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!
Hard-earned solitude found in denial,
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.
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 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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fragments: Canticle in Black
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
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
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!
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:
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
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?
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.
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.
And then packaged and stored, and delivered
To be fused into plastics and oils.
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,
You spurn me, she said:
And who would not?
For truth is not lauded, no; there is no ascent here,
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
(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.
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
[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.
This One’s Up to Me
As crossing like six boundaries what is wrong;
This street builds too much, executed
Actions; But wait; But see the cross’d line
That made a troubl’d, dancing fool — idiocy
To think this old mare would bare to face
The old line you pared. You thought yourself a snowman (moron)—
Yet there was a laughing girl, and a
Boy with a brain full o’ shit. To be expected
When a brain o’ shit is a brain full o’ salt like mine.
Tell me not, you young fool:
Your experience . . . is naught but a gnat to a god.
In all crystal honey.
Thy rude fortitude is but a joke I now smirk at:
Counting down to Oblivion.
Yet, melting-ever is your evermask and evermore—
Your laughter is a worrisome task, and backed
Up on heaps of crud, and rotten filth; so carry
The filth inside, and cast it to the wooden panels
That are loath to bear your burden of bare
Loathsome ghostweight. For tho you have iron
In your blood, like the rest, you are gone:
—and yeah, there’s the stinker, right in the—
Gone! Gone! I do naught but cackle
Like an idiot, wasted god.
Now, die: die! Feel dead! For thee . . .
Come neath my roof and settle sweetly like a bairn
Basking in nearlife cooter-uterus and be calm agen.
Stretch sylphlike-aërial into the airwaves:
Cast your bare shoulders broad in the light;
Atomise brute efficiency, so that your etchings
May clamber vinely in this slight hour’s chamber—
Do this, Daffodil, O Budding Rosemary!
Do this, for the spyders are ambling ever close,
Mandibles manifest as words of care and joy, of love—
To suffocate inn’cence in torture of the dull.
Venom encased in silver, paralysis, in turn,
In time, chiming sibilance to enslave entyre:
And awaiting yet until unxious tongue-sin
Bares its arachnoid, translucent teeth;
So greet this life with a hammer: hear how hollow
It rings, then fill it with gold; the Sun, as Moon,
Would nod verily, artificing such arcane attachments—
An addendum to the final message of God’s creation.
Thrown: thrown into the quintessent show,
A song’n-dance on a rack’d, emboss’d stage:
Thrown not aside but headfirst into costume-chaos:
Rapt by the modern map, paved with love,
Worshipping naught but death.
Home is for the Vain
Every street a gentle reminder of lovely death—
Every trip lined with spirits taking their aim—
Amongst bin-liners and dog faeces lying like
Heroin-tipped bloodied needles within
Your grasp. Sharing sips and nicking swigs
With beer-lined belches: stomach gas: snapped
Twigs: truly husband material, as they say
These days. Locked from within, so mazel tov!
One and all: each aspect of man’s mistake
A sure-fire sign of bastardry. So open up
To let in the leering licks of lecherous time,
Enjoy the vile caress of slow degradation
As would a whoreson or whoreson’s son;
Each street holds the lurching singletons,
Each set quite apart: two paces: a walking image
That speaks to the facts, the simple documentation
That acts as will to the culture quite deceased.
When what you took for entertainment degrades
Into but an earnest socket’s worth of fun,
One must consider what took them all the way;
What was it I said to bring about such boredom?
Stifled to breathe! Too bland for own-brand cans
Of sweetcorn and the like; deluxe, just taste the
Well-earned copper tang upon the tongue.
Together, we can make some tyrants from clay—
Watch them goose steppin’ — a puerile half-witted
Dance in which they lose time time and time again.
I dance too, a jerk, a jumbled ember tied too tight.
What is it he holds in that crippled hand?
Why, it’s an epic — he composed it himself!
Yet it will burn, and the title fades, as does
The poor, deceased author, into a realm of esoterica
So pure that none shall know. None shall know:
None shall deify nor compare; none shall begin
The process of canonisation: and none shall say,
What vanity is this? Nay: none shall know,
Not even in Heaven’s sunly glow shall it shine—
Consigned to one’s own home of the vain.