made me your slave, when the world was opening its doors to me.
I hated you.
I built terrible poems behind my eyes to cause your murder.
Only the sure death by torture kept my hand frozen over poison,
frozen over dagger.
I hated you more because I was a coward.
Balian, you are a stone to me.
And then, inside, Lulu smiled and walked away.
When he got to where he wanted to be, he began to sing for the Knight.
He stood in a corner of the room in front of the armor and the stained sword.
He knew what pleased Balian, court songs  of the Franks and, surprisingly, a song of the Saracens that Balian enjoyed for its stark rhythm.
Its words, like parts of a storm banging past gnarled trees,
or like dark leaves scattered up against a soothing expanse,
he did not understand.
Often, he asked Lulu to repeat a phrase again, one more time -  not asking
for its translation, directly enjoying the rough sound
that could mean anything. 

Lulu started with a popular Frank song, gesturing with his hands,
making faces, and doing elaborate pantomine to embellish the moments of love, glory, suffering, and adventure. He took up Balian's great sword, pranced round the chamber with it high, slaughtering unseen thousands, beheading countless
with a single slice.
And then came the spoils of victory.
The sacking of the town, finding gold, butchering men, women, and children.

Rape and torture for the pleasure of hearing screams, seeing a beautiful face
beg for pity; reason for tongues to reveal more gold; and more gold, more debauchery.
It was a deep joy to behold corpses of enemies and to fill yourself
with the scatter of their lost fortunes.

Lulu rounded these joys with useful obscene gestures and extravagant movements
of his body, like the girls who fought you off but then hollered with pleasure
of your hand, your kisses, and degrading demands.

Oh, it is an exciting day to be alive - ! Lulu sang, jumping his arms high,
so Balian's sword broke stones off the ceiling -  Death leaps in the halls! Behold, the seige of Nur el-Din.
You have no time to worry about living.
The Skull is at your throat!
A breath you can manage is an exquisite pleasure while it lasts.
Who does not feel free must be decaying already!
Lulu took a lyre and played it with scented fingers.
The oscillation of the strings released, one by one,
the notes coloring the room, prickling that ever-raw wound in mentality
that released the stigma of saddness and joy, hope and foreboding,
clarity and mystery, the itch for adventure or entrance into the great
concentric passions of memory.
Some of the themes Lulu invented as he went on, out of the lazy dust
of the air came his disturbing words.
Lulu knew many things.
He was a reader of books, a poet, a slave, who puzzled on the nature of Paradise and why blood has the color of a rose.
Lulu studied the planets.
At the university in Cairo he finished the algebra
for the eclipses of the moon that changed the tides and damaged the mind.
But Lulu could not imagine, or feel, what influence haunted Balian.
Lulu, as was everything, like the decaying onion on the floor,
the dunes of the desert, the heart in his chest, was trapped in time and body.

Balian did not know its name.
It chased him, eluding him, like the wind.
He heard its tone, saw it turn clouds, shake great walls
until a crack appeared, felt terror play with light.
Then, at times, the light ignited inside him, and he saw the darkness around.
But when he looked closely, the crack was not there, the wall was not there.
And when he struggled to recall it, the thing shining without light - well,
there was nothing, because how could he remember a valley of the moon
flooded with light?

Lulu sang of love.
The heat in the room became suffocating.
Balian walked over the basin of water and splashed his face,
wet his hair and his chest, noticing the spread of grey and the scars,
one deep one in the middle.
A breeze entered through the shadowed corridor outside and cooled his shoulders, and he inhaled the spice of it.
It was good to be breathing.
He thought of those who had tried to murder him;
the weapons that cut him uselessly. He escaped them all.
He survied, while others took the cost.
Lulu sang of love and time darting like a sparrow through the serious arguments
of baboons.
There was a woman Balian remembered.
No, not yet a woman, a girl, a precious child.
had grown to 15 when Balian rode off to join the last Crusade.
He tied her scarf to his shield.
Reaching for one of his treasures, he saw on the mirror from the sack of Acre
his face, and sought for the youth he was when he held her hand, goodbye,
and the world around was just what he glanced, what he saw in her was enough,
when the wall of the world blazed with truth of youth, and the future rose
like a star for his fingers to annoint, when his muscles seemed ready
to conquer the world.
When he thought back, her existence rustled, beat with awe and wonder;
it seemed full of holes, feeling for a body

whose shape, once flesh, now yielded like smoke.
It was her voice that rose, almost straight, through the sand
in the hour-glass, a tiny musical sound.
He left her, small and deep in love, in the door.

Then the march to Constantinople and through the Holy Land,
starvation, sickness, mutilations, killing to have another day,
sleeping in armor, the heat and the dust, men crawling  into maddness.
It became hard to tell glory from horror.
The bulwark of the world lost something pebble by pebble,
bells and treasures, the rigidity of its surface, revealing the packed mud
with straw beneath, with the insects teeming and life there.
More and more of the wall lay exposed, as fat clouds roared,
changed with grins of lightening, and rained acid oceans of sky.
Small plants and miniscule flowers began growing out of the mud.
Outside of Balian's will, there was a single lotus.

" - across ocean, and across time, yea, time past, even  time yet coming,
for a thousand years, by the grace of Allah!" Lulu sang.
Now Lulu saw he was losing Balian's attention.
Peace be unto you, my Lord!"
Balian's eyelashes drooped beneath his brows.
He shifted on his side, easing the pressure on his elbow.
And coughed.
He inhaled the smells of cooking outside, and his stomach made noises.
His groin itched.
He scratched it.
He put out his hand for the goblet which Lulu quickly filled with fresh wine
from Mosul .
I'm hungry. What a nuisance, Balian thought.
He closed his eyes.
The sun in darkness.

Then stared out the window opening.

I am that stupid hawk circling in the sky. Higher, higher, burning.
He opened his mouth, flooded it with wine.
At once fresh, pure like a long rain, free with falling drops.
He ground his teeth into it as though it made resistance, chewing its taste, forcing the conclusion of juice with meat of grapes and spice of raw earth.
Out of nothing, he felt sex, love, absolute power in a rush of melting
that engulfed one thing, and engulfing all, like a misting of dew
over surprised toys.

Emptying the old goblet, he rang it down on the window sill of the stone castle; then got up with force as though to leave to accomplish something outside,
but silently, merely stood where he was, foolishly between his armor and the bed, in the slowly rising-and-falling dust.
It came to him again.
Balian felt - more, knew with no question - he saw through an ageless,
constipated and violent puzzle to the other side of it where there was
everything too, just there, there with them; with a few moments gone by,
he realized amazement about his condition, felt himself moving away,
into breathing again particles of the puzzle, drawing to the side
where the design of things - of dust, rotting onions, stone walls, his life - reclaimed the opaque and knew jealousy.
In frustration Balian punched the wall, staining it with sweat,
blood, and smell. Breathing hard, sinking down, he sat on the edge
of the bed and turned over the straw pillow.
"Lulu, when I am dreaming, ask me where I am."
"Yes, my Lord."

Lulu, squatting on top of the treasure chest
next to the great shield on the wall, watched him;
and imagined he heard Balian's heart, then soon the familiar snore.

The afternoon rose into the night as if no time argued between,
the sun became the moon, the searing pale sky leaped into blackness
and the high clouds crumbled into stars.

One point shined on Balian, like a star very far away whispering
through the long black string of space that stretched from Balian to it.
Its light, dimned by unimaginable distance, bathed him.
The star was so far away that no-one could see it.
Even Balian, with his eyes open, could not see it.
But it picked out Balian and it gave him its own sight
which winked in the Knight's brain.
Was it always a star beyond Balian's world
or was it a miracle inside of him that happened whose vision
came out of him then and now which it was that scrubbed the world
with a glimpse of purity?

What forward happened to Balian?
He grew older, never really losing his restlessness.
He had his good moments in life.
, he thought about what he saw, the crack in the wall,
the moments when he seemed to sit on the top of a mountain, at ease,
while far away winds screamed and the world drifted like a toy.
"Are you dreaming, my Lord?" Lulu asked.


- finis -