In Chill November, by Brett Rutherford

This collection was written in Providence, Rhode Island in 1989, and was printed as a chapbook in a limited edition of 200 copies. The book is presently out of print. These poems are all included in the large collection, The Gods As They Are, On Their Planets, now available from Amazon (CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS).

Poems in this collection cover a wide range of topics, but with the poet's usual emphasis on the macabre. Autumn poems, graveyard musings, and a rhymed poem in tribute to Frank Belknap Long are here, along with a long poem marking this year of political upheaval in Europe, in which pianos come to life in Poland and drive out the Russians and their puppets.

From the back cover of the chapbook: "Not many poets can write with such passionate commitment while simultaneously declaring war on god, Karl Marx and most of the conventions of modern poetry. Rutherford is an old-fashioned Romantic with a thoroughly modern mind, impatient with nonsense and devoted to describing the universe as it is in the most beautiful language possible."

Copyright 1989 by Brett Rutherford. All Rights Reserved




When someone asks Your father?
 I conjure a blank, a void,
 a vacant place at table, in heart,
 a self-erasing memory.
 Sometimes I envy poets
who sift from out their childhood days
a paradigm moment, a passing of wisdom,
a graceless hug,
eye twinkle of reflected pride.
I try, and come up empty.
Once, in the living room,
he showed me places on a globe;
I glimpsed
in closely guarded scrapbook
a ruined, barbed-wire Europe
   whose ovens had singed him.
He had a German medal.
Arbeit, it said.
He showed me the tanks,
the marching columns
in which he'd tramped,
GIs like chessmen
  riding and walking
  filling the map
to meet the Red chessmen,
pawns in the mine and yours
diplomacy of Yalta.
I still recall their farmboy faces,
the broken walls behind their pose.
Once we walked on a slag pile.
He hurled things angrily—
sticks, rocks and bottles—
into a quicksand pool.
I think he meant to tell me something:
There is a place that draws you to it.
There is a force that sucks you under.
There is a way to walk around it.

Days he kept books at the belching coke ovens,
debits and credits in the sulfurous air;
nights he played jazz at roadside taverns.
One night we even heard him on radio.
I tried to play his clarinet — just once.
He yanked it away.
Daily and nightly the man was there.
Thirteen years of a father
who wanted a room between himself and sons.
So this is all that I remember:
He was the voice who fought with my mother.
He slept on the couch, then in another house.
Years passed, birthdays and Christmases
unmarked and unremembered.
When I was seventeen he phoned the school,
said he would meet me at the top of the hill.
I walked there, wondering
   what we might have to say,
   what new beginnings—
Sign this, he said.
                 What is it?
A policy. Insurance we had
  on you and your brother.
I'd like to cash it in.

I signed. The car sped off.
I never told anyone.
When someone asks Your father?
I shrug. He is an empty space,
a vacuum where no bird can fly,
a moon with no planet, an empty galaxy
   where gravity repels
and dark suns hoard their light.




The summer ends, and not a day too soon
for one who counts his year from autumn's frost.
Although I mark the solstice ere its moon
can set the counter so that nothing's lost,
I love to steal a little bit of fall
from sultry August's overdrawn account.
For I have had enough of rain and squall,
my fill of birds at the bubbling fount.
The nights, like lovers peaked, delay too long.
The dawn's a dullard, late for work and school.
The season thrusts on migrant pinions strong,
held back by equinox and custom's rule.
O Antipode of Spring, burst forth! burst forth!
Bring me the killing winds from out the north!



There is a place
   where the winds meet howling
cold nights in frozen forest
   snapping the tree trunks
   in haste for their reunion.
Gone is the summer they brooded in,
   gone their autumn awakening.
Now at last they slide off glaciers,
   sail the spreading ice floes,
   hitch a ride with winter.
Great bears retreat and slumber,
   owls flee
     and whippoorwills shudder.
Whole herds of caribou
   stampede on the tundra.
The Indian nods and averts his eyes.
Only brave Orion watches
   as icy vectors collide in air.
Trees break like tent poles,
   earth sunders to craters
   beneath the giant foot stamps.
Birds rise to whirlwind updraft
   and come down bones and feathers.

I have not seen the Wendigo—
   the wind's collective consciousness,
   id proud and hammer-fisted—
   to see is to be plucked
   into the very eye of madness.
Yet I have felt its upward urge
   like hands beneath my shoulders,
   lifting and beckoning.
It says, You dream of flying?
  Then fly with me!

I answer No,
not with your hungry eye above me,
not with those teeth like roaring chain saws,
not with those pile-driving footsteps—

I too avert my eyes
   against the thing that summons me.
Screaming, the airborne smiter
   rips off the tops of conifers,
crushes a row of power line towers,
peppers the hillside with saurian tracks,

then leaps straight up at the Dog Star

as though its anger could crack the cosmos
as though the skybowl were not infinite,
and wind alone could touch the stars
   and eat them.



It's addressed to OCCUPANT,
   this personal letter
      that opens with
  Does the thought
  of underground burial
     disturb you?

Should it?
Your mausoleum,
     clean as a shopping mall,
   dulled to white glove
Lysol and lilac scent,
invites me to sterile

a place where my rot
   will offend no one
a place where the
will never intrude.

My friends will be grateful
for multiplex viewing rooms
the day of my interment:
Now Showing: Rutherford,
Matinee 2, Features at 8 and 10.

Thanks to the strains of Montovani
their ears will not be hurt
by coffin lid hammering,
clod fall
   of filthy soil.
No one gets wet or muddy.

Who needs a box
   secured against the elements?
Indoors, an urn will do.
No one can see
   behind the marble slab
   if I'm encased in plexiglass,
   stuffed into Tupperware,
   or neatly cataloged
   in office jiffy bags.

Who needs a stone,
   a monument,
     statue or obelisk
subject to weathering
  and lewd graffiti,
risking neglect in weed field,
when they can etch my name,
my tombward tangent of years
in crisp Helvetica,
when I can have my numbered niche
where visitors can sit
   (yes, sit!)
   upon a cushioned stool.
The sound track pipes in
   Autumn Leaves
while they remember me,
swap recipes,
brag about their computers.
No flowers to buy! No weeds to tend!
See you again next year!

Here is my will and testament:
I want to lie in the cold, cold ground.
Embalm me if you must, but leave
the rest of me intact.
A plain pine box will do.
Then come and read me your poetry.
Read one of mine
  if it pleases you.
Leave trinkets and flowers,
plant shrubs and vines,
  send riot root down
  to sweeten me.
Let fall an ice cream cone,
  strawberry melting,
  vanilla veining down.
Return at night for solitude.
Make love across my coffin bed.

Even if no one comes
   I'll have the rainfall,
   the cooling frost,
the pulse of never-tiring worms,

influx of iron and silica,
outpour of carbon and calcium
until I am the elements,
until the weed you crush,
the soil you tread,
the air you breathe,
the stone you cup
   in palm of hand
are all from me,
the poet in the cold, cold ground.



The leaves be red,
The nuts be brown,
They hang so high
They will not fall down.
—Elizabethan Round, Anon.

The snow has come.
 The leaves have fallen.
 Long nights commit the chill
  low sun and flannel clouds cannot
  We walk the park, stripped now
 to mere schematics,
vision drawn out to farther hills
now that the forest is blanked
like flesh turned glass on X-ray negative.
These woods are sham so near the solstice,
play out a murder mystery of birch and maple.
The riddle is who's dead and who's pretending?
That witches' elm with clinging broomsticks—
is it deceased or somnolent?
Which of these trees will never bloom again:
   A Lombardy poplar stripped by blight—
   A maple picked clean by gypsy moths—
   A thunder blasted pedestal of ash—
   A moribund sycamore whose only life
     came in a few vain buds
     (growing like dead men's hair and nails,
     slow to acknowledge the rot below)—
The ground's a color cacophony,
   alive, alive!
the treeline a study in gray and brown.

Now who can tell
   the bare tree from the dead,
   the thin man from the skeleton?
Which denizens of wood lot shed these leaves?
Which is a corpse? a zombie?
Which one is but a vermin shell?
Which treads the night on portable roots,
   festooned with bats,
   sinking its web of trailing vines
   into the veins of saplings?
Which stalwart oaks will topple,
which trunks cave in to termite nests?
How can we tell the living from the dead?

It's just the month: November lies.
   October always tells the truth.

You could no more fake
   the shedding of leaves
than simulate a pulse in stone.

Only the living fall in love,
only the living cry for joy,
only the living relinquish that month
in red and yellow shuddering!

The pines,
   those steeple-capped Puritans,
what price their ever-green?
Scrooge trees, they hoard their summers,
withhold their foliage,
refuse to give the frost his due.
Ah, they are prudent,
   Scotch pine and wily cedar,
   touch me not fir and hemlock.
They will live to a ripe old age
(if you can call that living).

Love! Burn! Sing! Crumble!
Dance! Wind! Fall! Tumble!
Into the wind-blown pyramid of leaves!
Spin in a whirling dust devil waltz!
Leaf-pile! Treetops! Tramping on clouds!
Weightless, flying, red-caped October!



What I would say to you is not in words.
Lips move to speak it but fall to silence.
Your name poised there on my inhaling breath
Refuses to go out again exhaled.
You passed, and did not know I called to you!
What matters your name suspended in air,
when you could speak to me in flush of neck,
in blood's rampaging beat, in arching back,
in thrust and out of quickly tautened thighs?
You comprehend my eyes when they blurt out
what I would seize, and what surrender.
My thoughts have burned your flesh, my ardent will
has rent the wall, the room, the barricade
of cloth between us. Give me but one touch,
one chance to change the no upon your lips
to the animal yes within your limbs!
Your arms reply to unsaid sentences,
your soul comes forth from lonely catacombs
to join with me. We are a rhapsody
of fingers dancing, hair entwining, legs
in a quilt of crab and spider quivering,
until a flash of lightning consummate
thunders and flares to pass between us.
Who gave? Who took? Whose seed is where?
Make we a child? a poem? a demon of air?

What I would say to you is not contained in words,
though I must be content to live in them.
This hollow ribcage symphony of one,
unpartnered dance of single skeleton,
is how my melancholy half calls out,
summons in silence what no words can dare!



Somewhere it is always spring--
here, too, perhaps
within these barren trees.
The thought, the idee fixe
the twig to be
outlasts the snowstorms.
Its double helix symphony
sleeps on in xylem,
unravels in sequestered leaves.
Some seeds refuse to sprout
until a winter has seasoned them
(wise monarchs outlive
  their enemies).

Earth thaws.
  Tendrils reach out
    beneath me.
Seed's urge unjackets me,
soaks me to root in run
  through falling rain.
I taste the sky:
  lime and raw iron,
  phosphorus and calcium,
inhale the animal sweetness of air,
soak up the sunlight,
open a cotyledon eye,
banish the frost
in bacchanalian riot.
It is time! It is time!



Names last, dates fade,
     deeds disappear.
 Try if you will to read these stones--
 earth clots around inscriptions,
 moss rubs like moist eraser.
 Even in best light you cannot read
their rhymes of what heavens they earned
or paid that others should think so.
Stonemason's script rubs down to wormlines,
elegant esses and effs are mere wrinkles.
Would anyone know if the stones were swapped,
if pious spinster's stone became confused
  with an outcast wench's marker,
if brides and grooms and stillborn babes
  exchanged their names and families,
half-breed with minister,
   hermit with midwife?
What a terrible stew at Resurrection
   if these stones were needed,
carried like credit cards
   to the last communion!
Even the wind, and windborne waters,
shorn of the lake and incontinent clouds
work bald forgetfulness in granite.
Easy to read BORN. Born is everywhere.
     Born as we all are,
but when is gradually erased.
Zeros and eights and nines
curve into shallow depressions,
sevens and ones to cuneiform,
thin lines and gashes.
Easy to read DIED
   but isn't that obvious?
Death dates and Aetat ages
   wink out in wind-rub.
A few are blank, carved and waiting
for sleepers who never came.
(Fought in a war--
   no body was found--
     went to the city--
       ran for a freight train--
          or just plain never died?)
Names. The names linger.
Eye leaps from letter to letter,
   fills in the biblical
     and well-known names.
The sculpted angels are armless now,
   the willow tree stones are toppled,
others were reinstalled
   on broken pediments
   with bolts and metal braces.
Do they toss in their sleep?
   Do stones fly up
   like lumpy pillows,
   tilt down
   to shade unhappy eyes?
I too would turn
   if line by line
   and page by page
the universe erased me!


ODE 14

You think you are alone.
I watch your hands
flash white
at turn of page,
follow your eyes
from line to line.
Hands do not blush,
the reading eye
cannot avert,
the mind
   does not suspect
my omnipresence.
Counting the beat
your fingers trace
  these lines.
You even whisper them
as though my ear
were intimate.
You never suspect
I dream of you,
touch back
your outreached consciousness,
concealed like boy in shrubbery,
lover in moonlit garden,
writing a serenade
stalking this poem,
   alert between letters,
casting my net from stanzas
to catch you.



Town fathers, what have you done?
 Last night I returned
 (I vowed--I made the lake a promise)
 intending to tramp the lane of maples,
  read with my palms the weary
feast with my eyes the clouded lake,
lean with a sigh on founder's headstone,
chatter my verses to turtles and fish,
trace with my pen the day lily runes,
   the wild grape alphabet,
the anagram of fallen branches,
all in a carpet of mottled leaves.
The mute trees were all assembled.
The stones--a little more helter-
   skelter than before,
but more or less intact--still greeted me
as ever with their braille assertions.
The lake, unbleached solemnity
   of gray, tipped up
and out against its banks to meet me.
All should have been as I left it.

Heart sinks. The eye recoils.
   My joy becomes an orphanage
   at what I see:
from gate to bank to bend
   of old peninsula,
   across the lot
   and back again,
sunk into earth
   and seven feet high

Town fathers, what have you done?
Surely the dead do not require protection?
Trees do not walk.
   The birds are not endangered.
How have your grandsires sinned
   to be enclosed in a prison yard?
As I walk in I shudder.
   It is a trap now.
   A cul-de-sac.
I think of concentration camps.

For years, art students painted here--
   I hear the click of camera shutters,
   the scratch of pens,
   the smooth pastel caress,
   taste the tongue lick of water color,
   inhale the night musk of oil paints.
Poets and writers too,
   leaning on death stones,
   took ease and inspiration here,
   minds soaring to lake and sky.
At dawn, a solitary fisherman
   could cast his line here.
Some nights the ground would undulate
   with lovers
(what harm? who now would take
   their joy between two fences?)

The fence is everywhere! No angled view
can exclude it. It checkerboards
the lake, the sky, the treeline.

They tell me that vandals rampaged here,
   knocked over stones,
   tossed markers
     into the outraged waves.
Whose adolescents did this,
   town fathers?
Stunted by rock and stunned by drugs,
they came to topple a few old slabs,
struck them because they could not
     strike you.
Let them summon their dusky Devil,
rock lyric and comic and paperback,
blue collar magic, dime store demons--
                  they wait and wait,
blood dripping from dead bird sacrifice
until the heavy truth engages them:

The dead are dead,
   magic is empty ritual,
     and stubborn Satan declines
to answer a teen age telegram.

Fence in your children, not our stones!





Troops at the border;
    all weapons are confiscated.
 Advisors in place, an abundance 
    of secret
  police. The informers are always willing.
  The Church, pretending everything, doing nothing,
locked in the stasis of state against god,
the people's servitude a foregone conclusion.
The men are drafted into the army.
The miners and workers uneasily obey
the order to stay at their critical jobs.
The women wait in endless queues,
   their shawls and kerchiefs aligned
like segments of an endless tapeworm
   kept at the edge of hunger.
The meager stores can barely feed them.
The cattle and chickens and eggs go East,
   get eaten by the well-fed army,
   leaving a handful of dwarfish cabbages,
   the ubiquitous potato, the accusing spaces
   of emptiness on the collective's shelves.
Women work in the steaming kitchens,
   coaxing soup from skeletons,
   bread from rye, a bottomless pot
   of cabbage ends and sausages. Somehow,
     everyone eats.
They put aside an extra helping
   for the buxom and blonde granddaughters.
At night, or in slices of stolen afternoons,
   youthful and agile-fingered,
girls master the dancing of eighty-eight steps,
play on thousands of legal pianos--
the old Mazurkas, the Waltzes, of Chopin.
No one has thought to outlaw the instruments.

As Nadia practices in Gdansk,
Lidia plays grandmother's spinet in Krakow.
A school piano in Warsaw
  hums by itself in resonance.
No one knows they play to one another,
that the Polish girls have long ago ceased needing
to guide imprinted keys in their etudes.
No one suspects they are secret weapons,
   strings drawn taut,
   brass frames like crossbows.
Determined and sinister, shining and black
   as coffins in a showroom,
they bide their time rehearsing
   the Revolutionary Etude for the people,
   the Marche Funèbre for the martyrs,
roulades of Paderewski held in reserve.

The police think nothing of the white-haired tuner--
he goes from home to home, adjusts,
   restrings and tempers,
adds unusual parts to the pedals.

An abandoned piano factory springs to life,
new models in crates on the loading docks,
the shipping manifests immaculate.
It seems that everyone is getting a piano.
The Minister of Finance shrugs. The economy
opens an eye and goes back to sleep.
The Minister of Culture smiles:
music without words is a harmless
expression of the people's art.


Nadia practices in Gdansk.
 In Krakow her grandmother's
   piano is waiting.
 In Warsaw the instrument
  she studied on
  hides in a cellar
  (the piano underground).
Then from a million radios
a great C resounds,
   eight octaves thick,
a Resurrexit of brass and wood,
a rhapsody of unity,
harmonics to the nth degree.
Casters unlock, wheel guards
   are thrust aside.
Grands roll through empty apartments,
   tiptoe impossibly
   down curving stairs.
Spinets swerve out
   from alleyways.
Baby grands dart
   from tree to tree,
play cat and mouse
   with the traffic police.
The sergeant leafs through
   reports of abandoned furniture,
scratches his head in puzzlement.

It is, of course, the piano rebellion.
The pianos are coming:
  wheeled piano tanks
   death black, coffin-shaped
   polished and retrofit
   with well-tuned armaments.
They all play Chopin in unison--
the Military Polonaise.
Their lids drum open and shut like jaws,
rolling on tractor tires, juggernauts
rumbling bass notes, the r-r-r-rum-ta-tum
   of Polonaise audacity.

The battle begins:
Pianos crash from the rooftops.
A phalanx of interlocked pianos
take the field, soundboards locked
   in invincible wedges.
Flying pianos buzz over the airport,
   their black and white teeth
   rat-tat-tat arpeggios,
down with ease the clumsy MIG fighters.

They drive the generals into the sea.
The troops desert,
   lock arms and dance
   into the countryside.
File clerks toss documents from windows,
   topple file cabinets,
   pour chicken soup on bureaucrats,
sing r-r-r-rum-ta-tum in the hallways.
Cornered in public squares
the secret police deny everything,
their crimes, their ranks, their names.

In Warsaw the sweating minister
of secret police and internal security
shouts on his hot wire to Moscow:
"Not royalists, stupid, royali, pianos!
it's an uprising of legions of pianos.
Tell them--tell them the pianos are coming!"
The connection is broken by a piano wire.

Instruments regather in the countryside.
Flying Becksteins invade Soviet airspace,
  lead missiles cat-and-mouse
back to the planes that launched them.
(Whoever thought a hammerklavier
  could turn right angles at Mach 2?)
The Polonaise goes on.
Others conduct guerrilla war
to the shifting beat of Mazurkas.
Lithe and supple assassins
hunt down the Russian advisors
(those white enamel spinets,
fast on their wheels,
eager to leap from a third floor window
to squash a fleeing foreigner!)
Steinways roll through Warsaw,
   Polish flag on their sides,
Bösendorfers to the rescue at Lidice,
Baldwins at the border to reinforce them,
Becksteins fight shoulder-to-shoulder
   with lowly domestic models.
Antique pianos in square cases
   come apart at the joints but fight;
half dozen harpsichords at the windows,
watch wistfully.
   Their quills fly out like arrows.
A tiny virginal bursts its frame
   to whip a visiting professor of Marxism,
draws blood with snapping steel wires.

The highway is clogged with black Volgas.
Battalions of Russians fall back in retreat.
And this is but the start of it:
As Anna practices in Leningrad,
Irina plays grandmother's spinet in Moscow.
A school piano in Odessa
   hums by itself in resonance.




I am the just
  compassionate God,
  Lord of Mercy
 and sole Salvation.
 Come close, pour out
 the heart blood on my altar,
make sure the blade
is ever sharpened for another.
Lean close and hear
from deep within the mountain,
my one and true Commandment:

Go ye forth in chariots,
take sword and fire and javelin,
cover the globe with warriors.
Kill one another, slaughter
the babies and innocents.
Cease not until
but one of you remains.

Moses went down
to the calf-mad Israelites,
told no one the real command,
invented a tale,
inscribed some laws.
Despite his prudence
he talked in his sleep.
His sons took up the cudgel,
passed on the secret oath.
Five thousand years the wars
rage on, until one man,
brown-caked with blood,
covered with scar and bruise,
climbs to the peak of Sinai.
Lord, he reports,
   all you have said
   is done. I am the last
   surviving warrior
of the fight to end all fights.

The mountain quakes,
   winds roar,
   a boulder tips
out from its neighbors
on the cliff above,
falls and crushes
the supine worshiper.

The Being laughs
   in his magma bed,
passes on the joke
to his silicon cousins.
The crystals rejoice,
poles shift in mirth
as nickel-iron celebrates.
Aluminum could bust a gut.
Limestone and shale
are splitting with laughter.
Coal stamps its feet
and grinds out diamonds.

"Just think," repeats
the howling Titan,
"how stupid they were,
those meddling humans,
those ugly bone-bags
of knotted carbon!
So dumb they'd do
whatever a god commanded!
If only we'd thought of it sooner!"



This is a concentration camp for words.
Barbed wire is twisted every other beat,
Five steps to posts where perch the sickly birds
Who caw and mock the drum of marching feet.
Say there is order here, that granite Will
Can herd our random, halting thoughts to rhyme;
Say, if you dare, that you would rather kill
The genius than reveal the tyrant's crime;
How you prefer the ordered life to one
Where Chaos and the subtle spark of fire
Might topple gods with but a phrase begun
And uttered freely with an untuned lyre.
Sing hard, and let the prison pillars fall,
Crushing our captors, guards--and Muses--all!



Today the sun is a tumor.
It glows behind an eye patch cloud.
The college boys are fleeing town
   long hair     sleek skin
   some purely beautiful
   others already changing
from demigod to semi-brute.
The girls move frigidly
legs torqued as though on skis,
their eyes the neutral shade
   of greenbacks
        home to daddy.
Black ponds with scum of ice
reflect the withered shrubs,
tent poles of an abandoned circus,
the fabric of summer now skeletal
wind-torn    picked clean
by the talons of desperate birds.

Winter is honest, at least,
the buildings cease being
   a moil of students
exploding in their underwear,
become mere lines and girders,
empty interiors.

Trees rise to meet you starkly
   requiring no deconstruction
   absolutely themselves--
no makeup   no wigs of false curls
   no semiotic cues
   no perfumed bribery
taut arms twisted
   from chase of sun's recession
twigs held tense
swollen with unsuspected spring
blossoms and leaves like library books
logged in, reserved and waiting



For once, dyslexia is truth.
 The letters dance
 and rearrange
 to make mundane
 and seldom-heeded messages
 an egg-hatch of deeper meaning.

the sidewalk placard urges
(I look in the gutter
for feathers or angel hair.)


Icon of Doberman
red-eyed and drooling
on a wooden sign.

scream out the windows.
Behind geranium pots,
crisscross of burglar gates,
a holy muzzle waits
for the hapless intruder.

A little mercy, at least, in

A god chases a cat,
another god barks,
while yet another genuflects
anointing hydrant.
What revelations emerge!
See how the citizens
dragged by their leashes
walk round and round,
pulled by a howling caprice,
a quadruped perspective,
losing the tug of war,
always back home
with the same god they left with.

Some use their gods
to fend off strangers,
some train their gods
to fetch or kill.

I see it now,
the truth made plain.
Oh, my Dog, how can I tell them?




     for Frank Belknap Long

How cold the sphere
   where all the gods are dead,
 How grim the prospect 
   when the end seems near!
 How few deny the soul in age's bed,
 Not brave enough to risk another year

Outside the soothing balm of Paradise.
Yet who, I ask, brings you this message bright--
God's hooded broker or a devil wise
In promise, slavering to steal the light

Of your assumèd immortality?
Beware these masked intruders, all of them!
God's hall and Satan's hot locality
Are only a sly imposter's stratagem.

O poet good and gray, have courage still.
It matters not that gods retire or sleep.
We are their makers, who fashion or kill
as suits us, the gods of the air or deep.

No matter that your hand some days is frail.
That hand has summoned monsters and entwined
The earth's sublimest beauties in a tale.
No matter that the falling years unwind

The scroll or turn the pages dry and sere.
Poe's Bells and Gotham's storied steeples seize
Your spirit, soaring from Providence to here—
To ancient barks adrift Aegean breeze—
To Mars--to plains where gods and heroes dwell—
To charnel pit where ghoul contends with rat—
To limelit stage where vampire victims swell
Their last aortal ebb into a bat-

Deep hunger's all-consuming rage of red—
To aliens serene at crystalline gates—
Robots implacable — and demons dead
Until some stumbling fool reanimates

Hibernal horror with a taste for blood!
What need of god's incense and litanies
When every twist of pen compels the mud
To yield up dark, bat-winged epiphanies?

Fear not. Walk on among them unafraid.
Soul-snatching monsters are as dead as stone.
Hell's a blank corridor, its lord a shade.
TERROR you did not fear to tread alone

Shall buoy you up, with WONDER at its side.
Lovecraft you called the kindest man you knew,
Refused a priest the day before he died,
Said he preferred a sky where Night Gaunts flew.

That is not dead which leaps to poet's eye,
Where neither friends, nor gods, nor monsters die!

November 8, 1989




This page last updated April 2013..