Monthly Archives: May 2012

Yay, violence! A Canto from my Epic…

Canto 13

Pluton’s triplet Alsatians
skim the marshland
with their claws,
tearing up clumps of grass
and sending lizards and small
serpents scattering from their footfalls
like rats before a storm-front.

They heard Demeter coming,
they smelled her on the air,
the stench of her anger,
her murderous fury,
radiates from her skin
in a nacreous cloud
tinged red round the edges.

Tartarus, Hades, Dis,
the three dark dogs
hurtle towards the moss
-gowned intruder,
foaming at the jaws.
They will stop her progress
here, if they possibly can.

Demeter lies flat,
pressing her body
into the unbaked mud,
her shears gripped fast
in her strong right hand.
She anticipated trouble,
but never this.
She has given her heart
at last to Hecate,
and that is a goddess
never satiated with flesh.

The dogs pull to a stop
a yard from her body,
circling, planning their strikes.
Hades draw close,
head down, hackles bristling.
His black lips are drawn back,
revealing white teeth in strong gums.
His claws, his pelt, his snarling
muzzle all converge in tearing points.
Tartarus and Dis stalk beside
and a little behind him, guarding his flanks.

Demeter’s shoulders tighten,
the muscles bunch
beneath her flesh which casts
up sweat that itches horribly
under layers of lace and plant matter.
She ignores it, ignores the sting
of dust in her eyes, the smell of old rot.
She is looking only at a pair of hard cobalt
eyes that gauge her pale throat.

Hades leaps, transmuting
the force of his great weight
into energy, propelling
his brief flight. His jaws
open, teeth bared and thirsting
for the spring of her arteries
and he roars with a sound
more cougar than dog.

Demeter pulls herself
to her knees, raises her hands,
empty and full. The dog plunges
into her, his hind legs connecting
with her stomach, stealing her breath.
The white fangs snap an inch from her neck,
but she has him, her left hand digging
deep into the loose fur of his scruff.

He howls once,
but the shears give their answer,
slicing his trachea
with the sound of torn gristle,
reducing his cry to a whistle.
His head lolls loose on its stem,
Demeter tears it free from his spine
with a jerk; Sampson breaking
the jaw of the lion.

She lets the body fall,
so many torn rags,
and before it hits the ground
his brothers come running.
They set on her at once,
one on each side.

Tartarus attacks on her left,
his teeth for her stomach,
Dis leaps high, as did his brother,
targeting her throat.
Two dogs at once,
both raging and snapping,
both willing her death.
She will not oblige them.

She ducks Dis’ leap
and rolls beneath
the forepaws of his brother,
so that Dis connects
with Tartarus’ chest.

She thrusts her shears
between Tartarus’ ribs
while his brother lies whimpering,
piercing that noble heart
and bathing her face in hot blood.

Tartarus falls without drama,
a lamp snuffed quickly,
never restarted. Dis, always last,
forever cowardly, turns back
to the mansion, tail tucked, howling.
He will be her herald.

She wipes the blood
from her eyes, leaving
a flesh coloured streak
in a field of red, thinking,
he will know that I am coming.
No use hiding any longer,
I will enter straight, tall,
and in command.

She lets her improvised
moss cloak fall
from her shoulders,
leaving behind only
a few greyish threads.
It does not take her long
to find the road,
and the house is in sight,
growing larger.
She will enter
by the front door,
confront honourably
the massive figure
that she can already
see standing, waiting,
to try her hand.

I wrote this after looking at a human placenta.

Afterbirth

You slipped through
the blood-dewed lips
of her vulva, flesh-parting
head brushed by dark wire-hairs,
your open mouth catching
her skin on your way out,
as though you were eating.

You left behind placenta,
veined, frightening in light,
so terribly nourishing.
It followed soon after, drawn
by the luminous cord your human
father severed a few minutes
before rubbing your flanks free
of bowel-waste.
He settled you to suckle.

Your brain was still forming;
how much could you know?
Seedlike, you had all of the world
in those pink folds, waiting to grow.

A few decades away
from that hay-filled cave,
after the slack-jawed hymns
of the shepherds had scattered
their vibrations a few miles
past the sun, you knew
the feel of birth again.

Your body, veined, made frightening
in light, so terribly nourishing,
shrugged off on that tree.
All of the universe held
in the folds of your nail-split palms,
seedlike, already unfurling,
ready to grow in the flesh you
sloughed off. Waiting to breathe when
your father cuts the numinous cord.

Ah, Bay City…

Bay City

Texas; a town of twenty thousand,
it’s economy, such as it is,
fed by the nuclear plant.
Thirty miles from the brown gulf
where half-brahma beef cattle
and long-horn’s graze right up
to the edge of corpse strewn water,
salting their flesh in for the butcher.

The mayor attends my father’s church.
He does not speak to me.
His immaculate wife raises Chow-Chows,
black-tongued, as untouchable as she is.
Her food is delivered from Houston,
none of them risk shopping
in the singular store.

Here, all white women are blonde
with heavy figures that advertise fertility,
perfect for breeding, they are
all hips and breasts, downcast eyes.
They are loud in gaggles, pecking parties,
silent before their tall, red men
who worry less about appearance.
It takes an effort to be kept.

Once, in church, a rancher
turned to my father,
refusing my handshake,
and deep in grief he said,
‘Well, she is a waste of a heifer.
You’ve let your line ruin, pastor.’
My father smiled, laid
his hand on my shoulder.
A few weeks longer
and I would be back in Wales.
Now I worked a twelve hour shift,
roller skating on what I did not know
was a twice-broken ankle.

The cooks called me Punta,
felt up my ass.
I took ibuprofen in fistfuls
and counted the days
until I could see a doctor, hoping
that the eventual pressure
in the air bourn cabin
would not send
a bone shard spiraling
towards my brain.

I rolled from the kitchen
with hamburgers and curly fries
balanced on my red plastic tray,
with tall, over sweet drinks.
Collecting orders, payments,
from heavy arms that dangled
from the high windows of Humvees.

The tips came from people whose cars
hardly ran, the rear seats bursting
with children, in states of undress.
A dogfighter let me hold
The black-and-white puppy
he was grooming. He said,
‘Love her good Miss,
that’s all she’s gonna get.’
I drank in her sweet breath.
He gave me a look from eyes
marred with ink tear drops,
handed me a sweat-rimed fifty,
his lips curled, ‘We all need loving, Miss.’
It was clear to both of us that loving
wasn’t at all what he meant.

 

 

 


From my epic, now titled ‘The Rag and Boneyard’

Continuing from yesterday…

Canto 6

At nine o’clock, after fuming
three hours, Demeter
began her baking.
The kneading of dough,
the warm, tactile physics
of mixing has ever been
her method for regaining control

of herself, her emotions.
The violent appetites of yeast provide
her with a rare clarity of thought
unfound in any other context.
She pummeled the flesh-like
wheat-loaves as though they were
her husband’s pale throat
or soft round testicles.

Now, six full hours beyond
her daughter’s abduction
she sits in the warm hell
of her kitchen, surrounded
by wood smoke from the stove
and the smell of her baking.

She has lit an oil-fueled storm
lamp, placed in the scared centre
of the century-old table she salvaged
from her parents Georgian home
amidst bowls brimming with water, egg
-yolk, salt, the sacred elements of earth.

Her hands are on her shears again;
remembering her mother.
That old woman who held Sabbaths
in the darkness, clad in white
moonlight and the entrails
of hung dogs draped in pink folds
around her scrawny neck. Old Hecate

killed her husband Ouranus after he married
off Demeter, and there was no denying it.
Although she was miles away from town
when his heart burst in the bourbon-
scented library of his men’s club,
that huge body falling, blue-faced,
among the legs of whores and
the thick tobacco clouds to thunder
in death, shattering the floorboards.

Her body was cold
when they found her,
half eaten by dogs
who never feared cannibalism.
The living curs ate also
her bloody drapings, consuming
even the fluid stained mud.

Well, Demeter thinks, eyes locked
on lamp locked flame-dancing.
When the time comes to turn
to using the deep magic
there is always a cost.

Revenge always backfires
after hitting the mark.
Old Hecate killed her father,
but could not save Demeter.
Now, an Old Mother herself,
she thinks, I shall have to act
more carefully when I try it myself.

She turns the sharp-edged shears
to catch the hue of firelight.
There are other ways, always,
to get what I want. She thinks,
That gun-toting bastard.
Back in a few hours.

To discuss an abduction,
a meant threat, like adults.
As though a man would sell his flesh
like beef-steak. A white-haired
boy is all he is, if not much less.
And I will have my vengeance.

But for now the loaves
are burning, and she could never
stand for that. These burnt grains
are also, in their minor ways,
her daughters. And it is time
to fetch them out.

A scene from my as-yet untitled epic

A scene from my epic, a retelling of the rape of Persephone, set in Bradenton Florida in the 1920′s. In these verses Persephone has just awakened, held captive in the underworld, waiting for Pluton to reveal his will.

Not fifty seconds after
the shoed hooves of her
abductors horse had landed
in the swamp-grass,
Persephone passed out
of the realm of consciousness.

Whether it was the force
of her fear, her impotent rage,
or the aching betrayal of the man
she called father, she swooned
overwhelmed by her
weakness of heart.

She did not feel Pluton bind her
hands to the pommel, or feel the eyes
of red-capped Charon as he guided
the horses across his vast and stinking
charnel moat. She was not in her body
when her captor carried it up the stairs
of his house, or across that dark threshold.

It was after midnight
when she rose from sleep,
and found herself naked
under yards of raw silk
and etched damask.
Completely alone. Someone
had undressed her. She prayed
that it had not been her Jove.

Her body was spread across
a round canopied bed whose posts
were sliced pillars of rosewood,
carved all over with pairings
of death and the maiden in sexual
poses. Their hips joined together,
the bony, the fleshed, in unlikely
mouth-gaping embrace.

The sight of a skeleton thrusting
his nothingness mere inches
from her eyes made her gasp,
drawing up the coverlets against
her bare breasts. In the flickering
light from the jeweled chandelier
every surface visible glittered.

The walls were swathed
in curtains; taffeta and silk,
done in the colours of midnight
and blood. An insane cocoon,
preparing to give birth.

There was a bookshelf
against one wall, laden
with greasy looking leather-
covered volumes that gave
off a strange scent, like sweat
and fat-molded candles.

The table beside her was lion-
clawed, its surface covered
with rose-petals, ripe pomegranates,
and a clutch of black-eyed poppies,
somehow unwilted, their vase
a trepanned human skull.

Firelight danced in the hollowed
eye-sockets, shadows caught
beneath empty cheekbones
and a card was clenched
between its hard teeth.

The missive was printed on linen;
ivory white, with a rich feel.
She held it fast, with trembling
fingers. The message, handwritten
in strong copperplate hand:

I will come for you by morning-light.
For now, enjoy your room.
There is plenty to eat here
in my kingdom besides
pomegranates, and wine
is available should you wish it.

Pull the cord by the door
(behind the curtains
directly before you)
and someone will serve.

She read a while, in the books
on the shelves. They were heavy,
the bound leather waxy,
and the stories they held
disturbed her young heart.

Like an unquiet corpse
she could not rest,
and spent the time pacing.

The girl slaked her thirst
with the heart of a pomegranate,
and waited for morning
without window or clock.

More life-in-death

Hold

My family and I,
locked in the hold,
sit on faded
church-like carpet
scabbed over the rivets
in the cold steel floor.

There were no portholes
but the seven of us
felt the waves
rising, falling,
across uncertainty.

The dark corpse of the dog
was the only source of stillness;
his cool eye-sunken head
steadied my mother’s lap.

We were waiting
for something,
not known but felt.

There was a kind
of nauseous tension,
the kind that accompanies
the insomnia that comes
at three in the morning
when you cannot contemplate,
much less believe,
the promise of dawn.

After some timeless time spent
at this pained game of waiting,
the solid wall before our faces
trembled, the very implacable
atoms thrumming with a sound
that was also a light.

That first streak, undeniable,
that defines the trees
in more real places,
and I heard the voice
that I had long been waiting for,
but could not believe.

‘Make ready yourself,
the King’s Dogs are coming!’
And so they were.
But these were not corgis.

Lions, they were, golden
and hard beneath
their bristling fur.

Their breath was hot
against my face, their skins
were hot as poured metal,
their eyes were deep and wild.

They sprang across
our legs and filled
me with a great thirst
for dancing.

The dead dog
on my mother’s lap
sprung up, his once
blind eyes blazing,
dark pelt smelling
of burnt wire and roses.

He did the dancing
that I could not manage,
leaping at the heels
of his masters,
celebrating a reality
that rendered us dust.

He followed his lovers
through the gap in the wall,
into that light, looking more
like a wolf and less like a dog
with every moment of joy.

And just like that,
the vision ended,
and we were clapped
back to that place
which we had never
completely left,
locked in the hold.
Waiting our turn.

Considering Ovid

Metamorphosis

Three years old,
in polyester petticoat
and canary hued dress,
my father placed me
in bed with people who
were soon to be dead.

Spirits not-yet parted
from their tremulous flesh,
remaining aware,
they crave the young
without exception.

The bitter old
desire consumption,
the cannibal feast
of restored youth,
failed at by Bathory
and Snow White’s mother.

Soft toddlers flank
taken raw between stub teeth,
a cure for vanished time,
refreshing the blood.
I never settled with those.

Despite their kind words,
Their offer of chocolates,
their appetites grew
and I could not love them.
If I cannot live,
their soured eyes said,
why should this?

The old man
was of the other type;
with the thick white hair,
toothless and nearing
his century mark,
he sipped hi breath
through a tube in his nose.

He held me close
against brittle ribs,
sharing my warmth,
as if to say: yes.
Yes, I am going now.
I can finally go now.

This girl remains.
Breath of my breath,
though not of my blood.
My finger prints
shall linger on the skin
of her arms, to grow
as she grows.

The impression of me
carried on, living,
marked, clear
as Ovid’s hard stamp:
Now called by one,
now by another name;

the form is only changed,
the wax is still the same.
My soul can seek
her fortune out in some
other, brighter place,
in requisat life.

A poem I wrote against the day of your death…

Waking

When you are old and grey,
and full of something
not quite sleep,
I shall take your body

down from the shelf
where the coroner lays it
and do for you what you,
though you love me,
would be unable
to do for me.

I shall trim your fingernails,
your beard. I shall
comb your hair
the way you like it,
without pulling
or brutal tears.

I shall undress you,
peeling the horrid suit
the undertaker dressed
you in, all one piece,
disguised with zips up
the spine until you can lie
naked, unconfined,
the way that you like.

If I retain my hard-
earned strength,
if my limbs remain
firm at such extremity,
I shall carry you
across the threshold
to our bed.

If I am made weaker
than I mean to be by time,
I shall join you in yours,
for a few sweet hours.

Sleep calls to sleep,
one kind to another,
and if your scent has changed
or soured my breathing
lungs discount it.

When one hand grows chill
its sibling shall warm it.
I shall, for a while.
There is no last clasping
of hands matched as ours.

Our fingers are joined,
by more than these rings.
In lives, like our late
light-rising Saturday’s,
waking comes last.

In memory of a very good dog, without too much vile sentiment

Rest

Trolling the supermarket
with a wobble-wheeled cart,
running nowhere, fast as you can,
on the treadmill’s highest setting,
anywhere really where thoughts
can scatter, you are sifting
through the rag-and-boneyard.

Florid vegetation everywhere,
the rapid growing kind,
survives all killing;
dollsheads, ancient yellowed panties,
the occasional cracked safe,
rust-leaking, interspersed
among the twining roots.

The water here is strong,
high scented, alive with life
and calling out death.
Pick a spot along the bank,
clear a space among
the greenish bones.
This is the place
where we all lie down.

If a limping dog
should join you there,
grey-coated, blind,
take him in your arms.

Hold him close,
while you can,
in this place of uncoupling.
You are a regular visitor here,
he’s just passing through:
such need your comfort.

Across the river
the fields are more vivid
than you have ever seen,
weedless. The trees are tall
in golden air. Their breath
is sweet and lingering.

When he crosses the water
you are still afraid to drink of,
his limbs will strengthen,
his eyes will gleam
with their old forgotten joy.

When the two of you part
by your various paths
you will go rested,
heavy with story
and with filth
on your clothes
ready for writing.

He will shake the water off,
his coat shining lupine
and black, with a richness
he has never known.
He will run, white teeth
snapping at gilt motes
he can finally catch.

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