Alien Literature

And what are you, that you should be
     The one man in my mind?

Self-conjured, a stranger with the thirsty
tongue of an injured wolf lapping

at the pink wounds of my winter’s own two
ears, lone familiar longing for

what neither of us can hear or bear, our
heads resonant with a pounding

heart’s resounding wind pitting against its
urn’s emptiness the ashes of

this elusive love it scatters as if
being offed, condemned by someone

else’s god to wander forever the
mess of this crippling wilderness

distancing us from love’s eternal rest
after which we quest, in the chest’s

hollow of my fear there persists a sick
penchant of those pipes round which thoughts

twine for its damage, coiled serpentine as
ancient Pyrrhic radiators

perpetuating just enough hubris
to contend with the heat of an

analytical engine which has all
but blown off its steam, bleeding its

needing to be needed, alien this
literature we seek to read,

language of dreams keeping house in the blind
shadow of a mind we share with

one desire which does not dare to feed this
beast who does not care any more

for its feast than its despair eating at
us both, there was once in this lair

a shifter of shapes whose ghosts we both called
on in our prayers, knowing not how

it goes for those of us who outgrow the
cold chalices of our gold skulls

our precocious wants overflow with floods
of such precious wine that kills those

fools who mistake its heresy’s taste for
some elixir divine, and were

my mouth more than sin’s conduit, this wolf
which dies at my youth’s door, pining

to dine on decadent memories I
have no more use for, through its old

portal you who lewd rumours follow would
wander unperturbed into my

thoughts unharmed by the icy darts of my
shattered mirror’s dark shards, would that

I could see my Self as I am, have been,
and always will be, good enough,

together its chill chaos our warmth would
return more order than any

passion’s frivolous ardour misspent on
loud, undeserving others had

deprived before, teach me in my dreams to
see in these symbols the meaning

of this moaning hound whose foul, howling breath
whispers obscenities against

the king whose watch we keep in these lonely
hours at the feet of intruders

before whom our soundless secrets lie down
like lovers without a bed in

which to sleep, guardians of a weakness
awakening this creeping thing.

1Edna St. Vincent Millay, “The Philosopher”, [Stanza 3, Lines 11–12], from A Few Figs from Thistles, reprinted in Edna St. Vincent Millay: Poems, published at New York by Everyman’s Library in 2010; page 83.