The night we met Dr. Lovecraft the sky was a velvet
vortex of rotating constellations, the half-moons of Kadath bright through jade tessellations in the air. And the old gods wakened
as we strolled the gold streets, the fair
crowded with gem-dealers (their hundred-colored stones
like handfuls of sweets);
walked the perfumed plazas of Al-Kazar
(We’re the Caliph of Al-Kazar),
(the City of A Thousand-Thousand Wine-Fountains)
south of Ulthar,
going past wizards swallowing swords and snakes
(adepts creating snakes and swords), and past high
garden walls of ancient stone that wore meshes
of carnivorous ivy, behind which giant globes
of moisture dripped from impossibly tall prehistoric trees
(We’re the Season of the Green Rains)
(We’re the Wind of the 40 Days)(the Khamsin). Going past the brothels we saw smiling
beguiling girls dancing barefoot in silks and veils,
(their bejeweled mothers in veils alone) snap-clapping finger-cymbals,
taunting the vintners, the glass-blowers, ostlers, the carvers of bone;
sellers of mead and meat-pies, and the pourers of ales in the taverns
where the loud sea-raiders, on leave
with the month-long moonsrise, dead from hoisting sails, drank away the spell of the waves
(some, the memory of waiting wives). Traders with baskets and trinkets and slaves,
the commerce of human lives.
We paused at the carved obsidian sea-wall to wait, admiring
the razorblade sunset slicing neatly the stately
Cthonian ships just returning from the moons,
gliding on their ebony wax-wing pontoons,
performing their legendary water-strider landing
(we’re allowed to observe, being Alumni in Good Standing).
We met the good doctor round the next bend, but our friend
Alhazred had fallen behind us, and devils (not demons,
that’s a mis-translation. We would know: we’re the finders of the Pnakotic Manuscripts)
(of the Younghusband Papers)
(of the R’lyeh Fragments) kept him occupied (occupied him).
You saw energy crackle in the air all about him.
(To think: there were those who dared doubt him).
Despite his quite vocal protests they coaxed him
into someplace resembling an ‘otherside’ (elsewhere called an ‘afterlife’) and took his book
back to Hell where it belonged. That dark knowledge
for which he’d so longed; he’d been so very terrified of being wronged;
he’d be quite alive had he left it where it hung.
(we’re the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young)
(we’re the unknown parcel in a nest of spies)
(we’re that which is not dead; which, eternal, lies).
Residing (for now) in southeastern Minnesota, Russ Paladin is Church Sexton and Sunday School Teacher at a small historic cathedral, where he plays hard rock music, watches old monster movies, and seeks out beauty in all its many guises. He will read anything that holds his interest.