Wish-Fulfilling Jewels & the Poet by John Giorno

BOMB 140 Summer 2017
231581482 06222017 Bomb 140 Cover 500Px

New York Live Arts presents

Marjani Forte
Nov 15-19


My name is Donus Pane et Vinum.

I was born in 1250 in Barletta, Apulia.
My older brother Gualtarius Pane et Vinum 
is the ancient great-grandfather of poet John Giorno
through his grandmother Maria Panevino, his father’s
     mother.
I was a monk in retreat for many years,
and now a priest for forty years in the Basilica di
     Santa Maria Maggiore.

After seminary in the cathedral school, 
I became a novice and a priest,
and did long retreats
seeking the true nature of Jesus Christ.
The Bishop of Barletta gave permission 
because I come from a rich and noble Norman family.
For thirteen years, I was in solitary, strict retreat
in the hermitage cave hut on the mountain 
above the monastery of Saint Francis near Andria.
My family sent food supplies
and the local people offered firewood
on the ledge below the door.
I was very happy,
simple and humble,
reading and being alone,
spending quality time with my mind,
and through continuous prayer and meditation,
aspiring to the realization of the Holy Trinity,
the ecstasy of the magical display of God,
attaining the true nature of mind,
great clarity 
and great bliss.

On a beautiful day in April 1283
the Bishop came to visit, and said,
“It is time for you to rejoin the world,
the Cardinal and the lords of Barletta inform you 
that you are elected priest 
of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.”
My old friend the priest Bertryamus had recently died.
After the shock of the announcement,
I had a deep sinking feeling, 
a huge depression,
and saw through intuition the worst would happen.
“Oh no!”
but said “Yes,”
and hoped for the best.

In May 1283, I went to live in the Cathedral Palace
of the Romanesque church built in 1215
by the Duke of Monfreddo, who returned from the
     Fourth Crusade 
with a great fortune obtained through the looting of
     Constantinople,
and built the church as an offering to absolve his sins.

Mass and the rituals of the Church 
are elaborate theatrical performances
designed to enthrall the suffering people
with grand pageants, reenactments of biblical
     stories,
extravaganzas which draw people to the Church, 
excite fervent devotion,
and bring money and create power.

The Basilica is packed with people,
the noble lords and ladies sit in the front,
the merchants and traders in the middle,
the poor crowded in the back,
and the monks and nuns in the upper cloisters,
I offer the Holy Mass
with great compassion
and pure intentions 
to help the suffering people.
My brother Gualtarius very much appreciates 
the prestige and money that comes to our family,
this is not my intention,
I have come reluctantly from prayer and retreat.

I am a priest, and wear plain clothes,
the alb, a brown tunic reaching the feet
tied with a rope around the waist.
When I offer the Holy Mass,
I wear ecclesiastic vestments 
reflecting the glory and splendor of God.
A long white tunic tied with a cloth belt.
The outer garment, a chasuble, is extremely
     elaborate,
a sleeveless long bib to the ankles
made of silk brocade of flowers and geometric
     designs
woven with gold thread.
The front and back are sewn with jewels
rubies, sapphires, emeralds, diamonds and many
     pearls.
Around the neck is a long narrow strip of brocade
     encrusted with jewels 
called a stole.
All these treasures were given as offerings 
to the Church and the Cross.

Priests’ vestments are very similar to women’s
     clothes.
The dresses of rich, noble women 
are made of brocades from China,
sewn with jewels looted in the Holy Land,
The noble ladies give their clothes to the priests,
as offerings to the Church and the Cross.
They compete giving their best clothes to the
      Holy Fathers,
A rivalry with each other offering their most
      splendid gowns
to receive blessings and forgiveness for their sins.
We are second sons from noble families, who
      inherited nothing,
and adapt their dresses into our vestments,
      which are quite similar.
We are 13th-century cross-dressing priests,
drag queens.
We are dressed by the grace and generosity of
      the noble ladies.

I perform the Holy Mass, 
visualizing and chanting the prayers,
offering the Holy Eucharist,
the body and blood of Jesus Christ,
generating great compassion,
the ecstasy of the Holy Trinity,
beyond all concepts.
The power of mind radiates from the heart center,
light rays containing electrically charged particles 
make a display of the colors of the spectrum,
which most people cannot see due to the cloudy sky
     in their mind,
invisible blessings to each person receiving Mass.
I became aware of something peculiar 
happening with the jewels sewn in my alb.
The jewels shine more brilliantly, 
vividly sparkle, 
radiate joyously,
and are seemingly empowered.
People came to me in the confession booth,
asking to be forgiven for the bad things they did.
They said they prayed during Mass, and made
     wishes,
and their wishes came true.
The wish came true 
the wish came true
the wish came true.
It became apparent something else was happening.
Magically, the jewels seemed inherently powerful,
and in an unholy connection to my mind.
It was not from the goodness and grace of God.

The jewels were given over many years
to the Church and the Cross
by pilgrims returning from the Holy Land and Jerusalem.
In the four Crusades, the nobles fighting
in the wars with the Muslims in Aleppo, Antioch
      and Egypt,
looted many precious jewels,
and with merchant magnates, who were pilgrims, 
came home to Barletta, and offered the jewels
to the Basilica for the glory of Christ and the Cross. 
Pearls came from the Arabian Sea,
rubies were from Burma, 
diamonds from India, 
and emeralds from Ceylon.
The Muslim maharajas in India
robbed and sacked each other’s cities,
and the jewels gradually moved west with the
      traders 
on their way to European kings.
Some jewels contained magical powers,
wish-fulfilling compassion and curses 
implanted or embedded in each
by people throughout the jewel’s extraordinary
     history.

Everybody thinks I am the vehicle 
of God granting their wishes; but
Is it the miraculous powers of God
chance or circumstance,
or the work of demonic forces?
Empty 
empty
empty,
great clarity of mind in meditation
activates the wish-fulfilling powers in the jewels.
When I put on the robes
and go to Mass, 
I am facing a nightmare,
I can see the thoughts on their minds,
what each is wishing 
and how it is fulfilled,
a motion picture of the present and future 
played on a split screen in my mind.
The poor wanting food and help for their misery,
the sick wanting to be saved,
the rich wanting more money.

Sapphires are good for anger,
rubies are good for sex,
opals for a woman wanting a baby,
diamonds are for ignorance and power,
emeralds are for a woman wishing her husband dead.
Family clans’ self-consuming revenge
proliferating murder.
An angry man wants his enemy tortured.
The Duke prays for a great victory in battle,
and ten days later, five thousand people are killed
      in Benevento.
I see their wishes,
see how each is fulfilled
and the suffering caused by each wish.
It is a horror show.
Has God abandoned me?
Am I a devil causing mindless suffering?

I had a dream just before dawn on November 1st,
     1285.
A big ruby is among the jewels sewn on my brocade chasuble, the outer garment.
The blood-red cabochon ruby
was looted during the conquest of the Kingdom
      of Kalinga
by King Ashoka in 261 BC 
The ruby was stolen from the forehead 
of the polished black stone statue of the
      goddess Kali,
and the temple destroyed,
and 300,000 people of Kalinga killed.
Ashoka gave the ruby to his wife Queen Deva,
who had become a great Buddhist meditation
     practitioner.
From the joy arising from her profound
     accomplishment,
and deep compassion for the largest number of
     people ever killed in a war,
the queen hid inside the ruby 
a secret essence prayer
hid inside the ruby a secret essence prayer
hid inside the ruby a secret essence prayer.
Anyone suffering, who prays for help,
their pain is made painless.
Pain is made painless
pain is made painless,
made to seem like bathing in warm summer rain.
The secret prayer of the ancient queen,
suffering is made painless
by the empty nature of suffering.

At the end of the Ashokan dynasty,
the ruby passed for a thousand years 
through marriage, ransom, and the bounty of war,
through the Muslim conquest to Mughal princes and
     Persian warriors. 
The red ruby was in Aleppo in the late 11th century,
where in the battle against Bashir Attar,
the first victory for the Crusaders in 1096,
two years before the liberation of Jerusalem,
the ruby, other jewels and gold 
were seized as loot by the army of Prince Bohemond
and the southern Italian Norman barons.
The ruby was taken to Barletta in Apulia 
by the De Leo family, cousins of the Panevino,
and given to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.
The ruby is called “the blood of the Virgin
blood of the Virgin
blood of the Virgin.”

I woke from the dream sweating 
in a state of shock and foreboding.
The secret in the ruby 
is the wish-fulfilling prayer
the secret in the ruby is the wish-fulfilling prayer
the secret in the ruby is the wish-fulfilling prayer.
The other jewels have similar stories.
Each has a history,
secret aspirations and wishes stored inside,
inhabited by curses, 
echoes, residues of the glory, 
greed, and the beauty of each owner, 
which are empowered or activated by the power
      of mind.
It is overwhelmingly joyous and depressing.
I began to dread wearing the robes
and felt negative and reluctant before each Mass.
My mind was jeopardy,
it was very confusing.

On December 21st, 1285, I had another dream
in the hour before dawn.
Above the ruby on the brocade square
is a big diamond surrounded by a circle of pearls.
The diamond, plump and of flawless clarity,
had belonged to an ancient Tibetan king
who called it the Primordial Buddha Diamond.
The king loved the diamond, 
wore it in a necklace resting on his heart,
shining brilliantly illuminating the world. 
The king was very attached to the diamond,
was obsessed with it,
and when he died, he could not leave the diamond.
His consciousness or soul refused to go on.
His soul became a tiny spirit inhabiting the stone,
staying in his secret home inside the diamond.
The king was very proud of himself, 
like a cat hiding under a bed,
but having interrupted the natural flow
he could easily be irritated and made angry.
He just craved being in the diamond.
During Mass with the noisy crowds,
the king wakes up 
and loves their appreciation of his glorious radiance. 
Through my mind he can see the minds of the
     people,
and is fascinated, and plays with their wishes
      and desires.
Sometimes I hear him laughing naughtily.
I awoke from the dream in feverish sweat,
horror struck.
The secret in the diamond 
was grasping and ignorance.
I had great compassion for the suffering king.
After an enormous amount of prayer
and a difficult exorcism,
his consciousness was liberated 
into the heaven pure land of our lord God.
Occasionally, he comes back secretly to visit,
and that’s OK.
The poor thing is a hungry ghost,
His resonance remains in the jewel.

The dread of wearing the vestments got worse,
depression before every Mass.
Of course, the profound blessings of Eucharist,
the union of mind with God,
the chanting, the movement of the breath,
the internal winds and creation of heat,
makes me high, and feel really good.
People pray to me to intercede with God
to grant their wishes,
wanting something and getting it
wanting something and getting it.
They got whatever they wanted,
and learned what they wished for they got.
This deeply disturbed my mind.
Pandering to people’s worst, 
greed, jealousy and revenge, passions and stupidity
for the greater glory of God.
I preached the gospels, which seemed appreciated
but their minds were blinded by their grasping.
It was very depressing 
very depressing 
very depressing.
The curse of the wish-fulfilling jewels
the curse of the wish-fulfilling jewels
the curse of the wish-fulfilling jewels,
had nothing to do with God
had nothing to do with God, 
was the cause of their suffering,
making themselves into the devil
and life into hell.
I am a complete 
failure
I am a complete failure
I am a complete failure.
I am just a devil making more devils.

I tried not wearing the vestments,
putting on new simpler robes of white silk brocade,
saying the weight was too heavy 
and I am old and a bit disabled.
Everybody requested, begged, complained,
demanded of the bishop to intercede,
which made things worse.
If the bishop finds out,
I am in big trouble.
It is heresy,
burned tied to the stake.
Am I dancing with demons?
Dancing with demons
dancing with demons
with great compassion
great compassion
helping everybody.

I had a third dream on the night of March 21st, 1287, 
Holy Thursday, just before dawn.
Saint Francis appeared sitting in the chair next to
      my bed.
He was really good-looking,
with a glowing aura,
smiling at whatever he saw,
and giving a high-pitched giggle when he liked
     something.
I kneeled in front of him 
and leaned forward bowing my head to receive his blessings.
I started crying hysterically,
weeping big fat tears,
collapsed crying in his lap,
and cried and cried and cried.
Saint Francis put his hands on my shoulders 
lifted me up, 
hugged and kissed me on the lips.
Saint Francis said, “It’s OK, you’re just trying too
     hard!”
I stopped crying, 
realizing the empty nature suffering
and the magical display of God.
“You help the poor and the rich by giving them what
     they want.
What more can you ask!” said Saint Francis.
After a long moment of nonverbal explanation,
and our minds rested
free from all fabrications,
beyond all concepts, 
thank God!

I had a final dream on the night of January 5th, 1320, 
two years before I died.
It was Twelfth Night, and the coming of the Three
     Wise Kings.
An hour before dawn, my dream was
the sacred Holy Trinity appeared 
in the form of a turquoise female dog 
singing a song about the future. 
My successors were well intentioned,
but not realized in the true nature of mind.
The bejeweled vestments were used as decoration,
And, hidden in the mundane, became powerless.

Many years later in the war 
between the Spanish Aragonese and French Anjou, 
Barletta was under siege and sacked. 
The Church treasury looted,
the jewels stolen by the soldiers 
and sold by the merchants, 
went on to future royal histories
and big troubles.
The Blood of the Virgin ruby
got on a Hapsburg crown,
and now is in a museum in Vienna.
The diamond with the king inside 
was on the French crown of Louis XV,
and now is in the Smithsonian in Washington.
It seemed the perfect solution,
blessed impermanence,
space forgets you.

Donus Pane et Vinum, and I, John Giorno, 
ancient blood and bone ancestors,
share and laugh about our DNA memories. 
We have visited each other many times in recent
     years,
in many places, Barletta, Florence, Naples, New York.
Donus is a saint, and can appear anywhere anytime,
and he told his story through my mind.

I am offering the Holy Mass 
wearing the divine regalia.
The noble lords and ladies are splendidly 
arrogant with devotion seated in front,
the merchants with big appetites 
or lean with greed crowd the middle,
the hungry poor pushed against the rear wall on the
     stone floor.
Many are sick,
all are suffering,
all are blinded by negativity, afflicting emotions,
and the difficulties of living.
Whatever they ask for they get,
are for a moment happy,
everything they ask for brings them more suffering,
the world just makes me laugh.

I stand facing two thousand people,
never knowing if I am able to bring up the energy to
     do it again.
It takes a great effort, bordering on pain,
to do the liturgy of the Mass, prayers and meditation,
gloria, sanctus, benedictis, agnus dei.
Invisible light from the heart mind radiates out
bathing the people, 
making them feel happy,
allowing themselves joy,
aspiration, understanding, and the completion 
inherent in mind.
The electrically charged particles of light fill the jewels
empowering them, without discrimination,
to do what they love to do,
fulfill 
wishes
fulfill wishes,
the world just makes me
laugh
the world just makes me laugh.

John Giorno's Archives
Giorno Archives 144 01
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Originally published in

BOMB 140, Summer 2017

Featuring interviews with John Giorno, Lidia Yuknavitch, Iman Issa, Eric Baudelaire, Ieva Misevičiūtė, Daniel Borzutzky, and more.

Read the issue
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