Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On The Rim of the Great Crater: Lost Wanderings at the Bottom of the City

 Notes From a Post-911 Nocturne

The Night City rises slowly from the carnage below—Up from the torn streets, born on clouds of toxic vapor and particles, and illuminated by phosphorous lamps—Swirling slowly, slowly in the heavy and humid air, and by turns, green, yellow, purple, —Up, up to the rooftop of the Bennett building and heaving, foaming, and echoing with the squall of impossible night sounds—The reverberating dirge of doomsday clang & clatter. Ancient brick & mortar crumble and give way to vast criminal enterprise, heralded by the hiss & crackle of the welder’s torch—Way down there at the very bottom of a city whose name has become uncertain even to it’s own inhabitants...
    And now workers cling to the sides of the Bennett on scaffolds like some hideous insects— Grinding and blasting, and sanding away layers of paint and all the way down to the raw iron! The fatal renovation! The biting wind of a hundred years of pulverized paint, asbestos, arsenic, and lead, and the powdered bones of the dead—Clinging, swirling around old Fulton! You see, the dust from the attack had gotten into every crack & cranny of the Bennett—in and around every window frame, and architectural ornament! It was waiting there—waiting to be stirred up and released into the air! And now I can’t breath and my lungs are heavy and feel like lead!—I am poisoned again! But this time it’s far worse! And there must be some way out of this fucking hell!
    Vague rumors are recounted in the hallways amid hacking coughs & wheezing breaths. We retreat into our cast-iron shells, hunkered down amid rumor and the poison dust that swirls all around the Bennett and is drawn up through her interior, up through the great central staircase and dispersed through all the floors and chokes the life out of us, especially the ones who pretend not to live here! We tried to seal off the windows—in vain!  Weakened as I was by the previous poisonings and dislocations, I could not withstand this new onslaught of toxins. I was only able to enter my space if I held my breath—desperately trying to retrieve a few items from the room that was once my home—but no more! The terrible stench of the towers filled the Bennett, and the ground-up paint swirled all around and into my lungs and into my mind.
    The perimeter of the great crater spread far beyond the footprints of the destroyed towers. And now the Bennett stood naked! Stripped down to her cast-iron shell and obscured by vast rows of scaffolding! The beautiful and delicate hues of cream, and pink, and pastel green were ground away and dispersed into the air along with all my memories, and the Bennett loomed ugly and dull-brown, gray and black: The Great Cenotaph at Fulton & Nassau!
    I stand in the filthy street and look up in horror and disbelief at the shell of that doomed structure—but of course the Bennett was merely shedding her skin and was readying herself for a metamorphosis, a new life—I was the one who was doomed! Scraped away with the old paint and cast off and dispersed in the cracked sky, way down there at the bottom of the heaving and torn city whose name is now unknown to me!
    A thousand curses are hurled into the sulphur skies over the Bennett rooftop! Even X couldn’t help me, and was himself driven out less than a year later, amid intrigue and vast economic pressures as Downtown was gutted and re-configured. The disturbed rat’s nest of the Bennett was exposed as we scuttled through the Skeleton streets, illuminated by phosphor lamps hung by night-crews who toiled ceaselessly under the commands of their masters, who loomed over the city, leering at the riches to be made by the destruction of everything that I held dear! I fled in horror and disgust as I watched the downfall from a fractious bench in City Hall Park. I record the moments of the disaster like some loyal scribe, some dedicated ship’s officer who goes down with the ship.
    And now no place to sleep! Desperation fills me as I contemplate a night on the streets! I doze off one evening down by the Seaport around the back of one of the old buildings, waiting for a phone call that will tell me that I have a sofa or a precious piece of floor to crash on. And now poison-drunk and oppressed by chem-solvent nightmares too foul & filthy to recollect—their essence filtered through litmus and turning Egyptian Blue and Saturnine Red—a decoction of fear & regret—a potent and unspeakable liquid: the rarest poison known to man!
    The Great & Morbid City groans, heaves, blinks it’s myriad lights and spouts vapor from a thousand jets.   
One moment you are safe in your bed... and the next you are poisoned and sent tottering into the streets—
And what city is this?  The sanctuary of the Bennett no more!

At the Cross-Section of Voltage & Bromide Streets as Journal #34 is pulled over broken glass!
Oblivion neatly inscribed between pale and parallel rules—In a blurred mind-scape in a city whose name can change without warning. We are pulled along—pulled along: Along with the tides and there’s nothing to be done about it! And now drunk and wobbling through the halls and down into the Skeleton streets!
I am driven out! Again!
Run from the city!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Poems Dark & Delirious: The Ten Thousand Curses Explained

The author makes an attempt to strike a heroic pose on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial

Poems Dark & Delirious presents:

The Ten Thousand Curses Explained

How I came to write “Clocks Stopped At A Strange And Savage Hour”

What could possibly have provoked such a dark & gnarly tome? Where did this thing come from? Is anyone even asking? Well, I'm asking!
I've been wanting to tell the whole story for a very long time anyway, and I've decided that this is the best place to do it. So in an upcoming series of blog posts I plan to tell the story of what caused this dark & unholy book to spring into existence. My poems are abstract, experimental, and weird, so I'm hoping to put them in context so that people can figure out what the hell I'm talking about!

Stay tuned for the first installment — coming up real soon!

~ Brian Spaeth

Monday, March 9, 2009

Milk-Tide Shudderings

Pulled magnetically down Nassau Street on an errand of antique persuasion.
Clockwork interior of an outmoded store that trembles in the arc-lit afternoon
Ripples along the gauze interior as decaying moments are sucked out of existence
And specks of light are visible through the weave
Walls fold in on themselves and lost routes are sealed-off along the
Pine-Tar Corridor
Fugitive colors run out before our troubled eyes—pulled magnetically back through Memory and electro-plate stampings.
An underground american and vaporous underground poems
A convalescent harbor at the bottom of a fleeting daydream
Eerie time-scapes and ripped-apart scenarios down along Squall Steet where it bisects Meridian
Electro-narcotic hum of Half-Light Street as time is pulled out and then
Blown down the hill of a convulsent Nassau Street.

Milk-tide shudderings at the bottom of a fugitive thought...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Independent Book Publishers Fair

I'll be at the 21st Annual Indie & Small Press Book Fair on Saturday & Sunday December 6th & 7th, along with J.R. McCarthy and the Serious Ink Press High Command!
We'll be doing an open mike and signing books----

Click here for more details:

Please stop by and say hello! It's free!

A Dream of the Old Pastel Bennett Building

Things fall away...

Whole ways of life are destroyed forever. Things that seemed solid are shown to be nothing but dust motes & particles, suspended for a brief moment in an aching light as the sun illuminates them and then concludes it’s mournful arc across the southern skies down there at the bottom of the city...

*Cataleptic chants emanate from the bio-chamber labeled 1003, and their echo informs the lurkers in the halls...

Strobe-Alarm Nocturne on the 10th floor deep in the underground american night
Night-crews toil in the utility room at the end of the hall—I cower in fear of what they will discover—and on & on they work, deep into the savage night of Fulton Street!

Thanksgiving Day at the Old Bennett Building—now lost forever in the mist!
Recollections cast a spell over the rooftops as I dream of things long gone...
Shards of stabbing memories distract me from my immediate surroundings...back there in the lost Bennett...
Memories and ghostly scenes illuminate my chamber deep in the winter night of Old Fulton Street...

The wondrous old buildings give way to underground poems—crumbling, along with all our hopes, as the carnage is ratcheted-up to obscene levels! A palpable sense of our impending doom & demise, as the destruction echoes all around us—back there in that tarnished sepulcher, deep in a strange night of unrest and regret
I grasp at phantom memories—seeking balm for my aching wounds and palliatives for my lonely soul, back down there at that strange and melancholy outpost
Endless conjecture and rabid theorizing—all useless against the implacable onslaught down there in that terrible din and dirge!
And there was nothing we could do except hurl a curse at the sulphur skies...back there in the fading light of that strange dream!

Help us, dear God! So that we are not swept away! Away with all the other lost things, down there in that time of gnashing gears and particulate-storm hell that reminds us that we’re in the way, even as it chokes the life out of us!

Particle-Chamber experiments at the end of a forgotten hall—-poems dark and ghostly--it’s echoes combine & comingle with the unholy night-clang & dirge of the southern end of the city.
Fractured & flayed at the end of the hall amid dreams of the family and other lost things!

A blast of sunlight explodes against the plaster—illuminating strange hieroglyphs and causing phantom images to burst from the walls... back there in that lighted chamber on the rooftop! Another poem dark and dispersing in the cracked skies
The Late & Lamented Pastel Bennett Building—it sits back there still...
As fugitive colors and dissolving scenes trouble me on a lost afternoon
The awful toll that is taken from human flesh & soul as we are dragged through the days & nights, all against our will!

Endless days rotate out of existence as we stagger blindly through the pitched landscape...

Nassau Street in an unholy light:
Down the hill past John Street, and then Maiden Lane, and further on still, back down to ancient harbor-memory squall & cry of gulls and creak of rotting wood on a Sunday afternoon of gray concern and deep loneliness.
Down by the old harbor, transfixed by all things, old and new...

Journal of Dreams and Other Disreputable Things by an underground american:
Escaping rivulets of Fulton Street on a rainy morning in the bleak light of Absentia
Aphasiatic monks worship and chant from the gloom of Old Fulton Street
An echoing curse bounces off the old buildings down around Fulton Street where I stayed for a strange hour suspended between one thought and the next.
Complaints echo through the long-departed halls of the Bennett
Underground poems and antique concerns and cancelled appointments in an abandoned structure on top of the Bennett

Cartesian thoughts amid the empty bottles and detritus of last night’s revelry:
The dense and delirious rooftop garden of the Captain. A strange and ephemeral arboretum, now up-rooted and torn out forever! Along with everything else!
A palpable doom is in the toxic liver and kidneys breed fear in my mind and a black sea of ink floods in...

Many ghostly scenes of old-time Fulton come back to me at odd hours of the day
Poems dark and crepuscular
Paraphrased thoughts and holiday-stain memories project through the windows on the second floor of a building on Nassau street across from the great Repository. Now gone! One by one, the buildings and places that I knew and their co-responding dreams are rooted out and discarded.

I move silently and stealthily downhill along John Street on a clear and cold night, past store windows of aching regret, and stabbing loneliness—past rumor, and recanted pledge, past Old Dutch Street and the ancient church...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Perched on the Third Dot of the Ellipsis

A day called Friday, January 11, 2008, for no reason that I can ascertain...

An overcast & rainy mid-morning in the unforgiving city whose name can change
without warning.
Raindrops hang suspended in a vaporous light.
The days stretch across another meaningless page of the Journal named Thirty-Four
in a day-dream of Old Ditmas Park.
Spheres of Vast Discontent and watery disillusion cast their orbital shadows across a rancorous & repentant Calendar
The day slowly retreats across the page and it’s psychic imprint is pressed neatly between pale and parallel blue lines.

Now the rains come in earnest...

And I know that it must also be raining on the Fulton rooftop—up there where I gazed out at impossibly retreating afternoons in a lost daydream, retrievable now only through obscure incantations and watery prayer.
An obscure gloom & loneliness troubles me on the second floor overlooking Dorchester Road as the cars and trucks and buses push through the rain and on into oblivion...

Perched on the Third Dot of the Ellipsis:

The Great Cenotaph of Fulton Street, washed by the downpour, sighing & moaning softly in the dirge of the storm.
Raindrops hit pools of water as blurred reflections dance to the water-born rythms.

Ghostly Latitudes and Spidery Longitudes...

As a few pale lights are visible in the muted houses across the street.
And the waters must also run down the hill of Fulton Street as I record their progress from afar—in exile in a suburb of re-routed and strangely echoing thoughts and ruminations on memory.

The rains have bent my mind out of shape, or possibly into shape—who knows which?

And thusly in despair & desperation would I coax Neptune down out of it’s mighty orbit and onto the more easily-managed confines of my kitchen table and perform a decoction of that vast & terrifying planet, boiling it down for days on end and then siphoning-off it’s essence into a thimble-full of the rarest poison ever known to man and then hold the unspeakable liquid up to the light and swallow it with a hearty toast, and then dream like no man has ever dreamed before!

Unknown cities revolve around me in a vortex of fear & horror.

I throw back the shot into my gullet and toast the Heavens as it burns through my entrails:
The winds pick up immediately as the tree across the road bends almost to the ground as it is lashed by unimaginably ferocious gales! The windows give way and are sucked out into the maelstrom, then the walls are torn away and I am bourn into the Ammoniacal Skies! My first breath fills my lungs with the absurdly toxic atmosphere and my flesh dissolves and is torn to pieces by winds that no man will ever feel! My spirit is blown along into the vortex of Neptune’s storms, aloft on blue vapor, crackling with immense electrical currents and an as-yet-unidentified chromophore which gives the clouds their rich blue tint. Hydrogen and Helium are my companions in this mad ride around the vast planet:

Fire of Suns and Spray of Comets!
And Baleful Light from a Sickly Moon!
From Neptune’s great Cyclonic Storms
And Ammoniacal Oceans:
Dreams too Foul & Frightening to Recall!
Are Bourne on an Orpimental Hue:
Sinopia & Saturnine Red
and now Egyptian Blue...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Floods

Powell's Cove in the 1950's, as flood-waters rose and the tide came way in and almost up to our house...

I turn to the open window ...
... and it’s the view that I used to have from my old bedroom on the North side of the Old House, facing Powell’s Cove. The tide had risen up during the night, silently, calmly, without a ripple, till it had reached the side of our house, and then higher still—right up to the window’s ledge—impossible!— Gray, mirror-like, alluring, and leading out into a cove of preternatural stillness. It shimmered and beckoned with an aching seduction, as if all memories were held by this supernatural tide that sometimes crept up to my window unannounced, during the night. I look further out into the now-flooded Cove and can see the tips of the rotting and skeletal frames of the boats that had run aground ages ago, dark gray and black below the waterline and the tips bleached white where the oily waters could not reach: Markers and contemplative points of reference in this Cove of Lost Memory.
The morbid tides, on a sullen & sacrificial day, pull back, and reveal the carcasses of ships, the broken structures and spines — then back in again — full-tide swelling and filling up the Cove and covering these markers up almost to the bleached tips of the ancient masts & poles, rotting and disintegrating, year by year, ever so slowly, as time and weather and the relentless tides wear them down. Impossible, rickety structures of ancient walkways jut out onto the waters to shephard passengers into long-gone & forgotten vessels — bending crazily in one direction after another—now dangerous and forbidden. Death lurks all around these rotting skeletons — luring foolish schoolboys out onto their narrow and crooked paths, perched just above the mysterious waters that swirl & swell around them. Stories of unfortunate children who had crept out, further & further, hovering precariously just a few feet above the enticing water ... and tragedies alluded to amid averted glances & far-away looks and terrible warnings intoned by stern-faced aunts & uncles.
As I look out amid currents of lost connections and missed chances on that long-disappeared ocean known as Iapetus ...

...The memory of a young girl’s face arises from out of the vapors of that shimmering flood — with a watery look of faint recognition, and rippling echo of a lost song that is sung in her name. We share a moment of tender longing before her image evaporates in that strange Lithosphere of Exultation & Grief that hangs over this Lost Cove and she is born away forever on that ghostly tide. I know her! I remember... lost to me for so long—back there in that glimpse of ancient oceans! Too late now! Waters of Longing, and Second and Third Chances—all too late! They all live back there now—where I can only go in rare instances, and then only fleetingly—back there—on the Rheic Ocean that sometimes rises up to the very edge of the Old North window of my bedroom and beckons me out to Powell’s Cove on very early mornings of great fortune and unearthly promise!

This Cove has appeared to me in many forms:
Once, hideously drained of water and revealing the slick, oil and filth-covered walls with a terrifying black sheen covering everything: crumbled shells, fish skeletons, oil drums, tires, and nameless things ... and the horror of being in a place that no one should ever have to see: All the water sucked out of the harbor by
an unknown & unnatural phenomenon!

I stand on a bank of sand covered with patches of black grease and old tires and a million cracked and bleached shells all covered by the unspeakable black filth and oil. I am astonished at the sight of the harbor: all the water has been blown out of the cove — blasted or drained — who knew which? You could now walk out to the very center of the river bed — where ships used to pass — amid oil drums, fish skeletons and rotten planks. The unnatural scene fills me with fear and horror and I turn and stare at the greasy-black, slick sides of the Cove, rising up 20 feet on all sides— terrifying! Strange fish lie all around— precious, rare, and beautiful— flapping in death-throes—giant, flat, and circular-shaped deep-sea fish lie on their sides in shallow pools of silver, staring at the uncaring sky with their single, upturned eye. I grab the most beautiful fish and try to drag it to the safety of one of the deeper pools of water. It lies, half submerged in the shallow little pond—it’s marble eye rotating and wobbling in it’s socket. It stares at the sky and I can see glinting particles of golden light suspended in the great iris. It tries to speak to me but is too weak. It dissolves in front of my eyes, becoming flat and two-dimensional—merely a translucent decal wavering and undulating on the surface of the pool like some irridescent & ghostly flag. I cry as I stand over my lost friend and a terrible sadness comes over me as the white disk dissappears into the silver hues of the oily water. Lost to me!

And all the while: the great and mournful awareness of dreaming and a nameless grief born on ancient floodwaters ...

There is no way out of the harbor it seems. Dead & dying Horseshoe crabs litter the beach, stranded and upturned on their backs, their rows of small, black claws wriggling and flexing spasmodically. An ancient species, unchanged since the time when unnamed seas rocked and foamed upon unthinkable shores. Anger is in the air, and it’s somehow directed at me as I realize that I have transgressed and caused great harm.

I turn back amid patches of white sand, surrounded by filth & grease—black, oil-coated grass delineating forgotten pathways of childhood. Running among tall marsh-grass now—a foot above my head—their bleached & dried-out tassles undulating slowly in the disturbed air, as a sullen & unrepentant sky glares overhead. I am led down strange and unknowable paths, hither & thither, first this way, then that way ... pulled through ancient routes trampled crazily by long-departed and truant schoolboys through the impenetrable marsh ...

A large & imposing pool suddenly blocks my way through the trail: Protean, dark-green & brown, viscous and thick with algae, as sickly bubbles emerge from the depths and expire in the humid air. Black tadpoles dart in incomprehensible patterns amid hideous larvae as strange & terrible insects hatch, break through the surface with a hiss, and then fly into the poisonous air seeking receptive and unwary flesh. I see someone’s image reflected on the surface, but they are unknown to me. I leap over this Devonian hatchery and the translucent walls of yellow/tan marsh-grass propel me deeper into the labyrinth — the giant wavering tassles ceremoniously heralding my mad flight and then ...

...A huge commotion erupts only inches from my feet—a terrible, choked scream and frantic beating of wings as a pheasant is disturbed in it’s nest by my intrusion as the creature erupts from the yellow and tan thicket of grass and flies off, unsteadily, and improbably, into the air. Startled and shocked, I run through the interminable twists and turns of the path—watching for up-turned nails protruding from planks on the ground—too late!—
I feel the rusty nail pierce the bottom of my sneaker and into my foot. A sickening pain runs up through my foot and leg as I make my way out of the maze, and take the familiar left turn that should lead me home—but the path seems to go the wrong way. I am routed off into confusing and unknown streets and neighborhoods. I was never here before, but I remember hearing about the place from a classmate—ages ago—a section of town that was only a rumor, a word that cropped up once or twice during some forgotten conversation lost in the fading light of childhood ...I finally am able to make my way down a sloping and winding path that leads to the field at the edge of the Cove: The familiar cinder and gravel of that half-mile-long stretch of forgotteness that figured so prominently in my youth. Games were played here—symbols were inscribed laboriously into the ground—rules were established and obscure games commenced, known only to children ...

I hobble up the street to my Aunt & Uncle’s house at the top of the hill. Guilt floods up through my abdomen and mixes with the fear that is generated in the kidneys amid that strange alchemy that creates a steam that rises up through the center of the body along with potent vapors that flood into my head and erupt in hot tears ...

...A basin of boiling water is prepared and Epsom Salts are measured and stirred in. A kettle bubbles and whistles on the stove as I lower my foot into this strange body of water. “It has to be as hot as you can stand it!”, my Uncle announces. Pain jolts through my foot and up into my head, as all thoughts are obliterated by this scourging & scalding basin, leaving just a white light of shock & pain. I can feel the rust & poison being pulled out of my blood and marrow, sucked down through my wound and into this magnetic pool, and then through the wood floors of the old house that my grandfather built, and into the earth amid roots of great trees and strata of fossil-memory. I feel a dizziness and nausea as I stare drunkenly at the rocking and steaming waters as the vapors swirl around my head and blur the outlines of the family gathered around this somber & penitential ritual bath. Through the steam I can make out vague & unknown figures moving around on the other side of the room ...

Terrible stories of Lock-Jaw are recited around the steaming basin as the kettle continues it’s song and is periodically employed to keep the water at a near-boiling temperature. The fear of Lock-Jaw overcomes me as I imagine being unable to move my jaws or ever speak again!

The kettle pours again as the stories turn to myth and legend—of schoolboys left paralyzed and struck mute forever ...