Now from the fixture in the white-tiled hall
a few cold rays escape and, dropping, fall
within the narrow grate, to limn a shape
that bloats and beckons from my padded wall.
Disturbed and sleep-deprived by stubborn dreams
of sunken rooms and other watery themes
she one day walked into the waves and drowned
where only fishes came to hear the screams.
In cracking wax against the vellum page
a cryptic sigil from that distant age
proclaims the author of the mystic tome.
"Alhazred," it is said to read, "the Mage."
Put into stone at some strange power's command
(how else explain the sculptor's uncouth hand
and fevered eye?) the thing appears to be
a pulpy dragon coiled upon a stand.
The gleam of cold defiance in his face
is telling proof our efforts to erase
the young man's mad conceit have failed ”or, worse”
he covets now the so-called cult's embrace.
The startling features of the manuscript
include weird drafts of finned and fishy-lipped
bipedal forms whose every act involves
the puzzling ruins of a seabed crypt.
We trained our lens against the cloudless night,
observing comets, planets, spectral light.
Our charts bear out the twisted nebulae.
The stars were wrong . . . or were they, somehow, right?
Well-born, and schooled to match, I once could pass
a cultured member of the upper class
throughout this coast; but now, despair each time
I view my scaly image in the glass.
It rose up darkly from the swampy mire,
a rough-hewn, sickly gleaming limestone spire.
The naked devotees, to seal the rite,
howled chants and danced around a corpse-strewn fire.
He swears there is a froth between the waves,
conceives a fetor as from yawning graves,
then ”frenzied by an unheard gibbering”
holds up a razor to my throat and raves.
Drawn down, and on, by hoarse hypnotic chants
of inexpressible significance
you calmly wander through the grottoed fane
and lair that are your cursed inheritance.
The prophets, seers and mediums assume
this world soon ends in flames, or frozen gloom.
I hail the far apocalypse ”and know
the Earth is merely Hades' anteroom.
Created: August 14, 2001; Updated: August 9, 2004