Darkness

If I have a belief it’s in the darkness.
I feel safe in that pitiless vacuum.
I cannot see any thing, and the nothing that is cannot see me;
At least that’s the lie I tell myself.
Who knows what the other knows?
We talk and talk and talk…
But do we ever really hear the silence in one another?
And when we come together what then?
Aren’t we something else then, a part of that secret world,
A world only we share but no one else can know?
(Do we even know its secrets?) There’s always this opacity there
Just where you and I make contact. What is that?
Have we ever truly touched each other (not
flesh on flesh, the sensual tracings in the dark,
but that vital center where the flames reside?),
Or is it impossible to caress the darkness between us?

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Drifts

We need to unbind the spherical men,
Let them roll off into the dead lands
Where they can lose themselves
Among the white drifts merciless blanks;
The piercing blasts that hide the black sun.

Need we say what has been lost.
The cities where Ananke’s subtle limits bless;
Lays traps for those mortal liberators
(We’ve seen them come and go
Along that perilous way — )

Who cast their gaze inwardly.
(Do they see as we see?)
Else the measure of the heart
Is less than nothing,
Everything else remaining all we can know or be.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Flight

Moon-sleeper, night-walker,
Why do you hide among the bones?

Did you really think the old man in the tower
Could invoke the ancient powers of earth?

You cannot return to a world lost among its dreams.
Why do you stand there in the flames?

Sometimes there is no answer to wind…
Why do you fly then?

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Shadows & Light

The shadow of shadows falls
across the afternoon light as if
the time were earlier than it is,
a sifting of the dearth of leaves,
the twining of a season’s turning.

We labor under the illusion that shadows
hold us in translucency —
sun hawk rising, cresting the snow-glint heights
only to fall toward the white flow, a blur;
eyes golden beyond despair seeing what cannot be seen.

Does time shape the curvature of stars?
Impishly the cold blaze of flames smiles
against such thoughts as these;
broken promises that seem amiss
shadowing us as the sea’s light drifts beyond human forfeiture.

But do not be too harsh on her
who came back with these dark anemones:
tears for a final shadow loosening
earth from the glimpse of past wrong:
a lover’s eyes glimpsed in the shadows darkening swerve.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

A Curse or Blessing?

“Your young men will see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”
—Joel 2:28

Past lives haunt me in old age.
Last night I woke up smelling blood,
Combat and agon riddling my head.
Dark days of war, the clash of steel.
Mead halls full of brash young men,
Bitter words and strong drink,
Hands clasped in friendship and valor;
Eyes crossing old foes and elders.

For years I slept like the dead: dreamless.
But now in fits and starts, awakenings,
Horrors grasp my mind, violent days,
Nights hollowed out, ancestral curses,
Unfinished business, bones rattling
Darkened lairs of shadows and murmurs;
Unbidden rituals of murderous intent,
Where men are broken in anguish and misery.
I sometimes wonder who and what I am;
Such worlds returning now to curse or bless.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Lies Never End

Have you felt that desperation of heart?
You know what I mean. When nothing
One says or does changes things;
Only the pain remains, the memory of defeat.
We’ve all been their, right? Especially you.
It’s a look in the eye, a rejection;
A softening of the lips, the turn of the head
As it shifts toward absence; the silence
One is given even when there is so much noise.
Don’t tell me you haven’t felt it. You’d be a liar.
The others always seem to know something you do not.
Why is that? Why do they stare bullet holes in your skull,
Only to turn their deadly gaze away
Challenging their eyes with a curse.
If they care so much why do they pretend otherwise.
You’ve been there, you know the truth…  will the lies ever end?

©2021 S.C. Hickman

The Red Stain

Even now the saurian gaze of his stone cold eyes
Reflects neither the slate tinted sky nor my green mind;
Silent in this stark wilderness, windless rubbings 
Of a scree slide petroglyph’s alien codes forestalls
All confusion between his red threaded tongue 
And my peckish appetite, a tremor vibrating
Through us freeing our intemperate stares 
(Balance of a life hanging
       down…) toward the red stained 
             Sunset

bleeding…

©2021 S.C. Hickman

The Ventriloquist’s Art

“Being a ventriloquist is a lot of fun.” —Jon Padgett, The Secret of Ventriloquism

It moved. Sightless, thoughtless. The wooden armature
Among the fabricated twists and bends, the painted
Lips and hair, the floppy hat, the elongated nose,
The red glitter of shoes: all moved. Self-propelled
Among lifeless wood attached neither by cables
Nor the Puppeteer’s grand schemes of trickery;
A hunk of carved monstrosity, the terror of the corpse
Alive to the inner thrust of dust, the fluid vitality
Animated by its own trifling need to be, and to be free:

             Spoke! 

The man, if man it could be called, sat silently
As the living wood arranged itself, mimicking
The rigid lifelessness of the man thing — a secret
Complicity between man and wood, ties of strangeness:
A composure of tension subservient to will and power,
A confrontation with the fatalistic art of defiance.
Each unwilling to give way to the other’s will,
The subtle dance of eye and eye channeling
Some well-learned but hidden mystery, a quickening.

The mouth’s aperture, an abyss within which one is lost,
The caustic wit that supervenes between two dead things;
Man and wood, an art that calls both to the dark world,
Where voice and mind seem relative to unbidden relations.
A practice sets the crooked lips which moving hint of cynical forays,
Time’s carnival opening on to broken harbingers of uncanniness.
The tribe of daemons inhabiting neither man nor wood
Take up their positions in-between both, like clowns
Awaiting the Ringmaster’s voice — the act arising of its own accord.

Before words can flow the beginner’s alphabet must
Surface through those wooden lips till each nuance
Binds the machinic wisdom of those crafted traceries:
The ornate obligations that stoop to bend lip and hand;
Fragmented churnings assuring practice of an ancient kind
Welds man and wood to the known paths of illusion’s fakery.
Shape those letters to the air where the ancient throng
Bestir themselves awaiting incarnation in the chance meeting
Between wood and man following the oldest form of magick.
Delusions skein coiled round the lips that speak, a voicing
Only poets know and are known by as if the world and time
Offered all a chance remembrance of the awakening into catastrophe.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Night’s Changelings

Day by day the cracked earth stings,
lips chapped to the sun’s unslaked fiends;
step to step sounding the gray dawn,
circling furrows in a vicious crawl.

Eyes strain against the heat, the fake light
hovering in illusive trailing’s of a rich man’s life;
a semblance of paradise, not the grasping whirl,
a dust wall presaging terror in a knot of icy fire.

Red gasps at end of day, twilight’s reign 
where two worlds shake the inlaid chest;
the silver on the winged cloud lies of change,
where only now the confused cry of a lone hawk fell.

He lays there listening, night’s changeling
rifting paradise of its last silences: a voice
breaks free in the emptiness: a drifter’s mirage,
oak-born owls swinging branch-wise against his mind.

©2021 S.C. HIckman

Chasing Devils In Our Wine

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.”
― Ernest Hemingway

Maybe it was best this way. Not belonging.
Not having a home, a place to rest my head.
City after city, job after job, a life alone, roaming…

Never did fit in with the crowd. Tried. Never worked.
Like my mind was cracked. Touched by some unpleasantness.
Kept thinking it would pass. It didn’t. Nothing ever does.

Yet, I was not alone. There were others like me. Nomads.
We’d come together in the night, stalking nightmares we deny.
Bars and lonely women empty as we were and are. Endless.

Maybe we are already dead. Is this the end of it?
Lining the tunnels with our cardboard lives, chasing devils
In our wine. There is no solace in this bitterness. No pity either.

Why rage against the night? What would it do? The stars
Are mindless as we are, indifferent to our plight. We live,
We die. That is all. Stubbornness our only recourse against sincerity.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Wisdom Chaser

Will you trade words, earth wanderer? Know the dark ways
that harry a man down, squander resources, break minds
beyond hope; mix words, riddle the stars,
curse the very land that wastes all. Speak, brother

of the leaf and wind, rock and sea, let them see what is –
eye-spent drifter without hearth or kith. Can you read
the signs, break bread among the warring tribes, teach
children the natural ways; bring back the wisdom

of the deep seas grace. Why trouble the sky
with your lies? Speak plainly, cunning one, else walk away
into the darkness of your kind. Trouble not the elders,
nor the little ones who must survive. Would you learn the lore?

Know loss beyond redemption? Enter the bloody fray
where brave and coward alike fall before the ancient truth?
Then follow the taloned pride of the Eagle to his rocky lair,
the night-winged Owl as she stalks the moonless realms;

know the language of deer and panther in their innocence. 
Unlearn hatred, walk free of spite and terror alike. Cast
your eyes against the broken ways. Give us back the face
you had before the cry of flesh and a woman’s death.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Oedipal Bastards Like Us

Oedipal bastards like us deserve our fate.
Bitter days in blind disgust. Old men’s memories
Haunting us like a woman’s spiteful curse.
Mangy as a dying dog he wanders between bed and bowl.

He used to be fit and thin, a stubborn man,
Solitaire but not alone; neither clown nor killer
He stalked my nights a ghost, a suicide.
Pain pricks us into thought whether we will or no.

The crossroads always signified a terrible destiny.
The shotgun spent, his skull unpacked,
The world went dark, and silent. Even now
His eyes are blank, the hollows black and lonely.

All his life he’d sought paradise, failing that
He’d plunged his mind beyond all telling, fallen
Now beyond redemption, a shadow walker.
Suffering has no sense, just silence, lost in darkness.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Night’s Carnival

The sun cannot repair the damage of the night,
The silences between your smile and mine;
The focus of our desperate thoughts and dreams,
The shattered wisdom of our ancient sapience;
For now we dance upon a field of tears
In the twilight of this age of dust;
Two deadly members of that hated race,
Dismembering our blasted world of rage.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

The Vicious Circle

Old bones still twist him back to day,
Her smile, dismissive, finds him young again;
A stubborn fool whose memories bode ill-health:
“Who is he to turn away these bright bolts that slay?”

He’d have it other than it is, but knows how fiercely she asserts
Her sovereign will, challenging all her lovers;
An agon beyond truce – love’s honor the only prize:
Shadowed by the witchery of her ancient curse.

Coldness be my steel against her evil spell,
For I have need of Ananke’s broken shield;
I seek dark blessings worth their deadly tally:
Life, this life, repeated till the vicious circle closes, still and silent.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Tattoo Apocalypse

Tattoo’s appeared. Curious he let it go on.
Flesh moving with a serpent’s coils across his abdomen.
The clown’s eye opened on an ancient tower curled round his neck,

Where the monkey man swung upon the vine turning
And turning into a woman’s scream upon his buttocks. 
The story of the world slowly unfolded. The barcodes of a sex toy

Erased the history of the Renaissance. No one knows why
But the island sank, and some surmise it was the bad ink
That dripped into his veins when the open sea of sores popped on his nose.

He offered her a dream voyage into the mystery of his primal rage,
But she knew better than to follow him into that rising sun’s bloody haze.
The world is fading now, turning gray. The prospects of change have changed.

Travel agents have bargained with him for new destinations.
The edgelands of his bony scalp have thickened to the storm of memories now.
Even the arresting officer commented on the weather patterns

Drifting on the sea of his cracked skull. At the funeral the tattoos started fading.
So too did the landscapes of our earthly life. Now a uniform darkness covers all.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Midnight Rendezvous

We walked along the edge of night
like lovers seeking some secret destination —

the slow pace, the glances; kisses,
eyes crossing under the street lamps.

The quickened pace in the rain, surprise:
forcing us to cling in the wind’s sad motion.

Even at the corner, in the dark of that alleyway,
knowing as we know and are known —

emptied of the pain, memories;
we touched and it was too much, reluctant…

reaching at last the place of light
and darkness, our midnight rendezvous.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

This is no time to sleep…

Capture2

This is no time to sleep   death
Will come soon enough, but not now;
No now we must stay awake, listen
And voice our concern. The best
Have already passed by, no return
From the country of the blind. But I hear them whispering
Like those leaves that shatter the morning light. 
Maybe it’s better this way, a difficult gesture 
Whose confusion keeps us asking for more
       life.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

She Sang Me Into Light

I’ve been searching for her all my life.
Under the deathly lights of this black night,
Even as the mists turn white before the sea’s cold foam,
I feel her presence somewhere ahead. She said she’d stop
And wait for me between the darkening sands and the moon born sea.  

I hear her mocking voice who would lead astray. Whispers… wastrels!
Her fierce cry breaks across blank skies where nothing is.
I peer into the wet mesh, faceless as the morning sun I can barely see.
Her voice held me in its power, my mind locked to the sea’s enfolding savagery.
I could not move and yet I moved as she sang me into light.

©2021 S.C. Hickman

Blind

i am a blind man which way shall i go
crossing

is this the valley where the bones stitch themselves whole
falling forward

touching her flesh brings nothing back but nothing
rushing

funnel me down step by step until i’m wet with the last wave
collapsing

staring into that warmth burning in my sockets i know
emergence

sluiced it rises to meet what is at last
birthing


S.C. Hickman ©2021

the lingering

death is always lingering in the air
the hoofprints of another always vanishing

and we like wounded deer follow the scent
knowing we will be edged into judgment

no one can speak to those moments
the solitary agon of desperate thoughts failing

in that darkness where even ghosts lose themselves
we find her laying there in a pool of blood

we would like to meld our mind to hers
know what she knows as the last thought leaves


S.C. Hickman ©2021

Bones of the Earth

the bones of the earth have lost their luster
no one left to acknowledge their light

even the rust colludes with the chemical death of giants
somber eyes sinking into black holes lifeless fold into this darkness

it is expected that the weather will change
even now the dead oceans churn to a slow forgetfulness

what will rise out of this ash to sing
when the day is long and nothing remains but these blanched sheaves


S.C. Hickman ©2021

The Light of Nihil

The cold embrasure of the sea,
The taste of brine laced flesh;
Death’s embattled forfeiture,
Giving way to Love’s dark histories;
Where tomb fed birthings rise,
And night gaunts cross black stars.
Sweet the fanged necessities
That hold us dearly to the departed,
Whose memories like honeyed languishments
Distill in us the bitter pangs of gravitas.
Slow the day that suckles us in its darkness,
The slippage seeping of the grave’s hollow soundings;
For here amid the sleepers walk the knowing ones,
Who from their heights fall to raise such light as this.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2019

Poem of the Lost Despair

The broken years that fester in my now’s,
The lost reasons that silent pave my lives;
The calendars of melancholy nights, distilling
All the sorrows that hang upon my brow
Like hemlock dreams; insomniac wafting’s.
Lost, lost among the darkened worlds, gone
Among the listless memories that uncreated
Weave the measure of my heart’s despair;
City of ten thousand days and nights,
Glory of the undying kingdoms of Intarii Prime,
Where is she now my city of lost despair?
Lost, lost among the darkened worlds…

—Princess Sejik’s Book of Black Remembrances


—S.C. Hickman ©2019 (Part of an ongoing Darkgrim Fantasy Epic)

Abducting the Negative

To have known the disappearance of things with each breath,
with each step the languor of a lost thought;
time’s mixed bag of indefinites, the mobile shifting of labor’s pressure,
twisted ropes of a suicide’s note, calibrated engines of non-being.

Decreating the last thread of this perception, abducting the negative.

 


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2019 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

In the absence of love…

“Tears do not burn except in solitude.”
― Emil Cioran, On the Heights of Despair

I felt you touch me softly
in the night

the silence of your breath
reaching across the chasm of my sleeping ear

awakened I reached out for your absence


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2020 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Thomas Ligotti’s Death Poems: A Commentary #1

Here You Go

Death is frightening,
and dying just as bad.
Say what you will,
we don’t take it well.
Then how can we live,
with all that ahead?
Something must be
fooling us constantly.
Our brains are tricked
so that we don’t believe,
for whatever reason,
we won’t go on and on.
Our thoughts are clouded
so that we can’t conceive
the exact process
that’s waiting for us.
Or perhaps we think that
when the moment comes
someone else will arrive
to take over—we’ll survive.
Where logic is concerned,
we’re all thumbs.
How couldn’t we know
we were born to go?

Ligotti in an interview would say of Nabokov,

Continue reading

Subtraction

If only it were that easy.
The slow erasure, subtraction:
Layer by layer, the onion of the cosmos
Peeled back from skin to kernel,
Till all that is left is a knot of nothingness.

But would this truly get at that inhuman core?

What if we know too much,
The very horror of consciousness itself
Being the thing that we cannot subtract, only minimize;
Isolating those delicate illusions that keep us confined,
Anchoring us to those well used tropes, fictions;
Distracting us with their promise of entertainment;
Till we carefully peruse the latest seduction
As if it were a sublime necessity, a calculated effort.

Would we be able to subtract ourselves from such blind worlds?

If I could subtract this very sentence, this thought, this life…
What would that accomplish? Am I a tissue of light,
Words on the screen of night; syllables of some forgotten language of the Mind?


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2019 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

The Lost Cause

There is a place
that even dreams dare not go,
a vast labyrinth
where winds blow cold;
a time within time,
where thought still flows;
and the desperate mind unbinds
a broken world’s lost cause.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2019 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Even As Night Comes

Even as night comes and darkness folds its black wings across the earth
I feel that pull down among the secret hollows,
the enfolding hands of willows bending, swaying;
a breeze flowing round the mounds and rocks,
the waters of the waters sinking out of sight;
stars blinking into those darkening shoals,
while the afterglow of that ancient star
filters the last remnants of those twilight hues…

Sitting here amid my ruins, memories and silences.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2019 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

I Turn Away To Shadows

 

I turn away to shadows formed
across this jagged world of storms,
where mountain bones jut up
hungered by the day’s long sun—

it’s cold eye bleeding down
like some old malformed thing;
unblinking, distant— alone.
Unknowing of its destiny

it moves to hidden forces;
and they alone shape
formless horrors in the mind;
seductions from some other clime.

Back to earth’s green tomb
it all goes unnoticed as it should,
the pulsing life of each broken thing:
striving, warring, moving round;

each unknowing of the other’s wound,
each unfolding in a dreamless  sleep;
till night, moon, stars, and time
revolve within this darkness without sound.


– Steven Craig Hickman ©2019 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Bone Turned Stone

There is nothing forgiving here
but stones and wind,
and they have no prayers;
just the bleak truth of emptiness
and a great void.

People bypass this strange mass
of stone, unknowing of its past,
when oceans massed the great heights,
and sands beached the whales dark plight;
for this is the place of the nameless dead,
mighty sea-wanderers who long fled
below these dark skies, now exposed
on this bright peak like white bleeders
on the run, their white-capped runners
spewing foam.

This is no children’s tale, no human gazed
upon this marred gnarl of twisted pain:
formlessness displayed, and living flesh calcified.
Time, the giver and taker who never blinks,
always sees fraught this bare scene in dark days.
I’d come here with a friend, unbelieving
in such things, till gaze shot home —
bones turned stone in these snarled-toothed ghosts.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2019 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Mark Strand: Darkening to Darkening

When The Vacation Is Over For Good

It will be strange
Knowing at last it couldn’t go on forever,
The certain voice telling us over and over
That nothing would change,

And remembering too,
Because by then it will all be done with, the way
Things were, and how we had wasted time as though
There was nothing to do,

When, in a flash
The weather turned, and the lofty air became
Unbearably heavy, the wind strikingly dumb
And our cities like ash,

And knowing also,
What we never suspected, that it was something like summer
At its most august except that the nights were warmer
And the clouds seemed to glow,

And even then,
Because we will not have changed much, wondering what
Will become of things, and who will be left to do it
All over again,

And somehow trying,
But still unable, to know just what it was
That went so completely wrong, or why it is
We are dying.

—Mark Strand, Collected Poems


Reading this poem again by Mark Strand I’m reminded of our darkening world as it begins to decay into ruinous waste at the hands of its most destructive child, humanity. If ever there were a time that needed change it is ours, and yet I, too, as Strand above seek it and yet do not find it. Instead the change is not of human making other than the destruction we’ve invented and perpetrated upon the earth, source and resource of all we are have been. Humans are a stain upon the face of earth, and like other non-human creatures that have come and gone we too inevitably will enter that abyss from which there is no return. As John David Ebert in The Age of Catastrophe: Disaster and Humanity in Modern Times reminds us,

The present conquest of the earth by these cosmotechnologies facilitated and realized by governments and multinational corporations is the inevitable outcome of those first principles that were constitutive parts of a World Picture in which the earth becomes the plaything of human beings using the spark of God to help them conquer it.

That we have become mere spectators in a spectacle of chaos and ruin is apparent to many, and yet the rich and their minions across the planet seek only to aggravate this accelerating process through reliance of advanced hypertechnological systems that are becoming more and more autonomous and beyond human control. As climate change and catastrophe become all to apparent within a few decades we will see a world slowly dying before our eyes, see mass migrations from the heat belts where thermal inertia and heat death rule. As Paul Virilio has written:

The twenty-first century will be the century of mass migrations. A billion people  will move. The whole world situation will be disrupted. Disrupted by the crisis in localization. The old societies were connected to a territory, a native land. Today they’re adrift due to the delocalization of jobs and never-ending conflicts. There is also, clearly, the major issue of climate: the disappearance of archipelagoes, submersion of coastlines. This means all of history is on the move again. All of history is taking to the road. A billion people moving over half a century -that’s never been seen before… It’s almost as though the sky, and the clouds in it, and the pollution of it, were making their entry into history.

—Native Land – Stop Eject

As the oceans seep in from the dark, as the cities drift below the sullen green waves, as humans seek out the last vetiges of dry land and the mountainous caverns of sky and stars the final decolonization of the earth will begin.

A dark and private weather settles down on everything. It is colder and the dreams wither away.

—Mark Strand, The Man In The Mirror

Maybe the earth like a young mother will mourn the passing of her children, wander among the stars silent and alone, given over to the simplicity of tears where the travails of light break across the dark like whispers of a forgotten thought.

We have done what we wanted. We have discarded dreams, preferring the heavy industry of each other, and we have welcomed grief and called ruin the impossible habit to break.

—Mark Strand, Coming To This

Like automatons assuming our endless tasks we have accrued the last remnants of profit from the dead in their dead worlds. The void will not give up its dead for they have no need of us nor of the nothingness we are. Children of habit we do not know, we do not see, we do not hear the tolling bell of time ringing upon the last dawn’s horizon. Mindless we have allowed our bodies to enter the servitude of dead men, sleepers of time who will vanish without return.

…there is the sleep that demands I lie down and be fitted to the dark that comes upon me like another skin in which I shall never be found, out of which I shall never appear.

—Mark Strand, The Sleep

In the end nothing will remain. The mirrored world of thought dispersed. The erosion of all we’ve been and could broken. Silence alone will remain. Who will inherit the earth? Bones.

Everything dims. The future is not what it used to be. The graves are ready. The dead shall inherit the dead.

—Mark Strand, The Way It Is

Did you really think it would be different? All this bleakness and ruin and chaos and darkness other than it is and will be on a planet growing long and cold and indifferent.