I give you a song I stole from the dirt: I dream a mess
of ley-lines and leptons, plasma fields and turf giants. Last son
of a dead planet, strongest man in the world. I am a nova,
all-exploding, planet-cremating. But there are
many ways to lose the oldest game.
I rise slowly, approach the stage; around me a
soft susurrus of sound, and a languorous, ironic applause. Listen – you can hear
the screaming: blood and Perrier, goddamnit! I think I’ll
dismember the world and then I’ll dance in the wreckage. Rip their
nightmares into daylight, scum their sleep with
creeping fear. They fear the sunless lands.
Watch me! I’ll rupture
your ramshackle land and piss in the ruins! Listen to
the rushing rivers of blood, flowing downwards in a warm torrent. The blood
of the weak. Of the helpless. Of the mad. Listen: you can hear
sobbing. Listen to the anguish of a world in which
the bad things are coming out of the dark places. Listen to a world
The Raven Woman has decayed badly. She used to dream; to
shift in her sleep, muttering and sighing, locked in
half-remembered fantasies: she only lives in nightmares. There is the smell
of magic somewhere, like the blue-sparks smell of ozone
at a funfair. Will she dissolve it in her mouth? Breathe it? Rub it
into her skin?
The veil tears, and she feels the flesh grow back on to her bones.
I hear the sound of her wings. I am a world, space-floating,
life nurturing. I am hope.
Weakened, I clutch a passing dream. These things
with faces like appendectomy scars are crocheting my intestines
into body bags for the blind and dead.
Dully the church bells echo and clang
in the lonely darkness twelve times. This isn’t Death: exhaustion
bites at my soul. I tell myself it’s not the fall. Falling doesn’t hurt:
it’s when you stop. And I stand here, alone and afraid,
in the Naked Space, at the gate of Hell.
I skirt the fire pits, and lose myself in the heart of the
Armaghetto: it’s a future bounded by walls and guards
and the sour smell of my madness. What power have dreams in Hell?
It’s never quiet here, not even at night. There’s always
someone crying, someone calling out, someone in the next cell
banging their head against the wall. You come from dust. You walk
the dust. You go back to dust. No one here gets out alive.
This poem was written for We Write Poems Prompt #35: (Not) Poetry! I instructed poets to construct a cento, pulling sentences from non-poetic works — for example, writings of Heidegger, an autobiography, fiction books, holy books, etc. Some works will blur the line (like the Psalms in the Hebrew Bible or the Bhagavad Gita, as they are written in verse) but are still ok to use for this exercise. The whole point was to construct centos out of lines and sentences that aren’t really poetry, in the normal sense of how we think of it.
I hope you enjoyed this cento, which was constructed from sentences pulled from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes graphic novel (I linked to the 2010 reprint of the title). Yes, everything, including the title (which is uttered by the Dream King/Morpheus to Doctor Destiny) and the last line (written on a brick wall). The book is made up of several issues of the original, and I was attracted to 1) the dark material and storyline and 2) the poetic air that Gaiman’s writing tends to have.