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This Nightmare of Skin

This Nightmare of Skin


There is no escape from this skin, she said;
No slightest moment to forget about the shape of things.
This blasphemy is wrought from on high,
To mock the sensitive mind even in his sleep.
A dream of flesh is an unbearable thing.
And a dream of unflesh?— well (she said)
Even that is predicated upon flesh; there is no escape
From this nightmare of skin. It hangs so heavy
On your bones, replenishing itself as if
We should be impressed; I am not amazed
By rotting meat, nor slit-cut carcasses, nor
The pulpy curves of these vile fibres.
The shape of things is anathema: and it cannot be forgotten,
For there it is at all times; sagging, wrinkled,
Awash with scars, spots, blemishes and unsightly hair;
No, there is no escape from this nightmare of skin.

I have proposed an alternative, she said:
A process of uncreation. Not death—for death is slave
To flesh: to think of death, all of that screaming, sliced tendons;
Guts on show and skull shattered, prolapsing veins;
The wretched shrieks and screams of one
Confronted by the inevitabile end of fleshy form;
And once dead, the spoiled muck of skin
Degrades further, yet another mockery
And yet another symbol of the absolute decay inherent in the shape of things;
And after death, our pitiful cadaver
Returns its lumpy mass to the endless cycle of shit-birth and shit-death,
Until entropy collides and bears us once again unasked
Into this nightmare of skin.

Nay, not death, then, but uncreation;
Because think of all of the sins of the existence of flesh:
The open sores, the bubbling pus and mucus, the translucent corpse of abortion
And miscarriage; not to mention semen and the like; vile, profane membrana!—
To return to and remain a pure lack of very atoms and atmosphere
Is the most rational solution.

Cursèd parents! she cried: what greater crime
Is there than putrid conception? Murder?—Nay.
The crime of parenthood is not to be forgiven.
To dream a babe into this everthrashing meld
Of bones and brains and fetid yellow sweat
Through the filth of procreation—all of that horrid grunting
And lurching movement, the heresy of sex,
Then the swollen burgeoning of womb and belly
As the miserable clump of living cells within bloats
Into a nefandous and inevitable potential for evermore suffering;
All gifted to us by a spiteful or moronic demiurge—
Not to mention the abomination of puberty,
In which our final vestiges of purity are swamped by acne,
Night-terrors, grotesquely angled limbs all stretching away;
No wonder folklore dreamt the werewolf—
It is simply the honest horror of existence,
Although fiction can never compare to the relentless onslaught
Of putrid, febrile reality.

We must stand against this living Hell, this infernal heritage
And absurd destiny (to die!) and discover the path to uncreation.
Where no more will our livers bulge and fail, our fragile hearts
Rupture, our limbs o’ertaken by arthritis and various breakages;
Where no more will our sickly lips spread lies and nonsense,
Nor our ears be subjected to the lies and nonsense of others;
Where the True Good resides, away from
The manipulating, creating Hand of God—
No eyes to see with, no hands to touch: this is the truest blessing!

For death cannot bring us there; death is only the final stage
Of the humiliation of life, she said, grinding her teeth,
One near shattering in her mouth. She spat out the fragments.
How do we take it back? How do we undo this nasty business?
This absurdity of scraping nails, gnashing, weeping,
This positively idiotic nightmare of skin—
How can we escape?
She sighed, and collapsed to the filth-ridden floor,
Which was covered in piss and shit. I knelt down to take
Her pale, diaphanous hand. She snapped it away and spat on my shoe.

There is no escape! No escape from this damned dream! she screamed,
Her throat ripping and choking with strained blood.
My wish is futile; each of us is trapped here until at last it comes:
Annihilation: the black beast; with demented claw and jagged fang
It will rip us to strands without a shred of fabled dignity.
Our piece in this ‘universe’ is a bulging polyp, a swollen tumour;
Nothing is impressive about this endless chaos of nastiness,
And nothing can set us free. To dream of uncreation is to torture oneself.
I look at my own form and weep. O, the pain! The pain!
The pain of flesh! The torment of the flayed soul,
Trapped within this stretched masque of absurd horror!
Each day passes in even more astoundingly monotonous catastrophe
As we wither away and develop yetmore ailments and curses;
There is no escaping the hellish contemplation of this noisome shape of things,
No escape, no escape from this eternal cycle of deranged pandaemonium,
No escape from the constant degradation and humiliation of flesh,
No escape from this odious, insidious, and unfair nightmare of skin!


The End

The End


Hard-earned solitude found in denial,
restrained, channeled
into eternal pariah status; and what more
do the fastidious seek so fervently?
“Fool me once,” etc.; and apt,
quite so, when one’s a worm.
Burrowing in the dirt,
searching many years for a sign
that the Kingdom has come at last.
Terrestrial opisthopora,
you should not spend your whilsts
whittling down the hours to eschaton;
can you not see? No, you cannot;
therefore let me tell you:

Corrugated shutters nigh full adorn
the city streets, and further thus display
the signs that many yet are missing;
the paving stones of cobbled yore are wet
thro’ with blood and vomit, a lifetime’s worth;
and who spilt such foul fluids in the cold,
windy morn? who else but you, i.e. yourself?
we all bleed senseless in the gutter
quite forgotten by those who tell us to stand
and to claim our own destiny: but, yet . . .

Now does the picture become clear in your mind?
Think twice when crossing these roads,
and do not hope for such a cheerful resolution
as that which we term “The End.”


The Wastnesse, sonnets XXXI—XXXVI

The Wastnesse

Sonnets XXXI—XXXVI


XXXI

the hellish drone of street-trash splits the air
quite far from an English garden     rain in
summer snow in late spring       an idle street
condensed and partitioned         and wandering
loose amongst savage souls The     garden is
drained of moisture where   once we sat in chairs
adeckd with linen and          discoursed flatly
on meagre sums and overt   distractions
then at once in media res     a face
familière                              Taken to revisit
gramer-rule of scole-kid      ennui languor
flailing mindless with that   beauty-harlot
Face asks if i at last give      them pardon
—i drift away to my English garden


XXXII

Effervescent darling of my heart’s word,
Fulgent lighthouse of my life’s sole return!
Such fulvous eyes that keep me from the herd,
Speckled sight-tawn that I forever yearn!
Ecstatic maiden, virgo-born and plump,
Yet slight and dainty all the blessèd same;
Sweet contradictions of my lovèd one,
Thou should be hailed for seeming such a way!
So glance at me and thus condemn my fate,
Allow this fool to genuflect thy grace;
Where thou shalt walk, my path is ever-made:
So shall I catalogue thy faerie face!
      This ecstasy, it rises from the land;
      Ah, such love is as mountain to a man!


XXXIII

Crystalline beauty is but a shell for your mind: 
Leonine leader; determined in strength, and kind
In the moment when you saved my loose, fraying strength:
I were to fall apart; you cast a note at length
Which brought me back from failure’s decadent despair:
Tho more apart since heavy hand, you are yet fair
In apprehension; how you are like a goddess!
I deify you in art, you could claim no less
Than the David born of maiden form, marble dress’d:
Yes, in full aspect you signify great virtue, 
And shall thus forever bloom as you were meant to:
Ah! If it were so simple, life would be quite dull;
How sad to gain a thing so easily made full, 
When true sated love one should longform mull:
      I know you have the spark’ling wit for chrysalis 
      To guide you to a truth-form metamorphosis.


XXXIV

And then, the end: curtain close; we depart
To cast aside those cloaks, to pillage on,
In drunken judgement. How the night does call!
One final bow for the raptured ovation?
Of course! We are at the end, oh, the end!
Do you feel it? Why, it is here, my friend:
No time to construct a dissertation,
No, just a base sonnet before the fall,
And a second to contemplate our all:
Aye — what is a man? Paragon indeed—
We are surely express in our action,
Definite in calculation, our art
Born by woman alone, refined by men,
Bowing to nothing but dust at the end.


XXXV

      Embankment’s sweat, in Camden I seek death;
’Twixt Regent’s Park’s old graven oaks I hover,
A shrinking blade that captures terror’s face
In photograph of bloody disarray—
      And by the banks I wait alone with glee
To laugh at fallen men, to decry sympathy:
Now watch the sky become a deeper grey
As unknown faces lose their pallor
      And turn at once to see the shining star:
It hovers bleak atop Saint Paul’s tower,
Harbinges the tale of my rising power;
My soul becomes a nightmare’s aura—
      I am the Scholar of the Sable Joy:
      I am the Author of London’s Horror.


XXXVI

Pretty, pretty, pretty. So sweet a girl
   I am. Look at me! With my sunflower dress,
And bows in my hair. Pretty, pretty, pretty—
   Less than a whirl, a ditty, this city
Bends to my will. So I dance empowered
Upon overgrown windowsill, a prance
   For the Lost, for the Dead, for the Crier
Who cries out no more; and I am pretty
   In cornflower shawl, to rake quietus
And pet a raggled cat, a cute kitty,
And take it in my arms. Now, to the hill,
Where we may take a final glance of what was:
      O, greenest spires of glass and steel I see:
      Tho I knew you then, ’tis now that I do most love thee.


The Wastnesse, sonnets XXI—XXX

The Wastnesse

Sonnets XXI—XXX


XXI

Where were you? I waited, you damnèd sod:
I sat as thunder crashed and men in masks
Ran to and fro; was it her, or your God—
That you sacrificed me for, she asks?
What age is she, then? Younger, I would bet,
Than our daughter is quite yet? So is she
Dedicated to this life we lead? Yet
Speak you will not, I see right through thee.
   Did her father sit through all the night’s fray
   As you gamboled through the city’s decay—
As I waited in afright, did she say
“I love thee, my care—” did you affirm her?
Did you hold her close when demons did bray?
      What can I do, now that rubble is life;
      In chaos you did leave me, your wife.


XXII

Let me walk thee home, shawled love of my world,
So I may see thee make the door; so thou
Don’t cross paths of enmity with vile churls
Armed quite alert, quiet at attention,
In garb of common soul.      Shall thee walk me
      When word becomes a sin? Nay: I shall cross
Thresholds when naught but the moon doth grimace,
So thou may walk thy halls in solemn loss;
Should I pay thee mind through the sun rise—
Tho still I lay, no stiller than thou lie:
That night thou walked me home, something was amiss
      And through written line thou missed forever my lips.
My lips, my lips: where is thy kiss, O poet?
      O how I wish only for thy hands, my hips.


XXIII

Yes, I waited for you, simple in thought.
I waited tho small in height, shine of eye.
City stank — river brown, constant bustle.
Sang a song from a browning book I bought.
Threw a coin amongst the ducks that scattered.
Saw a bloodied man whose face was battered.
Still I waited, as couples said goodbye.
A church that flew a St George flag, tattered.
I wanted your hand upon my waist’s side.
I thought of our time upon the car’s seats.
I knew you wouldn’t come, I thought to hide.
Return to books, my first loves, Donne and Keats.
You could have taught me many worlds beyond
This summer grass and raging, frothing pond.


XXIV

There is no love here. There is no coffin
To hold the scorchèd feeling of despair;
No trees that stand for wretched wrens to nest in,
And none lives but austere, crumbling bindweed.
There was a rumble great beneath the planes,
And a mighty beast of malformed monstrousness
Wrenched itself, hobbling with deformed ungain,
Towards a vast, lolling metropolis;
Two folks stood upon a red mountainside,
Hands held in half-salute to shade the sun—
As Moloch’s swelt, limping mass crossed the land,
The world shrugged, ambivalent, and came undone.
Thus love was lost, and bricks were turned to sand.
      I lost you many years before this fall,
      And searched for you all down the road. And all
      Of man is like-named now—and handed down
      From Saul to Sam, and Sam to Saul.


XXV

Damn the dark. Have you seen this place, good old friend?
How have I spent such hours here? How have you? Yes, but
How young yet you are. You have a great feel for this city, more than I.
                  I’ve watched how you remark upon the grates.
   This may I have; yet still, is not my guide you? Is not
   What I have been indebted to not your guiding hand?      Friend,
I can doubt, yet I cannot deny.
                                                Ah!
This is where things fall apart, and as Adam to Eve,
                                          This ring will not concede.
Tho why cannot this city take us both? Would your neck not attest to a caress
            By my failing hand? O, here they come!
They break the crowd with masks and batons,
                                                                        Alas!


XXVI

A teade to guide thy way in times of mirk!
O Dame of sovereign tides, keep me awake;
Such breaks and swells are all the more to hurt,
Yet ’tis thy sight that lights the Morning’s sake.
The lighted dust a-freckled on the desk,
Where thou dost write the cupid chimes of Time;
Thou’st spent such hours of thine in lonesome rest,
Then spent an age perfecting fretted clime.
And so it is to thy wont to carry bronds
All through the satin stain of Night’s entwine;
To ease the heaving Trav’ler’s woven bounds
And to the married lost display a Sign.
      Alack! To thee dictated so firm a fate,
      When I would wish to have thee as my mate.


XXVII

A final dream of greenest acre-grove:
The Paramour of Paradise does greet
The grateful litany in which I shrove;
Ne’er distayned nor forced dishonest by sleet
And hail of Man’s design: a garden treat
Buxome with red berries of honey-juice,
Beseene in seelie drapes of sweetest peat;
Endewed so soft with opal-tulip roots.
In fullsome praise — uxorious deduce—
I declare that thine is a land kindly,
O, my coy lady of the jade-leaf’d spruce—
Then wake in loss, as romance halts blindly.
      Ydle princess, I feel thee out there still;
      Between the trees, atop thy kingdom’s hill.


XXVIII

I must have thee: O, in mind and body,
Thy radiance shall be mine, all alone;
In Heaven’s arms we seek to be Godly,
And in our bed we make the Kingdom moan.
Those curvèd hips that I should trace aloud
To thee, my ample friend, they are my manse;
To be betwixt them, encompassed by thy shroud,
Sequestered inside thy heart, making plans,
Whilst thou tongue my finger-tips and do sigh,
As I bite thy flesh as if to taste thy wine;
And as thou have list this liturgy cry,
I save for thee my heart’s true design:
Tho I am no architect as God’s will,
I trust in constructed love to keep thee still.


XXIX

What thou lov’st entyre shall not last
         When in touch      with Winter’s grasp
And what thou lov’st like pages dainty deckled;
   Or admire in sight, a filly faintly freckled;
                  Shall in night                         depart
                                    And sail like slug,    in heart
         And mind on sea of salt —      and shall not halt
’Til leaves of grass and      hair of golden hay moult;
      But if thou lov’st beyond the petiole’s display
                  And seek a care      less raked by Age’s fray,
      Thou might view encroaching,      subtle, supple,
                  An entity with eyes that seek to stay.
                                    And hold her pale formèd
                                    Breasts tender, forlornèd.


XXX

Amber eye, small marks and lines, and trusted
Lapses into comely sleep as wind gusted,
A chant from the crows as I built anew
What once I dispriz’d; burning ochre dew
Held aloft as prisms akin to thine eyes:
   Morph in clay thy elven feature full,
   Flit the brick with pencil’s steel, shape thy skull
Just as it is in my waking mind’s disguise;
Yet ’tis thy details I fight to define—
In dreaming-life of nympholeptic awe
There is no thing as fabled action-time!
      I shy to leave thy face as night-gaunt’s matte mask,
      But for the skill I shall not ask:
      For thou, God’s child, are not mine to make last.


The Wastnesse, sonnets XI—XX

The Wastnesse

Sonnets XI—XX


XI

Hush, my love — the wolves walk again tonight,
Prowling blasted perimetres, hungry
For us, the wanderers of the Old World,
Searchers engaged in this desolation—
Breeding is now a sin, but who could say
A child would not live amongst the ruins
Of glass and steel? Cracked and shattered envy
Of once what was and yet is now nothing.
And tho the state is rough and entropy
Is writhing under soil so heaped with oil,
Your warmest arms have lost no inch of care;
Through the dirt, your face is an angel’s wish.
      Good night, good night, good night, good night, good night:
      I pray to wake again with you in light.


XII

Waiting. And distant. Never never leave
   Never. And waiting. For dancing, girlishe
      Dancing. And motion. Always always staye
         Always. The anchor keeps to shore’s deep grave
            Buried. The angled fins of funny fishe
               Funny. Lying in saint’s repose, my childe
               Saintly. And writing on the parchment, wilde
            Writing. And praying in steel plate and cuishe
         Armoured. Protecting corage from the glaive
      Piercing. Eyes that watch me from far awaye
   Watching. Acting don’t be don’t be churlishe
Distant. And waiting. Never never grieve
      Tho thoughts are fractured in Death’s base decaye
      Our builded love will always always staye


XIII

The light of Heaven shines upon this place
That sleeps like infant quivering in shade;
Daybrite shakes child from night’s lucid embrace,
   And rises o’er Dhaor as sequence of replace—
   As God’s good star is often cruel to face,
Our ego shivers and seeks to hide its eyes;
   We turn from Truth, as seeking to displace
   The common tongue does give a clearer rise
   To forms of thought that soothe the maggot’s sighs
As they burrow deep into the Realm of Self
   And separate the conscience from the skies
To glean a diamond hidden in the filth.
      So cast away the shawl of lightless echo’s sound:
      Throw down your hand, for in filth it shall be found.


XIV

To Anima: you bring me priceless charms;
   Yet young you are, ’twixt woman and girl,
Your unique wisdom sings like psalms
   And bring to me a gift of mind’s unfurl:
Duality in modes of strife, you are my muse
   And sister too, I carry you to Word’s lament
When mere Chaos reigns in trapped refuse
   And rude Psyche’s atrophies dement.
Tho hurt you cause, and also that is true:
Those forming years I grappled with your pain,
Alas! No greater wish to trade myself for you;
So we fought for many years upon this plain.
      But older are we now, and stand as one:
      We share this form, unified in warmth of sun.


XV

Five years have passed since we met our end:
   Many decades more it feels. I remember yet
   Your ocean sight, whence I was snared into your net,
Your curtailed field of golden hair did rend
My heart, at once towards your soul did send
   My choice to take you as my partner fair:
   We effaced our lonely pasts, eager then to share—
And then on to live as one we did intend!
But paradise of many years is sore to growth
   When village life is poison to the heart:
When change arrived I reneged my oath;
   You could not leave, but I needed to depart
      The land of which assailed my soul’s content—
      I left alone without you, to restart.


XVI

I have not yet discussed thy smile, catlike,
   What a joy! Nor have I spoke of thy cheeks,
Those soft white domes of snowy down; thine eyes—
I say the sea, but they shone more beautifully.
A work of art by God’s good hand and brush,
   A slightness in my arms. Those tiny sounds
That did escape thy lips when we were close;
Those words of clever wit and empathy.
Just see: her form now has changed, as time will do,
   Not slight as once, but life nor I shall judge;
Tho different you are, still your face shines!
O once-love, my respect for you remains:
      You love again, and I have moved far past you;
      I wish only joy, now that it is through.


XVII

I could not write these words, my dearest friend,
When we were two as one — so now I write 
In present what I could not speak then;
A treatise on our erstwhile love: despite 
The harm I wrought on us, confusion you
Detailed, it were the years we laughed and smiled
   That matter more than all. Altho we knew
That hearts can change, we treated it quite mild;
And now I have embraced the past, I think 
Of all the good that’s born to spite the woes
That crushed our once-paired tender souls
And brought romance to smold’ring, fascist brink.
      Let’s put aside these bitter tears, and speak
      More close upon our perfect, pretty streak.


XVIII

So it begins: is lust, unasked, unbound?
Or can such desire be forced beyond such
Mammal ritual? How is this care found—
In dirt, or within geodes of your touch,
Masked from view between your Juliette dress?
I tie the mask, leave undisturbed those hairs;
If I were closer, such would be a mess—
Tho my Nostro cape belies such care,
’Tis only that Godliness in my heart,
Untouched by Death’s forgotten light embrace,
Sitting good inside a gesture’s made part;
Only with fingers that bite I do trace:
      To my smartest instinct I shall abide,
      Then watch you, costumed, away, in silk glide.


XIX

I had you there: the small of your small back
   Cupped by my warnsome hand, wrought to rupture
A noisome response; but what did you lack
   To glimpse a wry smile? Yet then did gather
A lather of citywide moans, water
      Parading our rained-out love affair;
That tender, offensive gesture brusquer
      Than my slowsome hand could intend, softer
Than your wet back in satin purple dress.
   I hone in: yes, the city now burns,
But I can feel you pulse, my budding dear:
Our response to chaos incarnate does not learn.
      I should let them know, that anarchy looms;
      Yet still your back my dissolute hand grooms.


XX

Soft dress clasped in torrent by lampost dreary:
To be destroyed, entirely? Nay. I clutch your hand,
   And we depart, yet moments ago we nearly
Entered into love decried. We stand glad
   For what we found this night; our love dearly
Cut short, my God, my sweet thing; am I mad,
To seek closer connection, when the city burns?
Nay. We enter the fray, man never learns;
Now I am your guardian, your protector:
I wish I wore cuirass of gold-leaf steel,
To reprimand our closest captors;
’Tis only to love you, girl, that I do feel.
      Through thronging crowd we wade resolute to live,
      And ’tis ’til only death that I shall give.



The Wastnesse, sonnets I—X

The Wastnesse

Sonnets I—XII


I

So fair is she, the one who lights my lips:
   To walk a step with her is near divine,
And truth is felt through all our echoed trips—
   To think I had the time to call her mine.
   The stripes of gold that waver in a line,
Her full moon face and hazel eyes ablaze;
   Please kneel astride and bear with me a sign
As supple legs remind me of those days.
I thought it wise to wander in her maze,
   Get lost in sights that only she could paint;
I fell with care into her lucid ways,
   And witnessed graces no cruel man could taint.
      Now trapped am I within her tender cell:
      A paradise that saves me yet from Hell.


II

Could I find her within the book’s embrace?
Her cheeks are stranger than a layman’s tale;
A labyrinth of literature, her face—
An impish smile she solders as her hail.
I find her name enwrote upon the page
As silence rocks the structure to the bone;
Mere words can chance to history her wage,
A solemn bow I leave to her alone.
And then a sting, a pang, the greatest fear:
That I may draw too close, tempt sedition;
When I should stay a scholar to those near,
Most umbrageous sects of our condition.
      Yet I wait in perdition’s umber gaze
      To hear her name beyond the page’s haze.


III

A word decries its meaning; fraught through sheets,
Upon the lips of youthful sapphic puck,
Connexions rise within the mind’s conceits
And activate the notation of luck—
A wrinkle now, and caught in shock it stays,
For arrow’s line is thus forever straight;
There is no shade from antiquated ways
   When we lead ourselves to the Heaven’s Gate.
   Is there escape from such a baseless fate,
And could I lead her by her dawn-spread wrist—
   To lands unseen by mortal kind, and sate
The wish to lie yfere in Baybab’s kist?
      A yea: in death, her goodly form shall crest
      The providence of Word’s unbeating chest.


IV

In days forespent, empers’d by thoughtless care
They lingered listless by the Saeble’s banks:
Emboss’d unto a chaos-ridden fare,
And caught in humours disseizing all thanks;
Their skin was dulled by history’s brute hand,
Their thoughts encased in aperture of gold—
These siblings three cast dialogue to sand,
Until but two were left in brazen hold.
At once a reminisce came from the wind:
That age had caught their deprecated lives,
All amiss amidst reverie’s rescind;
Held reverence for none but that deprives.
      But tho they spent that age in hedony,
      It shan’t denied t’was in fine companie.


V

Ah! Those earthen locks I once held so close.
   Her name — no, I remember, of course, yes;
   It was just yesterday she wore that grey dress,
When we were young, and would say “Adiós!”
Oh! How the light begins to wane, my friends,
   What left there are — if there are; I see not—
   And perhaps I am alone in empty cot,
Coddled by none whom I would make amends.
If I myself were spritely once again,
   Should I enter such darker pact of dole?
   Nemesis, take my dire hand, taketh my soul,
Guide me my youthful love in Darkwood Fen.
      Avaunt! And such I depart for fair Thebe,
      Visiting memorie of golden Hebe.


VI

I circle you from time to time, I see your stare,
As if a sister never born had stole a dare;
Give me your hand, dear one, I recall it quite well:
And how it might yet have been, I try not to dwell.
   Just see this vista — a world of undreamt fever,
   A world of amethyst driven snow and water;
   A world unbefit for such a misbeliever—
   So I make us a castle of salt and mortar.
We could live there as one, away from the hounds,
Perform our rituals, and make our subtle sounds;
Take a bow for me, and I shall perform a feat
Where I lay down the grass in blue, beautiful sheets:
      But for all of the canvases that I may dream away,
      The only miracle would to have you forever stay.


VII

Do I love thee? I can account thy face
For swaths of prickles on my agèd skin,
And for the anxious pangs of gut within;
So thus thy blooming conscience is my chase.
Thy cupid voice is subject to this place
Whence I was made a scholar of the sin,
And followed girl I thought to be my twin;
So thus thy slender neck is my disgrace.
And what is love but simple chemistry?
Alembic wrought to distill mind’s red rain
Which patters on the roof of history—
Objective truth we cannot now regain:
So know I not of whether I love thee;
But yet I feel the sting of love’s sweet stain.


VIII

The vile disease of love comes unbidden
Unto a fractured soul, which shan’t refrain
   From holding it, ere stifling it hidden
   In morbid vault of hateful self’s retain;
It poisons common wit, and keeps afeared
The poor old fool who falls into this trance:
A hangman’s noose of harried care is seared
In St Valentine’s hideous semblance.
   It gives us life; it gives us sense: but yet
   Love also treats us like a bidden dog—
We treat it as a right; I’d like to bet
There’s not a soul not lost into its fog.
      So steersmen blind are we, lost unto the sea;
      O! to cast love ashore, and live in apathy!


IX

Thy barren heaps of rotted land do shew,
Mirksome beyond the fronds of God’s domain;
I thought thee once to be nymph as white as snow,
   Now see thy flesh does run in case of rain.
So thus I scrawl a writ of holy force
And pin it to thy door to keep thy bay,
For nevermore I want to guide thy course
   Nor lance thy putrid and corrupt delay.
Tho now I think upon my self’s retort—
Remind it of my debt and years of grief;
When I as well caused innocence distort,
Engaged in acts that Satan would as lief.
      For all the bitter vitriol I cast,
      It is as two our actions that will last.


X

Dry, dry bones of mine. I am the lonesome
I am the dry, dry heat of April. Damp
I am the voice who cries above the city
   Dry, dry city, drowned in blood. Damp with mould
Tired smog drifts through tent encampment. Shouting
Any change any cigs. Reverberant
   Dry heat. I am the dry sands of Richmond
I am the Eccho. Dem bones dem bones dem
Now hear: diving from the clouds, wings of bronze
It falls, sword of divine justice, it breathes
Blue mist onto the dry, dry city streets
Of Kensington, Westminster: Salvation.
      Dem bones, dem dry, dry bones will walk around
      And speak: Death shall not have providence here



Fragments: Canticle in Black

Fragments: Canticle in Black


I

        cobwebbed hand, arched
To hang from the ceiling-star,
In fleeting dream suffocated,
Told         a lost county far:

Where your countess calls,
A sister in your bed, she falls
Again,

II

Still this Sabbat heart— sated throbs:
Slowsoft drumming pulse, Witching—
Kindest babe, branched bitter sobs:
Is that betrayal upon your stitching?

Do not make Agamemnon of me


III

Still this Sabbat heart— my white witch:
Glowsoft breast, where I lay my cheek—
This witching hour to tear a tender stitch:
          a sanguine day in Northern bleak

You shall make Agamemnon of me!


IV

Home: O! the word repels my grace to stay—
Instill in me instead the wanderlust
Of greater heroes
Wise in their own eyes: cleverly cleaved
By their own controll’d countenance.

Yet no more deceived in faithless ART
Than                       is of Godless reticence—
So like the Semite with the Law in hand,
Yahweh turns to all who his Name misuse:
Declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not!
And sweep clean the Lord of Israel’s land:


V

Forthwith came LEVIATHAN— at his hilt
The notchèd sword Plagia, his birthright

And Shath, the Lord Below, Lucifer’s Father:
At his side, the Priests of Ancient Nemi,
Called for this one hour from darkest tide’s sigh
To fulfill their arcane purpose on earth,
Carrying censers streaming crimson smoke;

Lord LEVIATHAN, iconoclast regent
With his mother Lilith’s bloody rag


VI

As my sister calls, countess in my bed,
Deceive me from this living dream of death:
What I have wrought! o waking sin, I said:
Sister, why am I cursed to so crave your breath?


VII

      lustrous sight of Herod’s swinging scythe
Guide me sister dear to endless lustless night


VIII: A Song of the Damned

Blessed be our burning tongues,
For they did speak words in haste, vanity and arrogance.
Blessed be our writhing limbs,
For only flames will counter their bloody, murd’rous pasts.
Blessed be our sightless eyes,
For they looked upon the truth and it did not set them free.
Blessed be our scorched ears,
For they heard not the Word despite it spoken clear.
Blessed be our ashen nostrils,
For tho they felt the scent of brimstone, they tingled not.
Blessed be our melting flesh,
For we served it better than the God of Light.
Thanks be to the Father: and thank our Lord Satan:
He who delivered us to Fire, and he who stokes the Flames,
For we are where we earned to be:
Blessed be the Damned.

Notation


Notation

These final notes detail the circumstances that led me to this fugue of wracked obsession, one which I could never declare to be the work of mere chance, if such a petty and thoughtless concept could be taken seriously by any who have seen behind the curtain of the mundane; and although no man will ever read this statement, I must compose it nonetheless, so as to document the ethereal sequence of that ghastly notation. The cadence starts in C, as if to tease the major scale; yet it suddenly takes a shift Locrian, losing all tonal sense thereafter. The instrument it is played on does not exist: could not exist. So it is that the music has, at last, returned: I have spent days, weeks in my squalid house, preparing immense reams of variations of sheet notation for the piece, but when played back on the piano, they have never even started to come close to those bleak scales that shift eternal in the dark distance. Although: I am sure that they had sounded right in my head. I am sure of it; yet none of this matters now: the piano and the library’s worth of notation is destroyed withal, for what good that may achieve. I fear it is too late for me, and so all I can do is write these final words.

I began learning piano when I was seven years old. By age eleven, I could read and write music at a grade that I had not achieved even in English and Latin. I was thirteen when I first played this wrecked piano in front of me. It had belonged to my school for as long as anyone there could remember; yet, I had never observed it being played by any of the music teachers, nor tuned by the blind pianist who came in every Friday morning to play for us during our otherwise dull assemblies. It was a pitiful orphan instrument: unloved, uncared for. I was drawn to it, being myself bereft of mother and father.

I felt its presence from that first music lesson; every key that I struck on the Casio keyboard seemed to resonate instead from the piano, not from the piece of cheap plastic in front of me: and every note played sounded tortured, and ringingly out of key.

When I inquired about it, my teacher told me that it was impossible to tune; not that they had not tried: even the blind man had attempted long ago and failed, and he had since stayed far from the withered, dusty beast. I asked why they kept it around: I never once heard a clear answer to that question, and my attempts to play it during class were met with refusal.

One day, in my third year at the school, after classes had finished, we were called to the main hall for an announcement; the students were to be questioned and perhaps scolded after a number of hideous, perverted images had been found scrawled in the boys’ bathroom. As the droves of students made their way there, I slipped rank and made my way across the empty school grounds and over to the music hall, which stood alone next to the south gate.

I entered the desolate classroom, accompanied by the light creak of rusty hinges. The piano sat in the corner, dust on every inch of the housing and lid. I pulled over a chair, raised the lid and sat down. I played a note.

The note echoed its dissonance. There was no other sound like it: it tingled every fibre of within my being. I closed my eyes and let the feeling in: the shared harmony of two lost souls, reunited for the first time. I played another note, higher up. My left hand formed a chord. My right hand scaled up. That progression I now know so well, yet could not replicate. I could feel it crawling up my skin, crawling up the walls.

In the subsequent days, I tried to remember what notes I had played. Even with perfect pitch — inherited, according to my uncle, from my mother — I could not figure out how to reproduce the off-key phrases that I had played. But it was more than that: I could not hear what I had heard that day. I could feel it, but I could not hear it: it was more than mere music.

The piano was removed from the room. Nobody mentioned that it had been played, although the removal of the dust from its coat must have been noticed. A year later, myself and another student were sent to the storage room under the main hall to retrieve a bag of sports equipment. The piano was in the corner, behind stacks of newspapers and academic books. A memory of a melody twinged behind my ear, and then crawled out of earshot. In my last year and a half at the school, I tried to access the storage room a number of times, but to no avail. I found no success, and after graduating, I attended a prestigious music college, and then went on to study composition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

It was around this time that I began learning the electric guitar. It gave me a chaotic and loose respite from sheet music, and with help from a cheap fuzz pedal and a glass slide I found myself closer to finding sounds similar to the music that permeated my penumbral thoughts; yet, they were cheap imitations, and far from satisfied my cravings. I used a reel-to-reel tape recorder that I had bought at a car-boot sale to create loops of decaying noise, spending every moment that I had outside of my studies on this pastime, eventually even skipping lessons to partake in the creation of these layers of dissonance. It did not ease my mind, and eventually I was asked to leave the university due to continuing noise complaints and a lack of attendance.

Two years later, I was working a desk job for a phone repair company. I had enjoyed the work as far as I could have, and I had thought neither of the music nor the piano for a number of months. I had been relaxing in bed with a book when I heard something outside. My neighbours often had parties, so I thought it must have been them starting another one up, despite their last one having been the night before. I was wrong. It was not their music. It must have been emanating not from outside, but from my own subconscious; for it was that cadence, the very one I had heard in my first encounter with the mysterious orphan piano.

It had finally returned to me! I sat up and took a writing pad from my desk and started to jot down notes. But as soon as I had begun notation, it was gone, lost once more to memory’s haze. I cursed my recall and took my sleep.

I woke up an hour or two later: the music was back. I had not heard it in my head: no, it was outside; somewhere in the distance: I threw myself from my bed and ran out into the black night, following the sound. But even as I ran, the familiar, eldritch sequence did not gain in volume, nor did it lessen, as if it was always hanging just out of my reach. I walked the streets for an hour, but no turn took me any closer to my destination. I went home and slept, although the music kept its flow.

The next night, it returned once again. The same phrases, tantalising, mocking. I set up my tape recorder and kept it running after I was asleep. When I played it back, I heard nothing.

This continued for the following months, and my every attempt to find it or record it resulted in abject failure. It was at this time that I made a pact with myself: my life was in a pitiful rut, and as stable as my job was, there was no true enjoyment to be found. So I decided that I would set myself upon the music that haunted and taunted me so, discover its secrets entire, and then I would take it to the Royal Conservatoire, to show those so-called experts, scholars, that nothing like it existed in the human spectrum of musical experience, that only I can play it, and that I should be bequeathed a substantial grant to further explore these new, alien modes. Once again, I had a purpose to my wormlike existence.

I wrote hundreds, thousands of sheets of music, each work an attempt to recreate those sounds, each piece one that I would have once considered an opus but now saw as less than worthless. I quit my job, took my final month’s salary and travelled down to my old school. I met with the new headmaster, and questioned him about the old piano. He did not know of its existence, so I told him where perhaps he might find it. He replied that he was a busy man. My monetary offer changed his mind. In the evening of that day, the deliverymen carried the piano up to my room. I started playing immediately.

Nothing came out. Just sour, twisted notes that fell dead on my ears. I played for hours, to constant and unremitting failure. I closed the lid and got into bed. As soon as my defeat had been sealed, that was, of course, when I heard it again: it was out there, laughing somewhere beyond the window’s glass. It was closer now, albeit incrementally. I pulled the piano over to the window, tearing the carpet in places, and sat down again. As the impossible fugue started over, I played back to it. But still the notes collapsed as soon as they had left the instrument. I eventually had to stop at three in the morning after the next-door neighbour hammered against the wall.

I ignored the music and the piano for a week. On the seventh day, I received a phone call. My uncle had died. I should have wept. I went down to attend the funeral and left before the wake. He left me his cottage in the will, so I made the correct arrangements and before long I was living just outside of Penrith, finally alone with my music.

The country air did my lungs a world of good after living in the damp of my old house for so long. I took daily walks, still continuing to ignore the music. But every night it came closer still, until finally I could no longer stand it. I left the house and ran to the woods past which the noxious music seemed to originate. I tripped over branch and root until I got to the other side of the trees. I looked out at the night sky. The stars bowed down over me. The music screamed. The shapes in the sky took the form of the notation, like no notation known by name, written in a hideous, aberrant alien script: it had finally been gifted me, finally there for me to take as my own. I checked my pockets. In my hurry, I had left all of my pens and paper back in the house. I ran back, further harming myself on the way, spraining an ankle and bruising a wrist. I took my fountain pen and a large pad of paper and made the trip again, avoiding any more extensive damage. I stared at the sky. It was gone: only the shadowy, endless void welcomed me, even that seeming to stare down at me in disgust.

The music had stopped. I was alone, truly alone. I walked back to the house and sat down at the piano and wracked my all too human memory. I played for ten hours, until I finally slumped over the keyboard and passed out.

I started to drink whiskey, attempting to channel the music in a drunken fugue state. It did not work; nothing did. Every day my body grew thinner. Food no longer had any taste, not after the experience of having seen that mystic, unearthly, Stygian music with my own eyes, only to have faltered and lost it once and for all. The music did not play outside for many weeks. I was naught without it. I knew that if it returned, if it graced my decaying mind with its echoing laugh, it would be for the final time.

In a rage, I felled my adversarial instrument: the piano connected to the ground with a discordant crash, broken but yet still living. I took to it then with a hammer. I did not stop until the damage was irreparable. I destroyed all of my notation, and my recordings. By this point, even water tasted foul to my sensibilities; I would not imbibe a drop. So I waited in darkness, day and night, for that final, wracking hymn, and composed this document for posterity’s sake, although I believe such matters are relevant no longer; nonetheless, I am glad to have written these words, to purge my guilt over chasing this cacophonous destiny. I shall not know peace again; there will never again be silence.


Tonight, I was woken by the smallest of sounds, far beyond my window and over the horizon. Despite its distance, I could feel its immensity. It continued to get closer, the spread of the sound multiplying and diffusing into the air. It is nearly right outside my window now. I feel that I now realise what this ravenous requiem has been trying to tell me all along.

It seems to laugh at me yet, that scraping, mirthless rattle. I feel it shake the windows. There is not long left. I take my pen and pad and stumble through the corridors and throw my door open and allow myself to exit the house and be embraced by the cold air outside. But the air is not cold; in fact, there is no air. There is no view. Only blackness, a stretching everfurther abyss. Then the shapes emerge, those ghastly notes: they crawl through our spacetime dimension; they are all that there is left; I am the last of my kind, and I am the one who wrought this. It should have never been heard. But as I start to write it down, I know that all of this, the sacrifice that I have made on behalf of humanity, has been worth it. Nothing has ever existed that held such horrible beauty. There is nothing but the notation. And as I finish writing it, as the pen scrapes across the paper for the last time, I know my purpose has been fulfilled. I was the gatekeeper, and I opened the door. All that is left now is the unending coda: the music that will scream alone for eternity.


Love Song for England’s Death Knell

Love Song for England’s Death Knell

I have been down to the river, she said:
Around the way it comes to a head, and begins to froth
As ducks pick white bread from the banks;
It is quiet in places — if that you would believe—
Where the throngs subside, you may sit beside
The frothing, muddy stream, and contemplate
The love song of England’s death knell.
It is sung in voices we dare not hear, silence
Arcing and tumbling as a Roman candle,
Strapped with heretics. Dance with me, said she:
Come and see, there is a dove I like very much
With mangled stubs and cracked wing
And knobbly beak; its darting eyes can be much
Like the anxiety that rises as a tide — ebbing
Sometimes, but not often. Yet how often I have danced
In a tired trance amongst the artificial flowers
And stone giants, and pondered
The love song of England’s death knell.
It is whispered in distinct tones we all must face
When at last the last trace of the last glare of sun
Slinks beneath the final bridge. And the streets
Are piled with bodies. Colour matters no more:
For we are all just as dead in death. Just as encased
In quietude, she said. I know it isn’t a very original thought,
But it seems relevant whenever comes to mind
The love song of England’s death knell.
—I thought to interrupt then,
            but left the stranger to continue,
            wondering what words may next come.
It is like the fields of wheat, she smiled, picking
A sunflower seed from her teeth.
Reaped.
And then packaged and stored, and delivered
To be fused into plastics and oils.
Reaped:
With rotten scythe. With neutral hand.
It is what we deserve; what we have borne
Upon our slight and weary backs.
Upon the Styx it sticks, like blood and oil,
Like oily blood and bloody oil,
A rainbow of cement; when one is all and all is one,
There can be no fun, there can be nothing but
The love song of England’s death knell.
—I watched her eyes, quite grey themselves
            but with a sheen like clingfilm.
And I have been down to the streets, she said:
For stretches, it is as if the markets have all but died,
Gone away; it is as if the people have all left, as if
The smoke to breathe were not enough! And what joke
Is that, when there is plenty smog for all in the laughter of
The love song of England’s death knell.
Let us walk now, or would you chance a skip?
There are no penny farthings here, no skirts of low descent,
No shame now, yet no modesty either: no balance
In this city of burnt ends and sand-like dirt
That catches in your eye and shakes a wince
From your frowning brow. Tears not born of pain
Or pity, but a simple reaction of base biology. Acrimony
Is the common tongue. So would you dance with me? said she:
Or would you rather continue to slink
Like the beaten, trodden dog of the back-streets
Further and further into the cantos of
The love song of England’s death knell?
—I chanced a laugh. But what was there to laugh for?
            I knew this girl not,
            and yet she had always been there,
            I believe.
You spurn me, she said:
And who would not?
For truth is not lauded, no; there is no ascent here,
No joy,
And very little in the way of work. All has been done away.
A white-gloss colonnade with no forethought,
Lacking a catchy tune, and this hall, fretted with fault,
Becomes much more a vault — to store the notation of
The love song of England’s death knell,
Which now is less a song than a scream, a cry,
Like a great chorus in the sky — as a worm, crawling
To the surface for rain, to have a day of replenishment
And to seek a sightless friend, only to be met
By the rats of fatness and in countless number,
To be swallowed and chewed upon carelessly:
There is no order here, there is no happy chance chaos;
Anarchy without respite, and a hand that whips but does not feed.
So, go, said she: leave me, for we do not see eye to eye,
Nor mouth to ear, nor touch to touch; your hand is as a brush
Of bristly, cruel prickles upon my tender skin:
I will not let you in.
If you shall not dance, if you have no ears to hear,
Nor eyes for sight, nor kind flesh to rub,
Nor nose to smell the filth and roses,
Nor heart to sing, nor mind to think, nor breath
To turn to romance in the Autumn, then
What good are you to me? She said;
And if this is what you are to laugh at—
My idolisation of the land of William, of John, of Mary;
Of Elizabeth and Percy and Thomas and Polly—
Then, begone! she scowled with despight:
I shall myself dance alone upon the banks
Of England’s shore; I shall myself alone skip
Beyond the frothing, reeking mud and swollen rats,
Beyond the thrashing maw of the streetside vendors
And hassling whores and leering wretch-men,
Beyond the smog’s assail, the leman’s wail and beer’s lament,
And yes, beyond the cracked stone giants and plastic plants,
Beyond even your wicked smile and depressive wit,
To where the throngs at once subside: and I shall sit beside
This peaceful, sighing stream of mine,
Companioned by a knobbly, wounded dove:
And I alone shall descant
The love song of England’s death knell.

Decaye: An Observation

Decaye: An Observation


(11th December 2019)


There is ne’re a face I stand to see
In the city side-streets, and underground
It’s all the worse, where shades hang
From every wall, and violence begets
Nothing but a slight, disapproving glance.

[Embankment, 6:53am]

A figure slumped at disattent
On the platform; drowned not by onlookers:
Crack pipe — erstwhile bottle — in his lap;
He rolls his own rotten teeth
Around in his mouth like marbles;
Cavernous cracks in his face
Hide nothing.

[Leicester Square, 6:15pm]

Swaths upon swaths and you know the deal—
Like anyone who’s crept the gap could—
Marble Mouth still on his route, gaping eyes
That do not look at me, nor anyone as he
Asks for what I ain’t got that he don’t got.

Go’bless. Go’bless.