Sunday, April 29, 2012

Gilles de Rais

Supreme general to the sainted warrior, Jeanne,
Gilles carried her wounded body from the field of defeat.
And he could only seethe helplessly as church eunuchs
defamed and deflowered her courage, mute until her spirit
flew away on the Spring breeze like an angelic butterfly
swirling in red dust and crushed beneath stone.

They did not come, so all there was was blood.

He watched the angry flames lick white skin and char
golden hair, and wilt the lashes to her eyes, those stars that wept
for so many fallen, so many dead, so many gone
and never to return, to country life or heart. He fled
the ash to find the golden stone that could bring eternal life.

They did not come, so all there was was blood.

For months he prayed to raise the dead, body forth air,
speak with demon Barron, who promised
wealth and power over all things that fly or crawl,
to turn men to pawns and crush them beneath his boot,
to transform heath and moor to a garden of delight
that angels themselves would seek to pleasure in.

They did not come, so all there was was blood.

Still dead nor demon came and his riches were devoured
by the ceremonies and rites at the altar. "A child's heart,"
they said, "drain a child's heart over the stones"
and its blood will summon dead comrades, entreat
the devil to paste together the dream, and wash away
the memory of war and bring sleep, gentle sleep.

They did not come, so all there was was blood.

He dressed the child in the finest clothes, feasted her at table,
dazzled her young eyes with light and dirty ears with song,
until such fear that comes to any beast was allayed,
lulled to languish with full stomach and dulled wits.

They did not come, so all there was was blood.

He strung her from a hook in the wall, and spilled
his jism on her thighs to drip on the bleeding floor,
probed her guts with knife and sword, soaking the rags
with her sobs and ebbing life. And often he'd take
her down, lay her on the floor and into exposed
ripe cavity ejaculated again and again, cooing like a dove,
as her breath sighed its departing despair into his face.
Like so many before in combat, flesh became cold,
limbs contracted to stony silence, and bight eyes
glazed gray into a tortured mask that brought an insane laugh.

They did not come, so all there was was blood.

The hills and streams ran silently thruout the land,
muffled sobs for unburied loss, invisible graves
in the hearts of parents and houses crushed by want.
The Vampire was in flight above the land, they said, the smell
of blood soaking the fields of war had unleashed Hell.

They did not come, so all there was was blood.

He confessed his crimes in his home, there where the walls
echoed with sobbing ghosts, the floors stained still
with blood in marble cracks, the cesspool rank
with ashes and his hearth caked with burnt flesh and bone.

They did not come, so all there was was blood.

At trial, the parents wept over their lost children, it's said,
but also over his crimes that he recounted with contrite tongue,
a people shocked to dumb forgiveness by terror and despair
at what the twisted soul can devise when wracked by war
and wealth and desire to be what no man should be.

They did not come, so all there was was blood.

His dust lies there still, where they laid him in the churchyard
under tranquil limb and talking leaves. And now they tell a tale
of Bluebeard, a man young girls should fear, for in his secret room
the floors are awash with blood and strands of hair hang from hooks.

They did not come, so all there was was blood.

(c) copyright 2012 Charles David Miller. All rights reserved.

This is written from the poetry prompt at dVersePoets, which asks poets to write about vampires. My poem is about Gilles de Rais, a 15th century French aristocrat who fought with Jeanne d'Arc, the Catholic saint who went to war for French independence. After the defeat De Rais engaged in various magical rituals to gain immortality, epwealth, and power. In the process of carrying out these rites, he killed perhaps 200 childrem hoping to use their blood to summon demons and the dead. After he was tried and condemned for his crimes, the story metamorphosed into the story of Bluebeard. Many stories of crimes against innocents like this have involved the perpetrators being called vampires. The attraction to the original de Rais story in modern popular culture bears this out. While I understand the attraction/repulsion to the vampire motif, I think the reality behind the fantasy should not be forgotten. As Simone Weil says, fiction gives an attractive facade to evil.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Not An Allegory

After he pulled his fingers from my throat,
having pumped the last seed into my mouth,
he left me dazed by my own decay in his arms,
and the haze of an all-night bender still
smoked its last butt-ends in my veins.

Awake, angry, my wings singed by his deceit,
spent by the passion of our chance encounter,
I stepped into the elevator whose door opened
in the wall. I stepped inside and pushed the last
floor. It didn't take long to get to where I'd been hiding
for so many years before. No bell rang as the door
slid open, whispering my name as it unsheathed
the sea and sand dunes beyond.

The sough of the waves was a dead breath
stale with a fishless salt sea. The silence of the sky
reached into my heart and squeezed a scream
from its frozen blood, awash with ennui and frail
memories of dead end streets. No sound dropped
from my lips, no frozen tear flowed from my brutal eyes.
I knew this as home, the place I'd sought so long
in winged rides below the stars with the night birds.

Then a voice broke inside me, somewhere inside
my brain behind my eyes, in words that the telepath knows,
purer than words on tongues spit thru teeth.
It sang the hymn of my despair, nameless,
proud, brotherly, awake with wisdom and solace
beyond the earth's darkest secrets, sublime.

The sea reached into a horizon without end,
a place where the parallel lines of beast and beatitude
meet, far into the distance of a galaxy securely here.

When I turned back, not in fear nor in haste,
the laughter rattled the rib cages of the island trains
as they slid westward, and I walked down the highway
to a one-bed room, and the broken glass I kicked from my path
cut in two the incremental tick of seconds as the sun
regained its course once more and rode forward in the sky.

(c) copyright 2012 Charles David Miller. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Charles Ives Spikes His Hair

The marches were over.
The wall was up. We shrank
in its shadow, and shaped our lives
against the future of the bomb
and nuclear winter. Paranoia
was not just the way you did business.
It was the way you made love.

Then you needed to dress
like you'd eat hearts.
Spikes, studs, black leather.
But the only heart you'd eat
was your own because you
were gay and didn't want
your parents to know
or were maybe different
in the way you looked
at fucking others over.

Not like the storm
troopers in their jack boots.
Our boots were big,
but that was only to walk
down those miles of dead-end
roads and kick the shit
out of the way.

I studied Artaud and read
Aquinas. I drank and did acid
until my guts gave way under the blackouts
and my self-destruction destiny

I listened to the Sex Pistols and Ives.
My anger not so much the desire
to rip off someone's head but a way
to deal with the anxiety of being confused
and not knowing why.

The Pistols quit playing.
They didn't want to sell out.
And Ives. He quit composing too.
Sold insurance
and never said a word against it.
Well at least he was honest.

The truth is in the music.
That music that crams old
hymns, marches, and the death
of harmony and rhythm
in a terrifying rush of sound
that bids only welcome to
the new and ultimately
unsingable or playable
need for life.

(c) copyright 2012 Charles David Miller

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Crime and Transgression

The new driver's license is in my wallet.
As it was processed I worried about
unpaid parking tickets
as state computers swept my past
for crimes and transgressions
against the social order.

They did not find my true guilt:
jealousy and rage when love
called late from the poetry reading;
daughters left alone to confront
their mother's shame, anger, and divorce.

Regret is an algorithm ones and zeroes despise.

I heard a woman the other day recount
her rape at twelves and extol the daughter
who grew up with her like a sister.
Just minutes before, I'd hated
her loud, abrasive words,
but as she told her story
she sat transfigured in the dark
of the bus, laughing raucously
with her husband, the driver.

Sometimes I stand mute before
beauty and time, stunned
silent by the angel
that redeems disgust
and graces those who others
would corrupt with hate.

I think of these things from the train platform
as commuters gather for a late morning
train to the city. A big crow caws
from a power line, my black muse
of desolation and renewal.

(c) copyright 2012 Charles David Miller. All rights reserved.

Fado Menor, with Amalia Rodrigues

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Young Guru Hitching

I spot his backpack from rush hour traffic.
He takes his time getting to the car. Stows his gear
in the back seat like he's done it a million times.

Young, long hair, and light beard. With a story.
He's going to camp on the reservation.
To sleep and dream for weeks deep in caves.

Strange shadows play about his eyes and cheeks
as he speaks about the fear people feel on the road.
That fear that stalks you in the middle
of nowhere. No food, nothing but concrete, hurtling tons
of steel, ugly stares. A thousand miles each way.

In the caves, he wants to see those dreams the dark
of the earth brings. To find the animal that shifts
shape endlessly and has a human face.
It looks at you with your own eyes, speaks in your
own voice, and lulls you to sleep in its embrace
of self-desire, habit, and the dread of freedom.
In its embrace you must die continually to life,
admit you do not know who you are, and then
mold a self from the empty mirror that is its eyes.

When I let him out, I wish him luck in his quest.
He barely replies. The comfort of custom and habit
must sound hollow in his ears, and I think
he believes I don't understand, for what's luck
got to do with facing death and its beyond?

(c) copyright 2012 Charles David Miller. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Clothed in the artifacts

of pity, his voice hoarse

with pith balls and winds

into a knot of phlegm

as he gains our assent

to speak for the poor.

Cellular on hip, self-help

pamphlets in shirt-pocket

lend authority to the words

that have travelled the subways

for thousands of miles.

His look into and beyond us

induces the gall of guilt

or the gorge that rises

at the smell of urine

and mold from the bodies

of the unclean, a place

he sleeps at night, the dirty

rumpled clothes confess.

The offerings he receives,

a jelly sandwich on white

bread, cans of corn, and other

throwaways no one wants.

His Passion Play nags conscience

not so much because it's real,

as that it could be. Our poverty

of spirit feeds on the ambivalence.

So the bills and dimes fill the dirty white

cylinder with a slot at the top

and the lid taped on.

The lucre of our fear that we might

starve and bleed on concrete

as the wolves pass by with red eyes.

(c) copyright 2012 Charles David Miller. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Trip Wire

"...for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one." - Albert Einstein

We sit in the muted half-light of a Manhattan office,
its Industrial-design quickly fading from fashion.
We're taking time to bond as coworkers, he new,
me struggling with depression and burnout
with work after 4 years. He loves science, this tech writer
and former philosophy student, and he wants me to know
that the universe is different from what we see.

The mystery unfolds right now, he says, the Higgs Boson
on the verge of discovery, the cosmos decoded,
unwrapped, open to minds with knowledge, complete.
He wants me - me - to know there's nothing beyond now.
He wants me to know that I can know what he knows.

Not that the universe is ordered, no, but chaos
pure and simple, chaos birthing chaos,
the real world that appears to those who can see.

...they're colliding heavy lead ions
to explore the creation of matter itself
and the nature of the strong nuclear force
in the immediate aftermath of the Big Bang.

After I snap the photo of the rock den
and the park path leading to it along the stream,
five white tail deer run by and cross
downstream nearby. I follow flat-footed
on the rubber soles of my shoes, not
to alert them. The twin fawns drink
clear water rippling over shallow stones.

The does see or smell me watch,
and the herd skirts away along the yard of a home
at the park's edge. But the buck backtracks
down the path and climbs the hill alongside
the den. It stands sentry at the peak of the den,
in clear view of the world (as in a Medieval tapestry;
hunters, dogs and horses closing in).

He stands motionless, trembling I think,
and in that moment I imagine I see the code
in his genes, bulwark against all instinct for flight
and diverting attack from the does and fawns.

"We're recreating, in a sub-atomic fireball,
the conditions that existed a millionth
of a second after the Big Bang...

I find peace in bridges and imagine floating beneath
rock arches on gentle streams, constantly changing,
seeking form, finding none but stubbornly sure there's
a source of my meanders along muddy banks that I carve
and shape to no pattern, no blueprint but necessity.
I'm happy with the thought that fish hide in my weeds
that wave dreamily in the shade of willow and oak.

"It's so hot and so dense that
even protons and neutrons melt,

At the tail end of the friendly discussion, I
mention religion, and he pegs me to rights,
and knots and binds me to who I am:
one of those, one of those who believes what
they all - all religious types - believe....

He cites with slight sarcasm Pascal*, the gambler
with God, convinced the bet is a gambit
of despair, sacrifice on a board whose end game
leaves no hope of doubt. He suspects I'm wrong
about Pascal discovering probability theory, and he seems
disturbed to think that a scientist could solve
the cosmic numbers game, yet believe still that God
exists, that a choice for now beyond now makes sense.

and we end up with a sort
of primordial soup known
as the quark-gluon plasma."

I stand in the rain after the deer disappear,
alive in the moment and the chance order
of nature that guided them into my presence,
then ashamed that I could not become invisible
to them so they'd stay and graze without fear.
Ashamed that I wanted to capture them in ones
and zeroes and twitter the image across the globe.

I tell him that humans need to believe that their lives mean
something, beyond this here and now; that the universe
must harbor some glue with words and things that tells what
humans must do to each other and how they can stave
off anarchy and build shelter against ruin, captive outside time.
That societies crumble and die when meaning disappears.
The mother steals her child's food, abandoned children
die on the road, or they are cast out of home at three
to fend for themselves and subsist as best they can.

We find silence then, he mulling I do not know what,
I wondering what life might mean in a universe
in constant change, reality outside the reach of humans
to understand, at least by us without the tools to see.

I walk to the car in the rain, smoke a cigarette, turn
on the game and drive home. Rain and mud soak my jeans.

Ablaze with eternal fire, doubt denudes reason
and its infinite desire for certitude behind appearance,
zero sum game of truth or dare, faith or doubt,
un coup de dés baffling surety.

The altars erode. Weeds crumble the paths
that go nowhere without feet to wear them down.

* Blaise Pascal (1623 - 1662), French physicist, scientist, philosopher and Catholic mystic. Famous for Pascal's Wager, which says that given that if God's existence is equally possible or not possible, the best choice is to wager on God's existence and thereby gain eternal happiness. In essence, we have nothing to lose; if God does not exist then we will gain the same thing as we will if He doesn't. On the other hand, if God does exist and we choose not to believe in the transcendent reality, then we will not gain eternal happiness.

(c) copyright 2012 Charles David Miller. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


The spider in the shower
has spun its web diagonally across one corner
of the window casing. Large abdomen, small head
and long legs. It's put itself where something might
crawl from outside through a small crack.
It does not look very lucky so far.
When droplets of shower spray dangle from
the threads, it hugs them hungrily
against its body and frantically spins a cocoon
around the translucent prey. Over and over
it has done this. Its mechanical ferocity
fueled by hunger amuses and horrifies me.
How many desires am I driven by, embracing
a phantom that biology serves up on a dish?

(c) copyright 2012 Charles David Miller. All rights reserved.