July in Poetry: Dorr, Deininger, Faherty, Bilof

This time we have the poetry of Keith Deininger, J G Faherty and Vincenzo Bilof. We also are including an archived Blood & Spades column by James Dorr.

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Momento

Art copyright Sandy DeLuca 2013

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“Memento of Truth”

by Vincenzo Bilof

 

You can die this way, cry this way,

hide this day, burn this

fate.

Nobody has to unravel the mystery

behind my eyes, the natural

and super-mystical way I carve

into your thighs.

Slightly,

(one gash)

a sordid, artistically-placed

em-dash.

Is that a tear I see fall

from those bright white orbs?

 

(Can’t you see)

 

this is the work of a poet

and not a millionaire straight from the pages of Forbes?

 

I’m not some benign social experiment, as you say.

Look at me now because I do this

in a sick and twisted way.

Bleed upon this blade’s edge!

Watch as I hover upon sanity’s ledge.

Everything you say is another

carefully-concocted lie,

You’re like all the others, I think––

stealing another moment of life

before you die.

 

Why didn’t you feel this way before?

[poem originally published in James Ward Kirk's SONGS FOR THE RAVEN anthology]

 

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“The Dentist”

by JG Faherty

(2006), Wicked Karnival

 

It eats me up inside

This rage

Overpowers me, takes control

A secret beast

Makes me hurt them, cause them pain

 

They don’t know when it will happen

But I know

When I hold the tools once more

Sharp, pointed

My hands become instruments of torture

 

They want to scream, to shout

To cry

I don’t stop; I go deeper

Deeper still

I smile behind my mask

 

Their blood is my joy, my goal

I want to laugh

I am the bringer of their pain

I hate them

Their vile, rotten mouths offend me

 

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Grandma(1)Art copyright Sandy DeLuca 2013

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“Grandma”

By Keith Deininger

The boy watches her face-
thick, like a wax candle
that sits on the mantle,
old and sticky and ignored.

The weight of her skin
melting, viscous, into the
cracks and folds of
her sunken eyes,

opaque, smeared with
bad mayonnaise
and the boy wonders
how he must look

to this woman
in her bed of white sheets
with his bright summer clothes
and ruffled blond hair.

He swallows a dry lump of cotton
as he imagines the pain
and backs away slowly
from the woman’s writhing hands,

the heads of two vipers,
striking blindly at the air
nails bitten jagged

Down the corridor under the blinking red sign
he pushes through that back rusty door,
creaking out past the
waiting room into the blazing

summer air.
He rushes forward, pushing on,
though the sun is too bright,
and his body too light

and he races past all the young men in their shorts
and all the tanned laughing girls and
the curve of their hips,
past the vendors unnoticed

and carefully over
the scattered cans
of beer
slammed fast under the sun.

In his youth no one cares to sell him a t-shirt
or bum off his money
or offer him drugs.
In his youth he is safely ignored

and left
to absorb
with a child’s
nomadic eyes.

Then out past the dock,
padding through the sand,
and way past the beach
where the homeless sleep,

he knows of a cove,
cast in dark shadow,
where he can dig in the sand
and bury his thoughts.

A smooth bar of sand,
cool and moist,
licked fresh every morning
by the ocean’s salty tongue.

Here the boy rests
and ignores the familiar stink
of the deflated carcass,
torn and left bare

by the struggles of the ocean’s heavy waves,
and he tries to forget the
gurgling hum of Grandma’s words
as he keeps his distance from

the tentacles stretched out,
reaching, as if to snatch him up tight,
and draw him near for a kiss.

 *

“Grandma” was originally published in Conceptions Southwest literary journal in 2007. It won an editor’s choice award.

 

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James Dorr’s newest story collection, The Tears of Isis, was just released from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing. He has had multiple poetry books published throughout the years. Today Mr. Dorr stops by to talk to us about vampires. l  News on Dorr can be found  on the web at http://jamesdorrwriter.wordpress.com.

Note: The page numbers in the column are respective to pages in his poetry collection – Vamps (A Retrospective).

 

VAMPS:  THE BEGINNING

Nothing connects….  Everything connects….

In 1897 British artist Philip Burne-Jones, having been dumped by the popular actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell, exhibited his latest picture depicting Campbell in what looks like a nightdress bending over the helpless, supine form of a young man in bed.  He called it The Vampire.  This inspired the artist’s cousin Rudyard Kipling to write a poem, “The Vampire,” with these opening lines:

 

A fool there was and he made his prayer

(Even as you and I!)

To a rag and a bone and a hank of hair

(We called her the woman who did not care),

But the fool he called her his lady fair

(Even as you and I!)

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The poem in turn inspired a play which became the 1915 movie A Fool There Was, starring Theda Bara, whose performance popularized the term “vamp” for a sexually predatory female.  That is, one who sucks the life, or the love, or the reputation, or honor, or riches from her victims just as the vampires of legend preyed on honest peasants.

1897 was also the year Bram Stoker published Dracula, about a more traditional, literal blood-sucking vampire, while Theda Bara’s likeness, in its turn, inspired Marge Simon’s cover painting for Vamps (A Retrospective), a reminiscence of vampire poetry I’ve written and published over the last nearly 25 years (25 years before Stoker’s Dracula, incidentally, Le Fanu’s Carmilla was published, about a literal vampire who was also a sexually predatory female — so, as you can see, it’s all related).

I love this kind of stuff, and the thing is it’s not entirely coincidental either.  Had Theda Bara never existed, Musidora was still starring in the French film Les Vampires, also in 1915, while 16 years later Bela Lugosi brought male sexuality (and bloodsucking) to the film Dracula.  None of which is much to the point except that I’m fascinated by vampires.

And who wouldn’t be?  The nexus of sex and death, birth and rebirth, Eros and Thanatos, vampirism is powerful stuff.  Virtually every nation and culture has some variation of the vampire myth and, while Vamps (A Retrospective) may concentrate more on the European and American versions (that, after all, being my culture too — though even then I will introduce occasional offshoots like blood-drinking krakens, shape-shifting fox-women, or accusatory ghosts), I do try to bring in a mix of styles and approaches, from a homage to Kipling in terza rima (which also includes science fiction tropes) from “Elemental Vamp,” pp. 7-9, originally published in Aboriginal Science Fiction, Sept-Oct 1988,

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A ragtime bone, a hank of hair

made Kipling’s vamp — today the breed

needs more.

The elemental air

is thin above, its winds unkeyed

to bats’ wings: thus, approaching space,

the vampire rests within a seed

or ferro-plastic carapace

(a single coffin-end left clear

for forward view) and, there in place,

with rockets lifting off the fear

of old-time stakes….

 *

to modern economics in horrorku style in the previously unpublished “State of the Blood Market in Transylvania,” p. 79,

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local pressure low

peasant necks in short supply —

Vlad’s brides back in town

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But does the world need another book about vampires? 

I really wouldn’t know myself, it’s just that over the years I’ve written a lot of vampire poems.  And then it happened that I pitched an idea for a Christmas collection of fiction and poetry to Tyree Campbell at Sam’s Dot Publishing — some of the entries in which included vampires — which, ultimately, he declined.  However, Sam’s Dot had published my poetry before in various of its magazines, so I queried again about a possible non-holiday themed book of poems only.

This one Tyree bit on (to pardon the expression), giving me pretty much a free hand to plan it myself, then send him the results.  So, wanting to have some kind of structure (and having, remember, a whole lot of vampire poetry I’d already written), I decided to make it a book about vampires and vampire-related lore, from parasitism in ancient times — the gods exploiting humans as in “Dreaming Saturn,” pp. 17-22, originally published in Dark Destiny (White Wolf, 1994) —

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These were the child-eaters, the dream-destroyers,

the dark creators:

Saturn, the Black Sun, called Kala-Siva,

worshiped as Lord of Death;

Rhea, his sister-wife;

Mimas, the ruler of Earth’s volcanos;

two-faced Iapetus who, out of Gaea, was sire to

Prometheus, himself twice traitor;

foolish Pandora, who loosed pain and longing;

moon-strider Phoebe;

vampyre; vrykolalas; others, named old and new —

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to, well, modern leisure, as from “Moonlight Swimming,” p. 62, originally published in Illumen, Autumn 2010,

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Moonlight swims were the most romantic,

the lighting good for her

accenting the wet, pale sheen of her skin,

contrasted against her swimsuit, her hair.

Of course, bathing in sunlight was

out of the question — the danger of peeling

the least of her worries, but night

was made for her. …

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or from “Eight Top Vampire Hobbies,” pp. 58-60, originally in Paper Crow, Spring-Summer 2010,

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3.  Avoiding Churches.

Collecting maps can be a must

when one visits new cities.

One never knows, especially in Europe

where chapels and abbeys crop up

like mushrooms, what may lie in wait

to disturb one’s aplomb

just around the next corner.

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or “Alley Thoughts,” p. 32, from Star*Line, July-Aug. 2006,

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She stalks, alley-cat-footing

sidewalks from taxi stands,

seeks jazz, seeks blues-throated

singers to match her own

blood fevered anthem —

throbbing bass, descant sax

screeching above the line,

brushes and cymbals’ clash! …

 *

These would be in more or less chronological order in terms of when I wrote them, if not necessarily when they were published, with some variation for sake of efficient fitting to pages, or in one or two cases fitting to mini-themes within the book.  Also two homages to the greatest iconic vampire of all would bracket the contents as a Dedication (via the German actor Max Schreck — as “Count Orlock” in Nosferatu perhaps still the best film Dracula ever — in “Blood Portrait,” originally published in The Goreletter, April 2007) on p. 3 and an Afterword (speculating about the fate of Mina Harker in “Chagrin du Vampire,” from Star*Line, Fall 2010) on pp. 80-81.  And, just to ice the cake, once I had the poems selected I sent them to our own Marge Simon with a suggestion that she might submit illustrations for them to Tyree as well.

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The Gallery

Seventy-five poems, about a third of which are unpublished, plus eleven interior illustrations look at the vampire myth through various “characters,” Annchuck, Melissa, the gods of Ancient Greece, jazz fans, baseball nuts, track stars, “Medusa,” Nikki (who flies, and whose poem is also on the back cover), victims and lovers (willing and otherwise), vacation goers (regretful and otherwise), a vamp from the future … these and more make up Vamps (A Retrospective).  Herewith, some samples (several more poems subsequently reprinted in Vamps have also appeared in my previous Blood & Spades column “Edgar Allan, Allen Ginsberg, & All That Jazz” in Vol. 20, Issue 119 of the HWA Newsletter, June 2010):

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THE BIRDCATCHERS

 *

They come from the plains outside the city

with cages and baskets,

a flurry of screeching,

to show off their wares.

These are the birds they have snared at first morning,

when dew is heavy:

the merlins, the windhovers, juggers and owls,

blue-and-white taloned birds, birds without feathers

— all scales and sharpness —

the carrion eaters.

Birds of the night.

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These are bought by the city’s young women

because, it is said, they make excellent pets.

Because, it is said, they crave only spun sugar,

molded in spheres,

to the shape of the eyes of one faithless in love.

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(P. 10, originally published in The Tome, Summer 1992)

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CITY MAGIC

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Coyote in man-pelt,

you’ve seen him lurking

in alleys and doorways —

the one with the smile

that shows no whiteness.

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He goes with the night,

wherever he pleases.

He rides the whirlwind.

  *

He is the trickster,

with teeth needle-sharp

when they pierce your soul.

  *

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(P. 14, Towers of Darkness, Nocturnal Publications chapbook, 1990)

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VAMPIRE THOUGHTS

 

  * 

She’d never liked tombs.

The marble was clammy,

the wood of the coffin always had splinters,

but what was a person supposed to do

when days were so hot,

and milk white complexions peeled so

in the sun?

At least mausoleums were airy,

cool

during most of the year, and,

once a new boyfriend got over the shock

of driving his date

to a graveyard address,

the sex life was okay.

But cleaning up afterward,

that was what rankled —

hours of what could be the rest of her un-life

spent bent over tubs

soaking bloodstains from velvet,

sewing up fang marks in

white linen ties.

*

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(P. 25, Xenophilia, July 1991)

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NADJA

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She never understood it,

Van Helsing’s anger,

after all, was it not he

who had murdered her father —

him and the others —

not even respecting the old Count’s

title?

Did not rank still retain

privileges these days?

Still, she was a countess,

noblesse oblige and all that,

she who, if anyone, had reason

to be mad, she must retain her calm,

show by example a high-minded nature.

True, she had her vices too

but she held these in check,

slaughtering humans for blood only when

her thirst no longer could be restrained,

only when necessary.

It wasn’t her wish, that.

It wasn’t her wish to so be persecuted,

but breeding was breeding and thus

must be satisfied,

even if that meant wearing her corset,

steel-lined and uncomfortable,

especially when she slept,

taking it off only for a new lover;

avoiding mirrors — she who had every

right to be vain.

But then no one was perfect.

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(P. 64, unpublished.  Marge’s illustration for this on the page preceding it, along for the one for “Night Life” on p. 71, was inspired by the Rumanian-born actress Elina Löwensohn who starred in the 1995 film Nadja, as was, in part, the poem itself)

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THE ESTHETE

 

Speak not to me of the high plain of Castile,

broiled in an August sun,

shimmering wheat parched-yellow, so bright tears well

from eyes

baked red in furnace heat;

nor condemn, either, those who prefer shadow,

the curved, Moorish arches of an Andalusia, its

moon-muted gardens soft, moistened by sea breeze,

its Cordoban alleys cobbled in twisted paths,

leading to darkness.

Or praise, if you will, the stone squares of a Paris,

its ancient cathedrals cragged under a starlit sky,

taverns and dance halls dim lit to the night’s end, while,

under,

its catacombs

apprehended in foxfire and willow-light,

Fata Morgana of primeval funguses,

shimmer within their own damp-tunneled confines.

And water, yes — speak too of night-blackened liquids,

the smell of life, sweat glistening under a gas-lighted

street or a boulevard,

hearts’ beating within a mews or a hidden court —

safe from gendarmerie

as teeth gleam in moonlight;

and think, then, of night’s hues

subdued within greyness

while pale shoulders glow pearl,

a faint scent of jasmine,

a stillness accented by, clasping, a sudden sharp exhalation!

A soft splash of crimson.

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(P. 44-45, Tomorrow SF, Feb. 1998)

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  THE LIST

 

She writes her requests in a

fine Copperplate hand —

she never forgot her Victorian penmanship —

seals with a red kiss the envelope,

folded,

mails it to the North Pole.

Her wishes are simple:

a gown, a new corset,

continued good dental health,

rings for her fingers,

a pair of black stockings,

a carafe, perhaps, of blood.

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(P. 68, unpublished. “The List” has since inspired a short story, “Naughty or Nice,” currently scheduled for publication in Daily Science Fiction [http://dailysciencefiction.com])

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And finally another horrorku that answers a question I always had about vampires.

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  WHO KNEW?

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it seemed all icky

at first, the vampiress said,

except blood tastes so good

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(p. 79, unpublished)

So might I suggest now that Vamps (A Retrospective), for only the cost of a modest pizza (with blood sausage topping, natch), could make an excellent Christmas gift for vampire and non-vampire friends alike?

 

 

 

 

One Response to “July in Poetry: Dorr, Deininger, Faherty, Bilof”

  1. Excellent dark verse by all! Delightful stuff, truly. :)