Poem: The Ballad of the River Usk

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I.

Wild demons are abroad tonight,

Feasting upon the absence of light,

Lurching, and twisting, and pulling wry faces,

Seizing the energy your fear displaces

II.

On a night such as this, I sail down the river

To seek forgiveness from an unholy forgiver;

The River Usk, a Styx and a Lethe became,

To the underworld I descended, with only the flame

III.

Of the amber-spun moon flaming over my head,

A sky-burning candle, guiding my quest,

The water is like oil – a riverine road –

An aqueous voyage to the land of the dead

IV.

Sailing onwards, even the darkness grows darker,

A thick fog of nothingness stifles my eyes,

Yet still through that darkness, I see the outline of ruins,

Palaces that crumbled before they e’er could rise

V.

Yet rise yet he does from that oily darkness,

Algae drips from him, reeking of death,

His visage is the very imagery of starkness,

Rotten teeth in his mouth – no eyes in his head

VI.

An eye is handed to him by a faithful assistant,

An orb of pure vision that sees more than I,

He howls and he brays as it burns into his socket,

He moans, he trembles, he screams, and he sighs

VII.

And issues a hiss of ungodly utterance:

“What does this mortal want with me?”

But before I can tremblingly answer, he says:

“You need not tell me – The Eyeball – it sees!”

VIII.

And what did it see, this eyeball omniscient?

What embryo of agony did it spy in my soul?

What did it see, so morbidly efficient –

Making it pulse, twitch, writhe and roll?

IX.

Could it see all my sins – my scarified errors –

Or was it an omen of disfigured prophecy?

Could it witness the fruition of all my terrors?

O, whatever, O ever, could that terrible eye see?

X.

But The Demon King just laughed at the scream of my tension,

Each of his laughs like a murder of crows,

An otherworldly laugh of unknown intension,

A tumour that hurts the more that it grows

XI.

I shivered in the face of these loveless decibels,

I thirsted for mercy – anticipating none –

I heard the ringing of bells from unholy churches,

I felt as though my good deeds had all been undone

XII.

Undone, undone, and spun into evil,

The purity of my love distorted to hate,

Yet still I loved on – loved on in that darkness,

Beating my heart ‘gainst a barbed-wire gate

XIII.

“What will you do if these gates burst asunder?

What will you do?” the Demon mocked with glee,

“What will you do with that heart-forging thunder?”

And once more The Demon King laughed at me

XIV.

And I had no idea what I would do,

No idea what I would do if my love were set free,

If all of my dreams were liberated from hell,

And returned, like swallows, back to me

XV.

I cried, and I wept, and sobbed in a frenzy,

Clawing at my skin, as if to escape,

Anything to be liberated from this eternal tension,

Eternally falling in a mouth grossly agape

XVI.

But then the Demon’s grin turned into a grimace,

His bones from his body began to break out,

A rupture of entrails – thus I morbidly singeth –

Oh, his agonizing bones – they came out – they came out!

XVII.

He screamed in agony – blood from him erupting

Blood coursing from his eyes in rivers of pain,

And from that squalid darkness corrupting,

Emerged a bright light – a lucent white flame

XVIII.

That filled the caverns of Hades with almighty wonder,

Devils and demons all dream-makers became,

The oily River Usk turned a magical color,

And the joy in my heart sang freely again

XIX.

But whether Love could triumph in hell’s temporary oblivion,

That my tale cannot foresee;

Heaven is a mysterious and scary abysm;

And my Dreams are their own private agonies

XX.

So, I’ll stay here, and linger a while in the forest,

Stay here and sing with the birds in the trees,

Stay here, straining to hear the winds whisper

If ever my love is meant to be.

 

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Poem: Tender Oblivion

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I.

O, how can I take interest in art,

When all is within a frame encaged?

When beauty is kept from me apart,

And the words cannot escape the page?

II.

I have felt art travel through me in a body’s form,

Wrestled with finer hair than any filigree,

Keenly caressed by soft hands – by beauty torn

O, when will life beat again for me?

III.

All the genius of the world becomes as spiritless lead,

When your life-renewing bliss inspirits me not,

I lie pallid – anesthetized – in Apathy’s own bed;

A patient, unmedicated – by love’s nurses forgot

IV.

Infuse me with your blood – hatch phoenixes in my cells –

Lend me your lungs through the donation of a kiss;

Replace torpid silence with the clamour of your bells,

And if I needs must miss you – give me something to miss!

V.

Give me time – give me touch – give me a new pair of wings!

So I can take flight into realms unknown,

Show me the resistless curvature of Infinity’s rings,

And let me learn how happiness can find its home,

VI.

In the nestlings and nuzzlings of enraptured lovers, conjoined,

In The Milk Way Woman – and the star-blackened Man,

From the imperilled pageantry of illusion were we protestlessly purloined,

But how Reality teases – it will – and it can!

VII.

To satisfy your dreams in the shriek of a moment,

Inviting you into the halls of its opulent repast,

And then to be thwarted by endless postponement,

Dull cloying heaviness bereaves – leaves you aghast,

VIII.

Now tyrannized by ghosts – malignant memories –

Until that triumphal hour when your happiness returns,

Directionless, adrift, on sea-monstered seas,

By the profits of pain is your currency earned

IX.

While passion, in the meantime, is stoked in the waiting,

A fire needs contact to be quenched and subdued,

With emotion-filled waters – it yearns for the mating –

It gives up the pursuit on being pursued

X.

What then? What then? Only you can decide

If from this gallery I am ghostlessly removed,

Over-fathom me with your waters –pulse in your tide –

May this pale, languorous statute with frail flesh be renewed

XI.

For, if flesh must be frail – I want you to kill mine –

To make it wear away by being over-touched,

Rend me with your thorns – choke me with your vines –

Don’t give me just enough – but too much, too much!

XII.

I want to be consumed by the onslaught of your closeness,

To be carved apart, dismembered, by a body too soft,

Reduce to ruins my temporal fastness,

In your blood-drawing clutches lift me aloft!

XIII.

In that tender oblivion of interweaving pulsation –

You can be the stars – I will be the night –

Fill me up with a supernova’s bedazzalation!

Show me how softness can murder all might

XIV.

All might, all night, talk and breathe hard till morning,

An asthma attack – or Euphoria’s Curse?

Shock me – terrify me – give me no warning –

No time to notify coroner or hearse

XV.

I am wealthy with new passion – lustful for spending –

The merging of opposites – the serpent and the bow –

Coiling or uncoiling – ended and never-ending –

Loving the unknown in what we wish to be known

XVI.

And so I wait patiently, with impatient yearning,

Exhausted by desire – enlivened – inflamed –

And in-between two sheets, with fertility burning,

I long to hear your softly whimper my biblical name

 

Poem: Apologia

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I.

Pain is bred into these walls,

So I walk out alone into the woods,

Where nightmare upon nightmare serry and prance,

All the dourness of death in a deathless dance,

Nightmares with dreams swiftly interchange,

What once seemed pure is quickly deranged,

And once deranged is purified again,

Wings of heaven and hell in the palace of a brain

II.

Come, let us love, and fear no more,

Cast all misunderstandings outside the door,

Pain may be bred into these walls,

But the tormentor becomes life-giver when duty calls,

For as unkind words cruel tongues quickly make,

Thirsty passions just as easily can they slake,

Instruments of pain to pleasure are made,

Stabbed and saved by the self-same blade

III.

Turn not your eyes from me, but pierce mine again,

The intensified eyes of a lioness with a lioness’s mane,

Let your lips find mine – speak only with sensation,

On this hectic journey without a destination,

Words can mislead – but touch speaks the truth,

Turn the next page – do not close the book,

Though my heart now be suspended as on a meathook,

Pleasure gives way to pain – pain to pleasure returns,

And the fire is contained in the same ice it burns

IV.

I cannot pretend that I know you at all,

But I want to know all of you – to walk among your walls,

And, perhaps I have been clumsy in seeking admission,

Made thoughtless mistakes with frightened imprecision;

It was all just to help you – to show you I care –

I want to touch you again – run my fingers through your hair –

Whatever wounds I’ve opened, may I seal them with a kiss,

Fear’s thorns and vulnerability are the gateway to bliss,

I wish only to love – to give you my tenderness –

To inject my soul into each and every caress,

V.

So, please forgive my mistakes – my foolish transgressions,

We can easily work beyond this unhappy dereliction,

The spell of three days should not be unmade in a night,

Even the kindest of lips must give way to fight,

And fight into light, like abyss into sun,

The tiny rippling explosions where the river doth run,

VI.

I’ll treat you like a queen – a flaming princess –

But it’ll take the hearts of two to clean up this mess,

Let me know what to do – how your mercy to move,

What acts of devotion my kindness can prove,

So what is ruptured can be restored with greater strength,

Measure for measure – and length for length –

Heart for heart – and beat for beat –

Bitterness into sweetness – and sweetness – more sweet!

From heaven to hell – and hell to heaven once more –

Though now able to locate the exits and doors!

*

And, as I pray not to lose what I would better know,

I hope for a gentle touch and not a hope-destroying blow

 

Poem: The Last Days of John Keats

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I used to breathe so much

Easier before I fell in love;

Now my chest is a tourniquet,

Constricting around me, fighting

For every breath – so every inspiration

And expiration, is my Atlantean load to

Bear

 

II.

Ah, Keats, how I have lived and

Died alongside you! Sailing abroad,

In grief, knowing, your love, you would

Ne’er again meet – near choking on the

Blood of your own ruptured lungs – reading

Of it, I, too, could feel your blood, swelling

In my throat – and, all gone! – Never to

Write another poem – a cancelled stanza – no

Swansong – no parting cadenza – fits and starts

Charmed from a calm, lucid, mind; volcanizing

Passions to nerves unkind – Brother John –

I love you! Your veins are the veins that pump

This bloody man into the future – you feared

For your posterity – but your heart is found

Immortal in me. Those last days in Italy; your

Tubercular madness – catastrophic sadness –

Blood phlebotomized from a body, already

Bleeding – but on the milk of

Eternal life, you would soon be

Feeding

 

III.

You begged Severn to kill

You – to give you a bottle of

Laudanum, so your suffering –

Your irreversible suffering –

Would not be prolonged; but

As a friend, and Christian, he

Refused to allow you this deed

To do – so, from suicide – the luxury

Of the impatient – you were denied –

But why keep alive a posthumous man,

Who has already prophesied the end of

His span?

 

IV.

But, you were made of better

Stuff, John; you strode calmly into

That blistering light of pain, so that

Future generations and artists, would

Have your bravery to inspire us – and

You have inspired me, John – like

You, I can already feel the daisies

Growing upon me – and I write out

My heart’s transcript in poetry – striving

To mine from this vessel’s adamantine

Core – that imperishable truth hid in

Mercurial ore – so that future generations,

And the ones of my own, might read the

Hieroglyphs inscribed on my bones; that

Call out “For Love! Everybody to redeem!

A helping hand! A friend in need!”

 

V.

And John, I do want to be as

Great as you; as immortal as

You – but can I at least live a little

Longer than you? – Be a little luckier

In love than you? I know you had your

Fanny Brawne – with jealous rage, so oft,

She left you adorned – but was it not only

When your death warrant was written, that

Your vomited blood repainted this flirt as

Love-sick and smitten? Always writing you

A note to keep under your head, as you snuggled,

Moribund, in your sick patient bed – oh, isn’t it

Easier to commit, when you know, punctual death,

Has imposed a time limit, to the extent

Of our affection, to those that live, who

Would be happy to milk all the love we

E’er can give?

 

VI.

And, in my most morbid moments,

I ask myself – would I be willing to

Forsake my health, if just a few moments

With you were granted; to finally utter the words

With which I’ve so long been enchanted? To tell

You ‘I love you,’ and hear you say the same; though

My body were in death throes, I would feel

No pain – to be loved by you, would I sacrifice

Aught else – my blood, my heartbeat, my breath,

My health? Were it not unkind to have you

Watch me die – so from this feeble sparrow,

An eagle could fly . . .

 

VII.

But, if you will love me,

You must love me on your

Own, whilst there is breath in

My lungs, and flesh on my

Bones

 VIII.

So, I love you, my brother –

My brother, John Keats –

And one day, in heaven, our

Two souls will meet – and we

Will both know, at last, how

Our hearts to utter, without,

Inexorably, having

To Suffer