XVIII.

Eventually it became a regular occurrence

That creatures of the deep, the great beyond would take positions

Upon the surface of my dreams, drawn upward by the currents

That mingle base desires with rather loftier ambitions.

Upon the ends of tentacles and claws, the monsters fed me

A cavalcade of inspiration and nocturnal visions,

A sort of vague instruction urging me to be so deadly

The very veil between two worlds succumbs to my incisions.

They lashed themselves to me as if Ulysses at the mast;

They honored me by seeing that my mind was made a vessel

By which they’d enter into Earth triumphantly at last,

A bridge in which whoe’er I touched became another trestle.

In fact, I quite suspect if someone watched as I was sleeping,

They’d witness inhumanity in vibrant darkness streaming

Through rocky pores upon my mind, wherein those gods were keeping

The souls of slaughtered human lambs, still musically screaming.

Indeed, one night I woke to the peculiar sensation

Of something at my side that had stepped bodily upon

My soul, the architect and product of its own creation.

Its heavy presence lingered ‘til the harsh and cloying dawn

And in the meantime whispered unexpected affirmations,

Reminders that the work to come proceeds when I am dead,

That eagerness to serve ought not engender such impatience

As leaves nobody groomed to serve the monsters in my stead.

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XVII.

It’s strange to me that Man has got the nerve

To turn his prayers to lists of pleas and wishes.

You see, a proper god won’t deign to serve.

Instead, it rules, manipulates, bewitches

Its subjects into populating stories

That make the world richer and conclude

With men made agents of the writer’s glories,

As vessels for its energy, or food.

Your god may rest at ease in magic lamps

Or leave its gifts beneath a treasured rainbow.

Mine spreads like evening shadows and encamps

In mortal hearts. It doesn’t feel their pain, though.

Indifference is the first of godly powers

That starts my transformation so the prey

Looks up in awe and sees the role that towers

Above them as they’re exiting the play.

There’s some who make their final prayers out loud,

Who fold their hands and fall upon their knees

Then realize their “loving” god allowed

Their wishes to be scattered to the breeze.

It should be clear which deity is leading

In competition. It is plain to see

A trend of ineffectually pleading

Has never made one holier than me.

XVI.

I come from she whom Swinburne calls

Every man’s mother and lover.

I wrote the line upon the walls

In blood, that they might recover

From that revulsion which one needs

To stay tied to moral duty.

Now may they recognize these deeds

For their grace and subtle beauty.

And may they stand reciting verse

In carnage, rosy and pretty

And feel they’re honored by the curse

That is visiting their city.

You fools, your outraged minds are bland

As old-style hats and coats. You’ll see

That handing misery to man

Can be a type of charity.

It may not be the Christian kind

But pious thought often clashes

With greater truths that poets find

In Grecian urns, full of ashes.

Upon William Blake’s suggestion

I write to set the reader free

From “Hell-or-Heaven”. A question:

“Did He who made the Lamb make ME?”

XV.

I came upon a diff’rent sort of satisfaction when

I’d put a greater span of distance and a little time

Between my urge and notions of indulging it again.

I saw it from a new perspective, warier than mine.

While I alone have felt and only I can understand

The feeling of the knife and the revolver in my hand,

Where lately I had made a home they’re bringing out the dead

And everywhere I wander I perceive the people’s dread.

With murders linked together, now the newsmen tell my tale,

Inspiring speculation with their bloody, grim detail.

Such dark imagination fills the holes in corpses’ heads

And roughly knits together what my blade had torn to shreds.

 

To hear my deeds recounted, I watch strangers turning pale

And sharing in a memory that lingers like a scar.

Assuredly, they wonder if their lives are just as frail,

And I exist to show the world that yes, they truly are.

While I am walking free among the innocent and weak,

The stories will invite the dark inside of them to speak.

I realize that I’ve achieved a special kind of fame

That carries brutal imagery but bears no human name.

Although I’d like the credit, it is better they believe

In guilty shadows that cannot be caught or grant reprieve.

But I will sign the work to come. I’ll show my red right hand

And thus be both anonymous and known throughout the land.

XIV.

Previously: I. XIII.

In worry that the triumph of my deeds

Would start to show some casual abatement,

I told myself, “What now my story needs

Is something of a new and bolder statement.”

And so, with four behind me, I eschewed

The impulse toward another random hunt,

Instead resolving that I should exude

An air that’s ever ready to confront

An insult or an underestimation

Of what I can accomplish here and why.

So I declared with new determination:

The armchair sleuth from TV had to die.

I knew they’d link him with my virgin killing,

That if I stayed thereafter, I’d be found.

But also, without question, I was willing

To find another happy hunting ground.

Beneath my grasp, the vigilante withered,

And even so, he seemed to recognize

The face of he who lately had delivered

His friend to Hell, where he’d rejoin her side.

I left his body less adroitly covered

Than all the others, so I must suppose

That he became the first to be discovered.

But I was gone before the trap could close.

XIII.

A scream is an expression of the soul,

Unique to every person’s fear and pain

Collected by my hand to pay the toll

For visiting my lower gods again.

And every bellow echoes in my ear,

With each a different note, and none estranged

Although I may be dead before I hear

Them all at once, and musically arranged.

I listen for the voices when I seek

A spirit fit to join in the arrays

Of those who will be beckoned not to speak

But rather scream beyond their dying days.

It wouldn’t do to make them all alike,

To turn my masters’ chorus monotone

Or rob me of the sentimental spike

That comes of claiming lives as yet unknown.

The first my lover, then, when months had passed,

A homeless fellow; then a college dame:

Each offered new emotional repast

And none of them remotely screamed the same.

To none have I deliberately returned—

No common feature, save delicious fear.

There’s benefit in this, as I’ve discerned.

My modus operandi isn’t clear.

XII.

I shake the hands of colleagues, straight and firm.

I tip my hat to ladies on the train.

I smile and chitchat lightly to affirm

That I am dull, familiar, and humane.

With daily practice, I have found that grinning

Is quite enough to let a man remain

Without suspicion of the vilest sinning

In view of those kept pious, dumb, and sane.

For me, there’s naught as cheerful as deception

With smiles flitting gently face to face

As I manipulate the mass perception

And find myself bid welcome everyplace.

There’s pleasure of a sort in self-suppression,

Which sees a person rarely ever brace

Against the sudden changing of expression

That signals something deadly, in my case.

Some few have seen another kind of smirk

That spreads across my lips, a deadly vine

As solemnly I undertake my work

Of bringing darker smiles to the divine.

To see the masks of joy depart! I prize

Their terror, which I cultivate like wine

Then taste of death apart from prying eyes.

And when I leave, the smile is genuine.

XI.

It seems a rather humorous cliché

Extracted from a cinematic world,

That I should stride past tombstones on a day

When scores of black umbrellas were unfurled.

The raindrops and the moisture marked the faces

Of mourners and those hiding in their midst

Who flowed among the crowds of empty spaces

And vanished later in the rising mists.

I watched with interest as a casket lowered

Into the blackness of a muddy pit

Where doubtless blooms of squirming bodies flowered

In hunger for their natural remit.

I thought, of course, about my tree, the creature

Beneath it unadorned and unconfined

So worms and insects could more quickly reach her,

More readily to see the flesh refined.

And thus conveyed beneath the rainy weather,

Through softening and sinking of the earth,

She’s drawing nearer to my masters’ tether

Where they can gauge my sacrifice’s worth.

I’m sure of gods’ receiving my oblation,

And yet there’s something missing; it must be

My peers’ begrudging, timorous ovation

For all I’ve yet to do and yet to be.

X.

Continuing from A Monstrous Rhythm I through IX.

Implausibly, I earned an invitation

To my own victim’s vast memorial –

A chance to sit in, sans participation

In saying “bye” to the corporeal

While clinging to the spirit of the dead.

I didn’t try to act less cold or distant,

Convinced it would be better if instead

Of showing grief in ways that seemed insistent

I let them think that we were still estranged.

I might have better dodged would-be suspicion

If I had stayed at home, but when arranged,

The gathering aligned with my ambition:

To be a specter striking as would lightning,

Who’s often seen but rarely ever known;

To wear a face that all regard as frightening,

But only when I will it to be shown.

I thought, therefore, that sitting with the mourners

I’d feel joy, but soon I came to find

That even with its many hidden corners,

Joy isn’t in the nature of this mind.

However, with the eulogies beginning

For she whom I had taken – I alone –

Despite myself, I found that I was grinning

As if their odes to joy were all my own.

With every tale of sweetness and elation,

My god’s imagination made them real,

And better than reliving their creation

Was knowing I had brought them all to heel.

And so amidst her friends and earnest lovers

I offered thanks for what I had been shown:

That feasting on the happiness of others,

I have no further need to seek my own.

IX.

There was a sorrow great enough to speed me

Into the arms of Death upon a time.

But now it seems the tears of others freed me

From old impediments against my climb

Toward higher forms of human evolution,

Past quaint ideas, as of vice and crime

And punishment. The drops of salt ablution

Are stains upon the others’ eyes, but I’m

Made purer in the sight of that pollution

That boasts of weakness. How the light does shine

Reflected in the moisture on the windows

Of souls whose simple and antique design

May rest at ease in orphans and in widows

Wherein their will subordinates to mine

And soon evaporates to cloudy billows

Before their eyes while I am in the prime

Location to behold how well it lingers—

An echo, an impression, or a rhyme

Behind the rhythm of my drumming fingers

As felt by mourners – phantoms on their spines.

And spurred by church bells and the dirges’ singers,

Pavlovian responses to these chimes

Shall make them all become the meal-bringers,

And I will be the one who comes to dine.