Jody Azzouni


The Alchemist's Cup

Originally published in Blue Unicorn 31:3, June 2008.
Added 2/20/2021
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The Alchemist's Cup

Poem | Jody's Notes


Look at the ghost of ash that lines its bottom,

how its rim is not sharp:

to drink is to volunteer to go on.



Gold is not gold

(to an alchemist): it is

what can be made into it.

Not everything (not flesh, for example).


Imagine the alchemist in his cellar; he scares

the neighbors: (stays up all night like cats)

reads by candle. Reads. Things smell in there.

The alchemist sees gender everywhere

(the element love: the throb of unrequited rock), and yet


and yet, the internal weather of mood is alien to him:

Years from now: the brimstone smell of wax,

the rage of neighbors (his death).


But now, now (in his brave youth),

imagine the alchemist in his cellar; how outside

the green is everywhere (the silent

of nature). There is no alphabet (out there)


despite the carvings on the cup:

(the symbols that try to refer)

despite how the unicorn’s lips glimmer with meaning.

Out there, out there: male and female are cosmetics

lava dispenses with.


Mercury (this is the myth)

fucks a god only once

his snakish penis curling about

(inside Jove).


The alchemist (it is gray dawn

at last) has been reading

by sputtering candle,

poring over monkish erotica,

unaware of history, of who actually wrote

these things, what small band of cowled folk

masturbated before Vespers

over what he takes to be cosmology.


It is not a matter

of matter, of the layering of electrons:

No, no, no (and here is the secret of wands):

each substance is a manuscript

(folded open by incantation).


This is how wizards think too: It’s a matter

of who’s behind it all, of which thought

tangles stuff together

so that with just the right words, gold unfolds

(wood falling away like illusion).


We’re past this now

(we wise ones).

When I see homeless lava cake into moonscape,

I know it has nothing to do with you

or me (or what we do when we sleep together).


Symbols evaporated from our world

eons before we set fire to wood,

eons before we blinked into the angry red

(and thought we detected kinship).