Nocturnes

By JOE PRYCE

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I.OF VIRTUAL GASLIGHT

Cool gaslight flares discreetly,

Rousing tints on Gothic glass.

In unmolested slumber rest

The monstrous spires aloft;

 

Through autumn evening's laggard mist,

Canzonas thrust their startling staves;

Mad music rages 'round the nave arcades,

Till weary echoes seep through Royal Portals...

 

Lost souls line the weed-choked gutters,

Grunting sagely through frail globes of spittle...

Shadow pipe-dreams, phantoms, when official night

Illumes the Monster-City's desolation...

 

Muzzled cretins foul the flooded roadways...

Puddles shiver, ordure drowning star-points.

Withered blossoms perish on the curtain

Of the Kalpa falling on our dearest night.

 

II. OF DEAD CITIES

Mad Mahler melody, intense Adagio,

Swirls through the pale thin mists of my own Bruges-la-Morte,

Majestic moonlit realm where buttress forests freeze

Like coalescing slag from night’s unplumbed abysses,

Till congenial visions pall and yield their plunder

To the dismal day’s ennui.

 

Perfervid pilgrimage within a scholar’s steel-barred study:

Dead Viollet-le-Duc's grand elevations scanned

In moldering fat tomes, long-orphaned prints, frail photos

That enmaze the fevered mind, till carillons announce:

Go, gather shadows fleet and summon silence pure!

 

Soon darling demons throng the halls of nascent twilight;

Fleet, frail phantoms reel athwart the azure’s fading vault,

Now dimmed down almost to a phosphorescent demimonde—

Come forth, full-fledged for flight, Astarte Syriaca!

Queen of Gothic Night, proclaim: no life without the dream!

 

III. OF MENACE AND MAGIC

Squirming, panting, painterly hot-orange

Of our day’s-end star—

Above sleek chariots

Whose contrails weave tight patterns of slate-gray

And wispy white in hypnotizing skies

Now leaking a proleptic lead—

Repristinating marbled stone befouled by carrion,

Leeching mortal salts into the murals’ dimming luster

Till vastation looms, infecting stricken souls

With cryptic plague-borne lesions

That rip up and rape frail flesh

Until the carnal demon throbs with foulness

Rendered with a reverend regard for clot and contour,

As decay swift slithers from white bone

And the artist of black silence crafts a halo

From that final palette-patch

Heaped high with gouts of amber-gold…

 

But twilight spreads, invincible, through worlds

Where hustlers swarm; in motley,

Louche assassins lurch from doorways,

Stride like prating pirates

From the heaving cardboard mansions,

Throb to eerie rhythms

Spawned in sadique side-shows.

Garish store-fronts bray and brag,

Pimps pistol-whip recalcitrance in working-girls,

And rancid rat-face shunts the swag,

Arrays the fleshly folderol, fatidic firearms,

Wondrously emollient potions

Birthing bliss that glimmers and seduces

Through the florid neon's Monster-Concert…

 

And when it seems one might explode—

Descends cool veiling mist,

A moody prelude pirouetting on the ghostly ivory,

Symphonic conflagrations melting midnight,

The prismatic fountains raining clear refreshment,

Lunar carousels, kaleidoscopes on holiday—

Obligatory barcarolles—

Fatidic revelations teased from sempiternal dragons...

All these wondrous things, and so much more.

 

IV. OF THE CHTHONIC DARK

The forced march down black hours to three A.M.,

Past puffing, heaving piles of refuse

Barricading back-streets, blunting frosted winds;

Down hell-holes consecrate to Ashtoroth they pour

Until the coiled and creeping tunnels

Spew the fresh consignment midmost of the maze

Where leering ghouls already batten on the finger-food

Which flecks the wilderness of prison-bars.

 

A monstrous, manic organ wails,

Beyond baroque, exceeding dark excess,

Till prowling passage-work ascends from whispers

Through the wail of writhing modulations

Roaring, raging, savaging,

A predator upon the verge,

Eruption’s temblor yearning for release.

 

Then back downtown,

Where, noting well the ragged, glinting edges

Of the brandished menace,

I deploy my stained-glass piece,

A pilgrim changing places

With his murderer.

 

V. OF MADISON SQUARE

At evenfall, the dulcet rain, which saddens poets,

Darts swift passage-work on viscous puddles.

Fogs survey the square.

To sweet strains of Ravel's Pavanne,

An ardent, melancholy woman

(Eyes of violet star the gloaming)

Slips, a fragile ghost, behind

St. Sava's lofty apse, to dream

Of Romance in a silver key.

 

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