The Gorgon

 

I

I had been out at last, walking
   without a fear, stalking
      the city of my heart’s mirth:
Begging forgiveness and innocence to dirt,
Shattered, soldered and aching,
As my waking dreams smouldered.

But by Misty Hammersmith, she looked like me:
Through Ravenscourt, and to the tube,
Shot through and through,
A distant stare:

My flesh tingled with slate,
Marble pores at the sight:
I could not move, as if to sate
Her sunken eyes: I felt
   petrified.
Like soured stone.

Harbouring seraphim,
I rooted around in my pocket
   for my keys.
I heard their rattle, but could not find them.
Only scraps of leaf tobacco
   and empty filter strips.

Steps, behind me: quicker, lest
I were caught by the identical
   clatter of our shoes.
A silly game. A childish jest.
Playing tricks on myself
   far too literally.

Those words of pallid truth,
A broken beam of circled light;
In those frames I found such sooth
   reflected many times:

Returned gazes that stare bright as the Star,
Serpentine image bears down on the role;
Lead actor encased in pillar of salt,
Love interest flees in conspicuous car;
Audience soaked in layers of green light,
Flesh crawling with marble architecture;
Seated between a lustful onlooker,
And a bold talent scout of certain sight;
Wooed were I, so sure of blight, I watched it,
Entranced by willing, aching desire;
All dreams I had were in moving pictures,
And the Gorgon spun the tale, as I sat;
      Now in my house, the walls hang bare to see:
      That ritual of thy sweet, darker thee.

My door now locked,
That was sure — but once
   the images started swimming,
There was not a lock on earth
   that could halt the presence dimming
      palpably from the roof.

Down the wallpaper.
Across the carpet.
Like the tapping of drizzle.
Like the foal that kneels
   at the feet of its predator,
A vampire-yellow vapour.

At the basement stair
   I found myself
      as if spellbound,
Enchanted.
Wisps of light and Stygian sound
   gaining ground
      in what was once my home.

Then I looked upon her truth:
I saw her audience, frozen,
Like the foal.
A travertine display
   of erstwhile lives;
Given over to those brass hands.

Her fallen children,
Nothing but marble statues
   travelling down the District Line.
Her greatest admirers, halted in time.

She pushed me aside,
Then pulled my arm,
And led me to my bed:
She tucked me in,
And sat beside.
A small smile hidden.

She released her hair from its tied knot
   and it slithered down her shoulders,
Down her back, across the sheets.
I heard it hiss, and flicker,
Venomous.

She turned around and removed her eyes.
The glassy cyan discarded,
She bowed her head,
So I could not see what was left.

She spoke her part,
And explained in plain English
   the suffering of my heart:

I, Narcissus:
The demiurge of my own downfall.

I, Oedipus:
My very own gynosphinx
   to tear my mind apart.

I, Hamlet:
But my father’s ghost speaks not to me.

I, Perseus:
But no bag of holding
   to store that
      which I could not sever
         even with an adamantine sickle.

No cloak of justice—
No silver bullets—
No helm of darkness—
Divine intervention, too,
Was off the cards.

With her words shared,
Her hair encompassed my bed-ridden form.
I saw her smile again
   as she turned to face me.
Her face morphed,
And yes, I was a fool,
To ever believe she and I were the same.

Teeth of razor-kind,
Claws of brass well-formed,
Rapacious tongue so fork’d.
The serpentine locks that fell all around
   the brace of gold that graced her neck.

Starting from the tips of my toes,
I stiffened.
Trapped in the headlights of my own mythology.

And with Persephone at hand,
The chthonic mouth opened up.
O, Glory.
O, Sweet Queen:
That mezzanine ’twixt gold and dust.
That estuary of Styx, forged by my lust.

I took my final journey,
Gazing through the black eyes
   of the Gorgon.

 

II

When the smell begins,
And the neighbours pry,
And the authorities informed;
When the door cracks,
And the lock shatters,
And the friendly steps set foot
   into this bedroom:
They will find nothing
   but soured stone.

 

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