Nocturnes: Whitechapel, Creature Of Habit

[also for Sarah]


The morning brought a gray, November dawn,
and in the chilling, drizzled mist I fled.
Thought was too hard:  presence of mind was gone.
An awful kind of ache throbbed in my head---
worse than the afterward of beer or port;
worse than the word of pains of any sort.
Only one purpose held: my pregnancy:
that little bit of life inside of me
wanted to get away, instinctively,
far from that room at 13 Miller Court.
By simple force of habit, I was led---
despite the dire derangement of deep shock---
through customary motion.  With the key
in hand, I turned it in the closed door's lock.



Author's Notes/Comments: 

The door to Mary Kelley's residence at 13 Miller Court was locked when the corpse inside was discovered.  In my opinion, an intruder would not have bothered to lock it (even less so, getting possession of the key); whereas the rightful occupant would have both the key and the established habit of locking the door upon leaving.  I think this evidence goes to confirm a my hypothesis that Mary Kelly, having slain the Ripper earlier, walked away from her home and, some hours later, off the stage of history forever.

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At Gabbatha

Tiberius believes the old conceit
that all of life can be accounted for
within the columns of a balance sheet,
and profit show thereon as less or more.
Unlike his predecessor, he requires
a greater dividend from his empire's
possessions.  Taxes; order:  your vocation
ensures these---now a shadowed obligation
that has replaced your once brilliant career.
But now these local priests, assembled here,
question the color of your loyalty
to Caesar.  They make subtle implication
that they will raise more than a little fuss
in Rome itself, before Tiberius.
Their frenzied plan is very obviously
directed toward that man from Nazareth
(insult toward you is just collateral
damage).  False charges brought, they boldly lied
against him, and their trap has cornered you,
as well as him.  Despite what you would do---
setting this harmless, quiet Rabbi free---
you give in to their loud, relentless urging.

And he, who, innocent, endured a scourging,
must now be taken out and crucified.



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At Whitechapel: Coterie

We were a threesome---painter, prince and whore.
Apart, each of us burdened by distress;
together, though, our lives seemed so much more
joyous, even complete.  That studio
became our refuge, where friendship and trust
repaired the damages of rage and lust:
the ravages of mundane worldliness.
We closed the door upon that, when a night
found us together:  vibrant conversation,
and sometimes tranquil silences, although
each of us knew the rising morning's light
must bring back fear, or farce, or aggravation.

But on that ghastly, horrifying day

their love and care helped me escape away.

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The poet steps down, having finished his piece;

the Honor Guard stands and fires its guns;

all of this done in the name of Peace --

they really are the same --  all for one.

These thoughts among us -- the silences within --

minds still prisoners of that hell.  And all

that was "Honor" then, now brings tears, like "sin";

things we were ordered to do, and not to recall.

The "past" is "now".  In the future it will come;

both Joy and Grief determine one's life.

We dedicate sacrifices that spare Freedom's doom;

"The Joy Of Just Being Cuts Like A Knife!"

I pray to die forgiven -- avoid the sting of Death

that cannot touch my soul at my last dedicated breath.

Author's Notes/Comments: 

For those who have not yet come home

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At The Inspiration Of The Hebrews' Epistle, 2

I thought that Stephen had an angel's face
(especially when speaking of the Grace
of Christ) and long cascades of soft, coifed hair.
He seemed---seems---to me the most beautiful
boy I had ever seen, and his sweet soul
more than his wretched murderers could bear.
Some decades old now, memories unfurl
around your kind request that I speak of
his words and faith.  I was, then, a young girl,
and he and I experienced first love
(with all of its delights)---chastely!---together.
He showed me how our Christian faith is better
than our ancestors'---not as a rejection
of theirs, but in a flowering to perfection.
I wonder though, were he not martyred, whether
he might have written all that in a letter
to edify the church, or bring correction
to errors that, as we both know, deceived
those who have drawn back:  as if to erase
their hope, as if they never had believed.
Forgetting some of it, do I recall
that Stephen might have known your old friend, Paul?

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At The Inspiration Of The Hebrews' Epistle, 1

Some tell me that our brother, Timothy,
is said to be soon set at liberty,
and then return to Ephesus.  And me?---
I sent to volumes of our history
(in final draft, both) to Theophilus.
Then, weary of Rome and its worldly fuss,
I can come back to Antioch to rest.
Martyred, Paul charged me with a last request
which which I will comply directly, even
if difficult---a treatise on the thought
of that first, holy martyr, Deacon Stephen;
to write down, for our churches, what he taught
(for which he was accused of blasphemy
and stoned to death with frenzied perfidy).

Author's Notes/Comments: 

The Evangelist Saint Luke, author of the Third Gospel, and the Acts of the Apostles, is believed, by some, to have authored, or translated the Epistle to the Hebrews.  This poem and its sequel suggests another interpretation of the Lukan involvement in that document.

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At The Change Of The Watchmen's Shift

From my own post along these high, proud walls
that guard the safety of Jerusalem,
I had a rather fleeting glimpse of . . . them:
that lovely grandchild of king Solomon
and her new boy friend, here from Lebanon.
Across the road, a small ridge with a skull's
grim, deathly visage gave a moment's pause
to their bare footsteps.  Hand in hand, they stopped
to stare at it.  Goliath's own head, lopped
off by young David's hand, could not have been
as grisly.  When they started off again,
two adolescents, very much in love,
were they (I wonder) sadly thinking of
the many lovers that Death has undone?

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At The Edge Of Jerusalem


[Luke 19:39-41; Matthew 5:14.]


"Good master, silence this loud multitude.
"The surely make an awful lot of noise.
"Their jabber has disturbed the holy mood
"that we have learned to love the most and best.
"Their singing has disturbed our righteousness.
"We are not much accustomed to express---
"that way---our testimonies and our joys,
"and all our grand traditions long professed.
"We are the city set upon that hill
"you mentioned. Tell these others to be still."

But had the crowds been quieted and kept
silent, the stones were well prepared to shout.

Christ knew their motives---what they were about;
and, looking over that great city, wept.



Author's Notes/Comments: 

Luke 19:39-41; Matthew 5:14.

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Lady Beatrice's Leisure

Laugh if you will, but all too easily
and all too often, I grow weary of
lessons in Latin.  Its ubiquity
is our great heritage and history---
but paradigms of parsing have bored me
to tears.  Some teach it out of mere conceit,
subjecting students to a worse abuse.
But when I can escape the shuttered gloom,
I hurry, up stairs, to my sunlit room
and pleasant leisure on the balcony.
Once there, I eagerly kick off my shoes
(for verse is better with my stockinged feet
unshod), and read my boy friend's poetry---
words in vernacular that sing his love,
someday to sing to all of Italy.





Author's Notes/Comments: 

The poem suggests an original historical hypothesis.  Just as the Argentinian poet, Jorge Luis Borges, suggested that Dante raised up the Comedy simply to set Beatrice as its climax and centerpiece, so I believe that Dante chose the vernacular language, in which to write the Comedy, according to Beatrice's preferences.  The traditional, and scholarly, choice would have been Latin; but, I believe, Dante's adolescent adoration, once matured, saw all literary choice in terms of Beatrice's preferences, and not scholarly custom.

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