Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Under the Willows

(Earlier this year, I did something I've always wanted to do. A narrative poem in the spirit of THE HIGHWAYMAN by Alfred Noyes. Since then, Under the Willows occassionally flits back into my mind with its intense sexuality and vampire theme. It was done as a serial, so it has never appeared in its entirety before now. As our thoughts turn to spring, we remember the mysteriously warm nights and wait for our blood to race again.)

He walked with withering twilight colors
Walled in the halls of a quiet sky
And trilled the lullaby birds to silence
Alone as the daylight died

The curving road in the evening whispered
Collin, his name, on a restless wind
Under the willows the shadows deepened
And hid every trace of him

Beyond the marsh and its blackened ripples
Fenced from the forest, a lonely home
With windows flickering through the darkness
Inspiring the lost to roam

The night's first feathery rays of moonlight
Fell on the gates and the mildewed stone
He spied the graves in the nearby distance
Beside the less traveled roads

Among the monuments, Collin embraced
Purity won by the grace of death
And oftentimes he found sanctuary
A secretive place to rest

The sculpted roses and angels kneeling
Wept with a yearning for what was lost
He strangely sensed in the soil were hidden
Embraces consigned to dust

The ashen moon, his lovely companion
Painted the writing with ghostly hands
His trembling fingertips traced her name
A soul who might understand

A breeze from eastern horizons whistled
Valleys of trees turned their silver leaves
He felt the footsteps before he heard them
Malevolence shook his knees

The blackness rushed him and took his body
Ripping arms open to icy stars
The hillside blurred and the forest claimed him
His heartbeat engulfed the dark

Suspended high in the nameless shadows
Quivering toes reached for precious ground
The muscled lines of his neck extended
His groan was a trembling sound

A writhing brilliance of lust exploded
Arched and erupting he gasped and screamed
Sensations falling and flying tumbled
His soul spurted scarlet streams

The swirling hurricane winds departed
Shaking he plunged back to lonesome land
He crawled with weary and cold exhaustion
Impossible to withstand

Beneath the roots was a rotted hollow
Carved from the death of an ancient tree
He burrowed warm in the womb of soil
And boiled in tangled dreams

He tasted images pulsing hotly
Fair and retiring emerald fires
He felt her cheek on the goose down pillow
And tiptoed in her desires

A hundred lifetimes on gales he traveled
Human fragility doused the flames
For weeks he chewed on the boundless questions
And searched for his lover's name

A fox's footfalls advanced attentive
Leapt through the forest when Collin stirred
His skin was milk after leaving tattered
His clothing beneath the dirt

Deluged by torrents of new moon darkness
Soaring he swam on the living night
Against the silhouette mountains climbing
He shimmered in ghostly flight

A rustle pulled at the linen covers
Soft was the sound of his landing feet
He crept the length of the grey slate rooftop
Below they returned to sleep

He drew his slithering body liquid
Curled through the cracks where the field mice stole
His languid fingers caressed the bedpost
And tickled their breaths with cold

His aching melodies strummed the final
Withering phase of the April moon
Her lips were touched by the melting lyrics
Seduced by his nightly tune

He whispered promises sweet to spiders
Fluttering down from their shrouded feasts
In other bedrooms they wove the faces
With blankets of webby peace

A pair of delicate drops of moisture
Perched on her strangely familiar skin
He coaxed them trailing with loving fingers
His welcoming tears for Bryn

She jumped and sat with her heartbeat pounding
Seconds like earthquakes consumed the room
She tried to call to her shrouded father
Bewitched in his silken tomb

Her window shattered in howling windstorms
Ripping her gown through the broken pane
She splayed on willowy branches bending
A league down the rutted lane

He peeled himself from her heaving body
Watching her pant underneath his glare
Her legs were clawed with delicious scratches
And glowed in the moonlight bare

He kissed the neck she surrendered breathless
Lured by its beautiful hollows down
She ripped her buttons and arched toward him
Discarding the shredded gown

He groaned and tasted her body sighing
Piercing the swells of her maiden breasts
His cravings howled with her shameless thrashing
The shivering tree confessed

She pinned her knees to the twisted branches
Twining his hair in her fevered hands
She pulled him down to her molten rocking
And clove her red fires fanned

The Earth's primordial flavors drew him
Lashed with divinity's soaring grace
Her body wrapped to consume his hunger
And cradle his precious face

He rode the tidal waves pounding through her
Clutching to match her abandoned pace
And when her gasping eruptions thundered
He preyed on her shrieking place

The whirlwind drained from the frenzied willow
Emptiness seeping from where they flew
And where a drop of her life blood landed
A burgundy primrose grew

     (And he said: will you come if I call?
     Darkness erodes every distance
     And nighttime conquers us all.)


the walking man said...

I absolutely love this epic verse. Captured my mind and eye from the very first and won't let them go as long as I remember this, my personal favorite verse:

"A hundred lifetimes on gales he traveled
Human fragility doused the flames
For weeks he chewed on the boundless questions
And searched for his lover's name"

Thank you for giving me stunning images to reflect on.

Sarah Hina said...

Searching, finding, tasting, transforming. It's as powerful, and haunting, as I remembered, Jason. More so, seeing all of its pieces bound together for the first time.

This poem is an immense achievement. The construction is so smooth, the desire so sharpened, that we can only succumb, too.

Darkness can be delicious. :) Bravo!!

Aniket Thakkar said...

Oh... it was like an Opera musical version of "Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula"... haunting ... yet intimate! The last line is a stunner ... so is the whole poem.... but still I was jinxed at the line "His cravings howled with her shameless thrashing
The shivering tree confessed"
All I can say is "Wow!!!"! Don't you already have your books published?? You most definitely should.... if haven't done so already!

PS: We had 'The Highway Man' in our English literature course book back in class 8... I used to love the line 'Trot trot... Trot trot... he came up to the large inn door'! :-D Happy memories... :)

Charles Gramlich said...

A wonderful piece of work. It's so hard to find natural rhymes for even short pieces; it's amazing you were able to keep them flowing so smoothly throughout.

This is just damn good.

Miladysa said...

As Charles says, "Damn good!" :D

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed the ride with this one. Sweetly dark.

Anonymous said...

Walking Man, thanks so much! I hugely enjoyed writing it. Structured poetry can be like a delicious puzzle for me. I like how fitting the pieces sometimes forces me to take different directions. Like the poem pushes me.

Sarah, haunting and succumbing to the darkness.... There are places we never can free ourselves from. This was a foray along its edges for me.

Aniket, Loreena McKennitt has such a wonderful musical rendition of The Highwayman. If you haven't heard it, I highly recommend it. And thank you for the kind words! As for being published, believe me, I am working hard to live up to that vision.

Charles, thank you! I really can't say enough what a wonderful experience it was to write this. I'm happy the verses cast their spell for you too.

Miladysa, much appreciated!!

Aggie, the best kind of darkness. ;

Karen said...

Jason, I've just finished a first reading, and I'm breathless! Each time I'd read a line and think how amazing it was, I'd read another and be amazed again.

You created a whole world in this. 'Scuse me while I go back for another bite!

JaneyV said...

It's wonderful to read this all in one go. It's even better than I remember it from last year. I didn't think it would be possible for this to be more sensual but, in a single reading like this, it is a veritable smorgesbord for the senses.

Beautifully written Jason. So glad you gave it another outing.

Aine said...

As I've said before-- this is truly a masterpiece. You've captured literary atmosphere by marrying words and images with a cadence that feels dark when spoken aloud. And the theme is so timeless... transformation, baptism by sensual love.

Perhaps a melody would round out the creation?...

Aniket Thakkar said...

Jason, I just listened to Loreena McKennitt's musical rendition of The Highwayman... and ended up teary eyed... It made me fall in love with Bess all over again!

You are like Eldorado... god knows how much treasure is there for us to take away!!!

PS: I used to worship only Sarah.... now my attention is diverted.... wonder if she misses me! :-D

Tan said...

Good one mate ... It has the touch of old English literature, that I fight to see these days ... nicely written ... and the length proved the involvement too ...

I Thank God to have found your blog and my friend who led me in!

Just one thing: The Label should be POETRY ... I suppose ... ;)

Vesper said...

Jason, I loved this then and I love it even more now when I can read it in its uninterrupted flow...

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Gorgeously salacious - in its literary excellence.

Fine accomplished poem.

Anonymous said...

Karen, thanks so much for your feeback. :) You really gave me a smile. I'm glad it had that vibrance for you.

JaneyV, thank you. :) I wondered how it would hold up unified. Often, I count on the pauses between posts. If the overall pacing still works, I'm happy!

Aine, masterpiece?? Although that's certainly not the right word, thanks. ;) I do like this one.

Aniket, any trip along with Loreena is a worthwhile one. Glad you enjoyed her musical interpretation of The Highwayman! (And Sarah is much more worship worthy than I am. :))

Tan, I'm glad you found me too! Thank you for sticking around. (And thanks for pointing ot that typo. I fixed it.)

Vesper, thanks for giving this another read! I considered submitting it, but figured folks might enjoy it here.

Thank you Kaye! Praise from such an accomplished poet is high indeed.