Duchess Songs

Duchess Songs


In the Amber Grove

Her Lydian wrist,
   Dappled rose and brown,
   Fraught with flaxen hairs
That catch the sunrays,
      Reaches out to touch
      The golden bough’s leaf.

Duchess enkindled,
   Closed eyes and sighing.



Duchess in Tempera

Speak of her heritage: she sat serene
Upon daybed, surrounded by suitors
That she entertained, painted tempera
Upon a canvasse by portrait-maker;

A near-woman with a presence-shimmer:
All stepped into her fulgence: one-sided.
To carry her name into future-world:
Duchess painted in a golden dream.



terra verde:        ἁγνεία dreams,
Sylvan,        vision of sacrificial embers,
Aeternal duchess      of the amber grove,
Everydying yet  preserved she slumbers.



A Match of Squares

The duchess smiles: elliptic,
                  A coy fortune:
                  Liquid reticence. 



A Vain Shadow

In prone and fitful moon’s tide, I visit
Her German palace: wander empty halls
Where her silence falls, complete echo’s lack;
Gracing the walls, holding silver chalice,
Her likeness stares back; but yet my duchess
Is absent: desolate are the ribbed vaults.
In the night, wind cries from the firmament,
The creaking boughs despair; and I can find
No consolate sight of my beauty’s host,
Nor her voice; nor her breath; nor her ghost.



She Turns to Say Farewell

Morning’s blurry haze
      Brought day’s sight afore
      Nemi’s mirrored banks;
            Diana’s statue
            Gazed on from the trees
            At the lake’s yawning edge:

      Duchess wets her clothes,
      Which start to glitter
      Sanguine rose and gold;

            She turns back to look—
            Her amber eyes hold
            A single, fated tear.





A gift of a bird is not
Taken lightly, nor can it be
Taken back: it is almost
Theft; yet this ruffled lark

Is mine now, I have stolen
Its grace and its name
For my own. I will take its
Wing to fly with, and leave

You in solitary, where you
Would like to stay, as I
Instead reach a greater height
Than I should have without it.


Recalling Daisy Bell

Recalling Daisy Bell


And when the Age of Hailin’ Shadow Steele
Came afore the din of Man’s defeated kneel,
A visiting afterthought took shape in mind—

A village green where men played bowls
In cricket-white, hair of grey, adorned straw hats,
Where they had played for decades long;
Childer follied across the pitch in fanfare—
The elders laughed without irony at the innocence.

White and red blanket laid ’pon grass
To deter the jam-seeking ants, and to catch
The crumbs of breadcakes that’d fell
From hands of clumsy summer reveling;
Patter of feet as childer reached the river’s ebbing edge.

And Daisy Bell was nowhere to be seen—
O, where is my Daisy Bell?

La’al Ratty steamed still near Eskdale,
And lovers sat in the carriages, kissing
As the land unfurled its cloudless,
Rainless glory; a day to reminisce
On in many years’ future: captured in sepia tone—

Those wrinkled smiles of ancestors
Stare back, and your gaze meets your own as well:
You think of lovers now since past,
That hay-haired lassie with whom you
Rolled in the grass, before the Age of Hailin’ Shadow Steele.

And Daisy Bell is nowhere to be seen—
O, where is my Daisy Bell now?


Echoes Underground

Echoes Underground


Welfare cheques from the welfare state. A vote’s as good
As any. I shall wait around all day, for the post.
And when I walk, under my hood I smile. A tired smile.
(And when the post comes, then I shall laugh.)

I see more rats than ever. (Myself included.) I think I’m going bald.
The girl around the corner almost smiled at me.
All I hear at night is shouting, deranged and broken.
(A rat scurries around my bare feet.)

—In the tunnels there’s never any room […]
    Nor once they have passed either—

I should sooner fall on my sword than speak my mind.
Sleeping tarmac, yawning alloys, dreaming concrete corridors—
The preacher says the end is not nigh: Eschaton Averted.

(—Nay: I shall expedite its coming.!.—)


Any town will do.

Any town will do.

Any town will do, any one at all
All stucco pebbledash concrete
All smoking pipes at breakfast
Any town will do

Any town will stand against the wind
Of lunchtime disaster flood
Of can’t-get-home-it’s-raining
Any town will stand

Any town could be my home
It’s kind of quiet here kind of
It’s kind of boring here kind of
Any town could be

Any town is less than zero
Add up the hours add up the
Add up the days add up the
Any town is less

Any town is quite the beacon
Fulgent dual carriageways at night
Fulgent words in void of light
Any town is quite

Any town I have visited, any one at all
All overcharg’d and oversex’d
All broken hearts and living wrecks
Any town I have

Any town will do, any one at all
All wrong song wrong time wrong face
All birdcage sings at crack of doom
Any town will do.


Close These Doors

Close These Doors

Your door of late is ever closed, and yet
In a while, sometimes, I may see you
At your wax-lined window. This time is set—
A tragic minute or two before, again, through

(Tho it is hard to make in all this snow)

Those frosted panes I see dark, dusty naught;
Perhaps I hear words in the winter wind—
Wish to not be like lustful lover foolish caught
Making lonesome eyes through the blinds,

(Tho never pretending wit; I am honest)

Hoping fonde for your petty, pretty goodly match
Of heart to heart to heart — o, (dare I say?) care
Not tho for my martial love, do not dare to unlatch
Your door; but, then, yet — perhaps would do a stare

(Two amber embers in the night!)

From behind those curtains, as to reneed
Me of the being I am just glad to have once found;
I am as what you mayever require, never freed:
Attending everloyal to you, we shall
                                     (—all in good time, my love—)
                                                               be bound.


Th’ Next Day

Th’ Next Day

This colossal land will e’er rise
T’ meet your steps
This white paving will e’er break
Your shoes into your worn feet
And th’ people that you meet—
Their words are as th’ crake;

Heedless tho you are wise
Seeing all future paths
Heedless of th’ starling warnings
Chick’d in palsy’d throat,
Tales e’re wrote
O’er lesserkin’s fawnings;

Ah, but parallel lines in size
Ne’re-t’meet, like lips
Bitten and broken, that e’er sneak,
Skulk int’ backwoods crick like wren:
Ne’re t’ be like consummate lent—
So shall I turn th’ other cheek.


Death Walker: A Plague Hymnal

Death Walker: A Plague Hymnal


O Rose thou art sick.


Schönes Leben! du liegst krank, und das Herz ist mir
Müd vom Weinen und schon dämmert die Furcht in mir,
Doch, doch kann ich icht glauben,
Daß du sterbest, so lang du liebst.



I: A Prelude to Decline


      Tyrant flycatcher — why don’t you sing?
Are you, like myself, caught in silence—
Unadorn’d with the traditions of your kith,
      A voice never missed?
Tyrant of my heart, if only you would sing—
Yet do I wait amongst the blacken’d piles,
Adorn’d in masque stuff’d with herb and spice,
      Riddl’d underneath with blackened lice.

He got into bed
And bumped his head
And couldn’t get up in the morning

Thenceforth broke across the city a new age:
Weeks of joyous snow now crept to grey slush
   As LEVIATHAN strode the streets,
The notched sword named Plagia in hand,
Timed strikes to turn man to shadow:
   Lord LEVIATHAN, from distant land,
A county not of earth; from whence
The furies once rode high on sad wings,
From whence the elder gods of England
Turned and hid when Jehova bore His light
Upon the city of Londra, wherefore they
Might escape the Endless Death.
   Lord LEVIATHAN, from distant land,
Engaged in slow walk of decay:
Neither man nor child escaped his blows.

Ashes! Ashes!
We all fall down

It was in this age of bubonic horror
That I chanced down an alleyway
To escape the black-armoured knight:
At once I was confronted
By a visionary sight:

Beauty holds a human face
Purity a human heart
Innocence a young girl’s grace
And love a human’s art

For coming down that alleyway
      A beauteous nymphish angel
      Enwrapped in divine light
As carved of Eden’s clay,
As carved of Jerusalem marble,
As carved of whitest birch
   In aspect how overwhelming,
   In kind as none other;
At peace, aloof, denied the blackened, pox’d cast
Swallowing the streets:
      As shaped by Daedalus,
Labyrinthine in complexity of mind;
      As shaped by da Vinci,
Before her time and set to glide the stars with ease;
As she came afore my presence, I fell to my knees.

The human face, a craftsman’s pride
The human heart, an artist’s mould
A young girl’s grace is pure and bold
And human art, a muse’s bride

Such I knew this sylph was my Jenny wren,
A gift from Mother Goose and Great Yaweh,
And I fell at once — and was this not fantasy?—
Into a flared trance,         entwined.

Sing a song of sixpence for the king

Tyrant of my heart — why won’t you sing?



II: The Lord’s Choice


Ev’ry street is piled high now. A wasted
Generation, ushered to quietude unanswering
And aestus to pitch bright the purple stacks.
Such is the city: and rats around our feet again,
An easy exit from living chaos subdued by
Medicine untaught in modern colleges:
It’s all about who you know. I can help.
Just don’t ask me about the prophecy:
The cards are not in your favour.

Moonlight visits to darken’d households
The candle burning, casting shadows
Damp coughs, two in one, a second and a sliver
Soon the river will be clogged with bloated forms
And folks crossing the bridge will be wont to say:
‘I hope Mr Fox gets it next: he never was very nice.’
‘It’s their own fault. Good poise keeps it away.’
‘It’s the Lord’s choice whether we live or die.’
Who can blame them? Not I, partial to what I know.
I’ve read deep, and can say: one of them is right.
Mr Fox was always a brigand. But he didn’t deserve
This fate: nor his wife. She was a pretty one.
But I told them to seek me out. What’s a man to do.

This is only the start: and we’ll call it End Times,
As we are known to over any step we can’t discern
Or divine. Such is the sign: a common threat.
So I say, you must have faith. Trust in God
To deliver you, to shield your family, to spare
Over your daughter until another year.
The young countess is sick: a poet is writing
Love songs for her, to keep up her spirit.
But doctor, words aren’t helping:
What good is verse if all who can read are dead?

There is naught to say: so I steal out into the black night,
Crossing paths with the deceased and the diseased,
Walking down the alley where I first saw the light,
That alley where we first met, where we fell into each
Other, where I caught her eye and she caught mine:
And, walking amongst the discarded corpses,
Nameless, toothless, black-ring’d, blue-faced and silent,
I say a prayer: o, God, won’t you spare her over
Until another year?



III: When You Still Can Love


And, if I were to wake in the morning and find you gone.
Therein is the greatest fear of the father and the mother:
And, that being said, any who may love another;
To find you there, and find you lost, all in the same dawn.

The dead are doomed:
For those embraced by plague
    Cannot even confess without
    Fear of passing the curse onto
The good father in the booth.
I am ever hidden behind my masque;
    I am of the few that the parson
    Will speak to now. He speaks
Of a century of suffering,
But there is more I cannot ask:
    What of my Jennifer, pure and true?
    Tell me her fate: I beg of you.

Many have taken my tinctures, and some
All the better for it: yet neither my verse
Nor my alms have brought her back from
This looming brink. A turn for the worse:
I save the choicest ingredients for her,
Allowing my conscience to become heavy
With the thought of those I have allowed
To expire in order for her to survive. Yet:
Her fever will not budge, and she awakens
E’re night with frozen sweat. I have taken
To staying beside her when darkness falls,
My true identity yet unknown.

        Dear countess: your form is falling
        To atrophy: I know not what I can do.

The decrepit swarms clamber pathetically
Over the mounds, reaching for my hand.
More names to record in dour annals.
That familiar clang of the bell: gloss-eyed
       Ravens observe from gambrel’d roofs.
When the sun came out, the stench was all the worse,
Clinging to the herbs in my beak’d masque
              Like a blood-fatten’d flea. Parasites:
Yet bitten, I am not sore. Would that I might
                   Trade my grateful health for hers.

                    I am tired from the tears,
                   Aching from the hours awake,
                   Hoping that my love for you
                   Might be enough to save your life.



IV: Eulogy of Fire


There are no bards willing to tell the tale,
How Londra was swept up by Lord LEVIATHAN;
We are too busy dying to contemplate.
So it ends, a final song I have penned myself,
Betraying my wrath against the Lord of Light:

     Great God! a hymn for your own child,
     Whose body you did not protect.
     Her grave is fostered by rosemary,
     Placed there myself for remembrance,
     For I shall not betray her memory.
     Where was your unending kindness
     When the reaper knelt beside her bed?
     Where was your infinite wisdom
     Whilst her flesh paled, and turned blue?
     Gone! what once was white and appl’d,
     Rosy like Dawn’s early fingers,
     Fresh in bloom now a wilted rose,
     Stolen from life’s arms and delivered
     To your kingdom. For I am the rotten
     Fool who desired her damned to stay
     In such black years as these;
     You are the one who gave her quarter
     Beyond the temperamental humours
     Of our country’s strife, and your angels
     Were the ones who so gently lifted
     Her up on kind wings to a kingdom
     Of eternal renewal. O, God, fault
     My wrath: my envy of her death:
     My greed to keep her in my arms
     When she was always better suited
     To Heaven’s right embrace.

     Such is my song of sixpence.

Still the lord in black takes beloveds in the night,
Doling out the wasting itch without an end in sight;
Now I walk without my masque, and let my echo ring:
Tyrant of my deepest heart, if you could only sing.


Article XXI

Article XXI

This era is finished; it cannot walk
Again. To start so young. That is
I: to cross the White Room and
Come out in strut of pleasèd gadfly;
Take my arm in Christmas-light
   Neon and bright.

This whole passage is complete; it
Is followed only by markers. So shall
It be now, marked for later: “bring me
Hanging honour,” so I may shew thee
A craven flock that takes flight
   Into the night.

Now for thee I bear a symbol. ’Twas thee who
Carried light unknowing in a stage
Unknown to thought but deep in
Courier’s journey; I accept thy seat
Inside my history; o, oval charm
   Resting ever fair.

No heaven too perfect for thy calm:
     No hell better suited to thy stare.


This Old Dame

This Old Dame

I came unto a tavern where my speech
Was met by confused wails. Nothing new;
It has been long since drinking halls welcomed
This old dame. Now all is out of my reach.

Where once I was the talk of all the men,
Now my dress is seen as archaism—
Such colours arouse a worker’s holler
In the depths of this rotten drinker’s den;

Yet once I walked with Spenser in the trenches,
We, arm in arm, did tend to battle-gore
Splashed around like school-childs playing in puddles;
Yellow decay’ng stumps give less worse stenches,

Aye, less worse (and better) than the alleys
Packed with mottled cats and broken bottles!
And, yet, such beasts are tamer than the soldier
Whose riddled corpse wafts vengeance on the breeze.

This old dame is too sleepy for a joke:
So nice ’twould be — to share my companie
With a good old Tom from yesteryear’s dawn;
Yet I fear they’re all buried ’neath the oak.

So here it is: my invite to a friend dear,
To find a spot where I may talk at length
To common folk of broad cheek’d inviting;
I have much of time! I shall be waiting here.