Janaka Stucky: From 'Ascend Ascend,' a work in progress, with a note by the author

[Excerpted from Janaka Stucky’s forthcoming book, Ascend Ascend (Third Man Books, April 2019). The accompanying portrait of the author is by photographer Adrianne Mathiowetz.]


Blessed is the lotus

The day’s bleeding wound


Blessed are the spiders their alphabet

Twenty six stones my corpse is dancing


Blessed are the worms the maggots

Sexless and probing like tongues


Through the rotting soil


Blessed is the loam


Blessed is the loam the darkness

Mushrooms blooming teeth pushing


Through the earth’s black and putrid gums


Blessed is the Maw

The Great Maw the mouth the gnashing

Of continental shores


Blessed are the stones the rocks

The island all the world a promontory scab

Hardening around the earth’s myriad

Molten wounds


Blessed is the blood the bile ascending

The gross moss of shapeless years forming


On the eyeless trunks of trees


Blessed are the snakes the dragons

Breathing the giants eating each dumb

Beast our mothers our fathers filled with blood


Blessed are the black cricket’s legs singing

Furiously until the whole lake is on fire


Blessed is the fire

Blessed is the lake

Blessed are the cricket’s black legs


Blessed is the trembling nerve of now

The great topaz hurtling through

Galactic dark


Blessed is the dark the knotted roots

Of the first tree the fearful serpent

Uncoiling still as even the first

Stone turns to dust


Blessed is our fear

The Great Retching which rips us

Wide eyed hairy and blood spattered

Terribly laughing up from the mud


Blessed is the transfiguration of terror that wakens

The crimson thread within


Blessed is our weaving and braiding

Our crawling


Blessed is our climb


Blessed are we who flop from mud

To soil to grass to trees


Blessed are our lungs our hands


Blessed is the transmutation of air

And fruit and meat to spirit


Blessed are the bees

Blessed is their hive returning


Through each flaw of rain revealing

The heirophany of nectar

In the fresh light of the cloud’s empty womb


Blessed is our moaning and shitting

Our walking on quivering feet


Blessed is our walking and running

Our speaking each day our dying


Our struggle toward freedom our dying

Blessed is the fight for freedom

Even more than to be free


Blessed is our life

Blessed is our instrument responding

With purity to the collapsing

Sigh of the world


Blessed is our cry

Our cry our radiant repeating


The gleaming cinder


Like honey like wax like roses

The world vanishing and nothing

But us remaining beneath the abyss

Of god singing


I am the one that is not


And when the cry comes to no longer

Be the vessel the cry comes

Not from your mouth

Alone it is not you talking


It is ancestors of ancestors speaking with centuries

Upon centuries of mouths it is

Not you alone desiring it is


A galaxy of descendants desiring

Down the long fathomless

Pillar of your infinite heart


For between the void and the abyss

You alone struggle and are imperiled


And in your small earthen chest

One thing alone struggles and is imperiled


And when the cry comes

The cry comes in the cryptic tongue


To pass beyond my body bastion

Of sugar and bone


My body

Monstrously shining above

Black lichen rivers


Its curse like a star of blood erupting

From my throat


A promise roaring

Jackals howling

Awful and grim


My body my body

Lust magnificent

Views of Byzantium

Crucified awake in me

In me among


My body idle and brutal

Let light thunder

The first to adore


My body my ghost

My retinue of ghouls


Profane and dancing

Dizzy drunk and shrieking

Through a phantasmagoria of stars


My body exquisite

Thighs streaming with blood


My body hungry and gaping

Threaded with hands


My body my tongue distended

And dangling amid corpses

And noncorpses

Gun-gun drone the bees


My body my mouth

My penetrated mouth singing

Through the honeycomb locked in its jaws


My penetrated body

Levitating weightless

Rotted by this leprous alien song


I am penetrated

I am penetrated

I am pierced


My body my elephant my chariot

I am pierced


I am penetrated by men


I am penetrated by insects plants and beasts

The ecstatic march of flesh


I am penetrated by birds by stones

And the wind’s twisted shell


I am penetrated by seas and fires

By colors by wings

By horns by claws


By constellations



I am penetrated

By great hemlocks blackening

The moonless sky

I am penetrated


By water by dreams

By lightning cracks in mute night


By night by night thick as death

It must be death


I am penetrated by death and cannot see


And beneath the night sky the universe

Of every eye judging acutely

With their small fires


Igniting to the orchard within

Me the path of names


Every word along the way

Lit like a flame upon

The wick of its origin


I kiss each name and make

For it a temple on my tongue I name


A stone I name an insect I name

An idea dancing across

A dust mote’s horizonless stage


I name a nightmare



I name sleep

A fertile wall of storms


I name the air choked

With a blizzard of blossoms

White origin of apples

Buzzing on the wild threadless sun


I name the eye of the earth blinking in my blood

A phenomena of swarms


I name the hour black lightning

And its children golden sheaves of fire


Burning Lanka to the ground


I name this fever a flood like

A harras of feral horses breaking

On the blackened plain


And the trembling shale of stardust is its name

Red java flower is its name


The sky lit by heaping nectar

Is its name


The cloud whose throne is a corpse

Is its name


Dwell in its presence in dread

Is its name


Reflect on the root from which you were hewn

Is its name


An act without knowledge is nothing

Is its name


The seven heavens of chaos

Is its name


Vilon is its name

Raki’a is its name

Shehakim is its name

Zevul is its name

Ma’on is its name

Makhun is its name

Aravot is its name


A book like the hum of a severed head

Is its name


The firmament scattered like a riddle

Is its name


The millstone grinding bright miracle of wheat

Is its name


A silver bridge of the dead returning to their infinite numinous source

Is its name


A choir of thousands terrifying slow and rising

From a single mouth is its name


Scorched by the awestruck jism of a new element

Is its name


Amen amen nezah selah is its name


There is a precise instant when the world

Is marvelous



Is its name

I hear its cry


I hear its cry

Lacerated by a paradise of sadness


Devoured by brutes


I hear its cry

Ashen with the incandescent

Dust of rubies


I hear its cry I rise



A moth emerging

From the innocence of limbo

Beneath the green bowers


I hear its cry

Dissolving in a golden beam


I invent new beasts

New flowers new stars

New men new holes

Pool of Bethesda

New flesh new tongues

New purity O purity

This vision of purity

Erect for the brief bliss of the void


With their pestilential breath abating

I leave the hazel copse


I depart through nameless

Numberless years


Climb the cosmic mountain

Parapets of jasper shining

Above the waning cypress

Wading through thickets of mallow

I approach the navel of the earth


From the trunk of a gum tree

I fashion the sacred pole


Anoint it and climb

Belligerently ascend

And climb

Further still

I climb

And disappear

Into the sky


[Author’s NoteAscend Ascend was written over the course of twenty days, coming in and out of trance states brought on by intermittent fasting and somatic rituals, while secluded in the tower of a one-hundred-year-old church. It is rooted in the Jewish mystical tradition of merkabah literature, documenting an ascent up the kabbalistic sefirot to witness the chariot of god. My own attempt at this was initially unplanned and spontaneous; the first experience without agenda or tied to any tradition. What I saw could have been a UFO, a palace of Mayan gods, or Terence McKenna’s machine elves” just as easily as it could have been Ezekiel’s vision. However, after talking with some fellow practitioners I felt that my experience — and any future attempt to document it — resonated most in the kabbalistic tradition. So I secluded myself and went into retreat. … While the majority of canonical merkabah literature is fairly dry and legal — composed of prose focused primarily on preparations for the journey while finally demurring to describe the experience itself — Ascend Ascend uses poetry to touch the ineffable. This larger work is therefore a kind of poetics of ascent, a long poem documenting the ecstatic destruction of the self through its union with the divine.]