Insects Droning on a Summer Afternoon

In the late, hazy hour,
Summer’s host sings,
Striking their chitinous sides
Like strange, dissonant strings.

The Chapel Perilous

Lonely and gray and sitting among hills
Of dry and dreary grass, it seemed to lean,
Like an old man, against the swelling earth.
I scarecely thought the bricks would hold together —
I thought: Perhaps they’ll fall. Perhaps the stones,
After uncounted ages of accumulated weather,
Will simply crumble, tumble down.

Among the thick, dark boards that crossed its roof
I spied a splintery hole; and, like a crown,
An abandoned bird’s nest made of yellow straw.
The door had long since rotted away; beyond its frame I saw
Only a darkness filled with half-formed things —
The shapes of things without a proper shape,
Which, silent, darkle and fold and glide.
I brushed the threshold, went inside.

Cautious, I knelt between
Two weathered columns, closed my eyes in dread.
Through a cracked stone, a single sunny beam
Shone on my head.

Pouvoirs de l’Horreur

No one frightens me quite like the beautiful
Woman in the tearoom. Always, one finds
There is horror in desire, and beauty in horror:
The rattlensnake’s sound will warm the blood
Quick as a beautiful face, or quicker.
But hers is special dread, for she punctures
The skin of my careful illusion of living.

We perceive only the image; and the image
Gathers a ring of impressions around it:
Mosquitoes swarming a lamp at dusk.
(A thud as one rebounds on the glass.)
Impressions extend their bare, gray arms;
They brush our faces with bloodless fingers.

My incomplete degree hangs
Around my neck like the corpse of a sea-bird;
My doctors’ notes are pinned to my arms,
Their signatures burned with a brand on my skin.
There is no disgrace in disability,
But these cities were built for bodies not like mine.

I have come to prefer the company of trees
And mark the strange lives of insects,
Whose clockwork bodies are beautiful like harpstrings;
And I lull myself into forgetting
That the cities were built for bodies not like mine.

But I try, Mother Diotima, to remember
Things more salubrious, and maintain this remembrance:
That the trees, the harpstring-bodied insects,
The forms pleasing to us, or grotesque,
Life honored and life cast off —
All are an elegant formal language,
A Kleene star of four base pairs;
And this, also, is beautiful.
   But I am not Erdős, O Priestess;
      I cannot wed mathematics.

The Place of Transit

In the place of transit,
In the space of neither,
Where the tubes of neon
Glowed by the staircase,
You led me earthward
To the waiting metro.

A ticket machine
Dispensed a handful
Of brassy coins,
And I thought myself
In the elves’ country,
So strange were their sight
And their weight in my pockets,
In the wool of my coat.
In their jangle I heard
The words of Herodotus:
“In the name of the Goddess
Mylitta,” they said.

It rained that night:
The streetlights’ glow
Was mirrored in the roads,
Diffused in the puddles.
Walking, you wrapped
Your arm around mine;
The puff of your sleeve
Was a cushion for my side.

Tonight it rains:
It falls on my window.
Hills and rivers,
Roads and highways
Divide us now–
I am far from the lights
On that rain-glazed road,
And the metro’s neon.

Cut-up: Pomp and Circumstance

A cut-up made from the first five chapters of H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror.” I wasn’t sure what I would get going into it, but I ended up with a very unflattering portrait of the New England Ivy League crowd. (It reminds me a little of the Monochrome Set’s song, “The Ruling Class.”)

Township of insane father —
   Tool-shed heathen gods,
      Boarded-up sheds of taciturnity;

The New England gambrel roofs,
   Cleated, wooden immaculateness
      Under which they blaspheme living,

Rushing their airy sons to Harvard,
   The customs fast falling —
      Screaming in the child’s dwelling.

Father had cleanliness:
   He read avidly
       On the better use of windows.

The boy…
   His appearance was not of brilliance —
      Something animalistic,

Elusive about his nature.
   Mother and horror
      Seemed vaguely linked.

More than scholarly,
   Had done university four years before —
      Vast flocks at the college, screaming.

He crossed the bit of campus
   With a visible shudder.
       (Librarian’s face of disgust from the window)

Each doorway horror —
   Yelping dominion of the ancients —
      Students of flesh and archaic lore in Boston.