h yes, I am treading there. Creeping down the woebegone highways and byways of gothic-style horror this Halloween. What could be more appropriate, methinks, than to honor that dark and dismal genre with some chicken-scratches of my own? It isn’t all black lipstick and fingernails, you know. Its origins were far more refined and exquisitely wrought by masterful scribes such as Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, Bram Stoker, Henry James, Robert Browning, Thomas Hardy . . . I love the grim beauty of “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes.

One has to applaud those who carry the torch, preserving the tradition. Whether through attire and patronage or by artistic expression. I love to wear black myself but I dabble in a panoply of genres, flitting from flowery berserk prose to florid bizarre verse — from flaunted concoction to fantastic anomaly (and fantasmic abomaly) like a vampire bee with a rumbling belly. I go where my imaginings take me. This month I’ve alighted upon the auteurish vaulted archness and pallid complexionless contrives of the grave Gothick morbids, the rebellious Romantics and moody Victorians I have long admired. I plan to bask in their shadows and ruinous intrigues.

Let us stumble therefore with the candle blown out along the glumly-lit corridor of Time to the age when people had few manners, the world was going to end, and bickering was a popular sport. Wait a second, that was a few minutes ago! Farther back . . . when it was only polite to spit into a receptacle, proper etiquette was polished like silverware, and it was fashionable to be straitlaced. The post-facto era of brooding manses, elegant diction, and stylishly insane characters. How I miss those days.

I don’t think Society has ever quite gotten it right. Yet perhaps we were closest then. And then again, perhaps not. Every period so far has lapsed in some vast regards. Gothic Literature portrays the murderous impulses, the macabre fascinations, the drabbest depths of inhuman nature hidden within us. I guess it does not depict a very pleasant or peaceful climate. There was a definite lack of respect in other ways. Equality, for example. Yet I prefer some of its qualities to the crass in-your-face vulgarities and decadence of the modern world. That’s all I’m saying.

We still have murder, still have depraved acts. And this may be interesting on paper — in horror tales and murder mysteries, as well as on the stage and screen — if tastefully rendered; given an elevated purpose. Fictional horror without significance, without substance, is like screaming for the heck of it. No passion or sense. Just luridly “sensational”. And in real life’s glaring news headlines, it is much less palatable.

Wouldn’t it be nice to confine such horrid deeds to fiction?

Or do Fiction and Nonfiction go hand in hand? Might one create the other, or vice versa? Is it our responsibility to be responsible?

Now I’m just confusing myself.

Rhyme, however, can be inordinately (even inutterably) pointless. As I have proven again and again! So perhaps there is a place for vapid entertainment. On with the rhyme and reason, or rhyme for no reason, or reason that doesn’t rhyme. Whatever it is, for the love of peat and moss, I simply must get on with it before we submerge into the boggy aftercurrent of my underthoughts!

Whoops, too late. Quick, read some dark poems while you’re sinking! It won’t help your plight and you probably won’t feel any better. But you’ll have gotten it out of the way.


In the season of fire and death

Leafen flames with their last breath

Shudder ’long the naked limb

While on the ground as if by whim

Lie corpses splayed or death-throe curlt

Plucked, discarded, shorn and hurlt

’Tis how the world forlorns of life

Once vibrant, fresh, then dulled by knife

The Reaper’s blade must swing for all

And like a leaf we fall.


But in this hour ’tween death and birth

When every of us has our worth

Each takes their path and makes their choices

The bravest lead and lift their voices

With luck or folly we contend

And hope for gladness at the end

Amidst the sadness, highs and lows

The kiss of loved ones, slap of foes

Till this parade of pain and joy should halt

In dark or light, to suffer or exalt.


With gothic minds are we fascinated

How steep, how deep, is the void created

By what we’ve lived and what we’ve done

The end deserved for the steps we’ve run

Ahead lies the vast mysterious profound

Unsolved by sleuth though theories abound

And tomes are writ by faithful hands

Spread as truth throughout the lands

Yet the only way to know for certain

Is to draw the final curtain.


Some doubt that souls transcend their skins

Others spout scriptures while committing sins

Many hate and fight over their beliefs

And the world piles up with wretched griefs

Yet we are surrounded by a superior nature

Laws that surmount human legislature

Things happen for reasons by grander designs

There are prices to settle, cosmic fees and fines

What goes around will come back as it may

For there’s a universal piper to pay.


In my gothic heart as I etch these words

I feel the flutter of ravenous birds

I find such dwellings and musings exciting

The caress of a spectre most inviting

I’m a writer of horror and bleakness, you see

There is something off in the innards of me

That delights in the morbid and ghastly mystique

The vagarious, precarious, abnormal, oblique

Excuse me for getting carried away

But it will happen to the best of us one day.


Let us be merry and candid meanwhile

Confront our demise with the cheerfullest smile

To quake in terror is already dead

An existence unnoticed, unwritten, unread

And once it is gone, all gone and alone

Not a scrap would remain but a stack of bare bone

Not even the worms that consume your flesh

Will remember you were, however you thresh

Unless you have left a mark of your worth

By blood or by deed on the dust of the earth.

american gothic

The day they posed for the painter

Is engraved in a nation’s history

Yet what transpired when he packed his tools

And trundled off is a mystery

Though the artist later told the world

They were only models, not a pair

The house was true and so were they

On the farmer’s grave I swear


If you ever wondered why she frowned

Or at what she stared with pensive scorn

Though no grain of proof survived the years

I believe it wasn’t corn

What went on up to that point in time

Inside one Iowa farmer’s house

We can only guess and speculate

There’s no witness, not even a mouse!


In her enigmatic visage hides

The words she was afraid to utter

In those days such knowledge was best unknown

It would churn up folks like butter

So the daughter held her pose, her tongue

And never spoke but glared a storm

You could see the feelings trapped within

The bitter pain of her rigid form


As the artist’s carriage grew quite small

In the hazy distance of a straight flat road

A father to the daughter scowled

To get back in their plain abode

Upstairs she hiked, her blue eyes glazed

Upon her bed she placed an apron

That matched the curtains of her room

The attic tower of her desecration


Another scenario springs to mind

A second possibility

The hard man killed her mother

Whose broach she wears, you see

Cold and cruel, a stern provider

He smacked his spouse when he was drunk

And must have broke some thing inside her

For she didn’t have the daughter’s spunk


Or did that precious cameo

Symbolize a boyfriend’s gift?

Perhaps her domineering dad

Was selfish in his thrift

The man she loved was chased away

With that pitchfork or he disappeared

As she waited for her suitor’s call

Maybe this is what she feared


Now she changed her Sunday dress as well

Into a frock of beige, once white

Then stood before the Gothic window

And contemplated her sorry plight

The old man summoned her to the kitchen

Which planted the seed of his demise

A cameo brooch clutched in her fist

She descended to halt his lies


The pitchfork stood upon the porch

She pushed the screen-door, dropped the pin

Hand leaking, grasped the threefold spear

Content to do him in

How upright sat this proper man

Whose neighbors saw him as a friend

Without a word she screamed and gored

Her only thought to rend


The farmer stumbled from his chair

Gaunt features shocked and torso grisly

Scarlet rain dripped from the tines

As she faced his staggering misery

Her father tried to steal the trident

A gurgle rising in his throat

She met him with a second thrust

No longer would he dote


A moon shone high as she spaded earth

And buried him in an empty field

By the time they noticed he was gone

The scarred patch would be healed

He went to visit kin, she claimed

And left the fields overgrown and wild

As if a widow, she stayed alone

No husband and no child


Her temper never disappeared

She howled some nights as if it hurt

To reside alone, her life in tatters

For the secret in the dirt

There could be no happy ever after

In a crumbling home once neat and clean

In a town where none could understand

Why she sat in her room unseen.


(This is a fictional interpretation based on the American masterpiece by Grant Wood.)

urban gothic

Hulking pillars of metal and glass

Flaunt massive shadows and line the streets

Like trunks in a concrete forest

Ominously overseeing our steps

The ground unyielding beneath sore feet

No crackle or comforting snappage we hear

Deafened by hammers, horns and growls

An army of mechanical monstrosities

Like bugs or rodents we haste along

The routes already mapped for us

Avoid the alleys where brutes may lurk!

Beware of bullets, blades, and bombs!

With furtive, paranoid, impatient strides

Hustling through a sweltering throng

Of strangers passing who never meet

The sea of clamor and clutter swells

We drown each day another degree

Of surrender to industrious captains

Who dangle processed packaged dreams

We seldom glimpse their faces

From the spires and rooks on high

Once watched o’er by sympathetic angels

Is it now the devil’s grinning ranks

Who stand above and weigh us down

With debt and dirt and cancer’s pall?

What happened to the clear blue sky?

The paradise men sought to replace?

I see but garish falsities

Unhealthy tides, blasphemous wars

Strident voices crying with anguish

Emotions heated like greenhouse gas

Where turmoil, hunger, and homicide flourish

And darker days lie just ahead

In the acrid smoke of hellfire

Crimes against Nature cannot go unpunished

This senseless abandon is suicide

With a final gasp I’ll pray for sanity

Ere congested lungs collapse

Great civilizations erect and fall

Grown too smart for their own good

There are plenty of things to worry about

Without creating disasters ourselves

Is this the end for all mankind?

Or will we escape the urban tomb?

Learn from mistakes — thrive and strive

To mend the world again?


A medicine show rolled into town

With a procession of troubledors, munstrels too

Clowns on stilts or upside down

A hand-walker head-stander hullabaloo

Giraffe-necked jugglers trading their gourds

A butterfly lady, two rooster-fish kings

A pigeon magician performing the tricks

These were a few of its fabulous things

But the main attraction was the magic elixir

A tonic hawked by a gent in a top hat

Who grinned and avowed with a tilt of his stovepipe,

“It’ll cure what ails you, I promise you that!”


He passed out samples to the assembled gawpers

And bid them to take a modest sip

As the crowd imbibed, he morphed to a creature

With tentacles and a lobster lip

His eyes were hanging, his nose indented

He entertained a spectacular bite

Chipped black teeth like obsidian blades

That glinted like shards of night

“You won’t believe your eyes, my friends!

Prepare to be amazed!” was his pitch

He waved a limb at the stupefied folks

All of whom started to twitch


They transformed into a delirious gaggle

The oddest “endities” beknownst to Man:

A zebra-toad wearing nothing but stripes

A zombie raccoon flaring a collar fan

A rictorous wormball, a hunchbacked troll-bear

A lachrymose centipode with a rabid blue snout

A strong-baby pedalling a very tall trike

A spaghetti-haired weeper boasting a spout

Such were the marvels yet none to behold

For the audience was surely hexed

Transformed to the freakiest acts ever glimpsed

In the circus of the grotesque


Appealing to the curious lot

The avid fanatical abhorrity-zealous

Attention is welcome, there’s never a charge

No need to feel envious, left out or jealous

The show and the potion are perfectly free

There is only a tiny minuscule price . . .

For those who have dreamt of a life on the stage

The side effects are rather nice

And then of a sudden the show must go on

As if they had never been

Carrying with them a gathering spectacle —

Most of the town was not seen again.

~ Published ~
October 26, 2010

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