Night of the Unread
Moonlight slashes crumbling brickwork,
Dirt-smeared roofs and old cement;
Fall's cold winds disturb the night-murk,
'Round a warehouse tired and spent
Dead leaves dance with desperation
(Winter's drawing nigh)
Cracked window panes an invitation
To any breeze that's blowing by.
Inside lie scores of pulpy dead,
Remaindered fiction, stripped.
Un-bought, unsold, unloved, unread,
By more modern works eclipsed.
Covers torn off, sent back only
For the refund price
Authors' children, bleeding, lonely
Corpses worried at by mice.
Untapped sheaves of strange imaginings
Scattered in a careless arc;
Rustling in the wind that fall brings
As bonfire leaves that wait a spark.
A spear of moonbeam through a skylight
Hits a stack of books below
A page picked out as by a searchlight:
The Conqueror Worm by E.A. Poe.
A sharp gust and the pages flutter
As though a ghost paused to peruse;
An eldritch spark runs up the gutter
Fruit of Poe's forgotten muse.
Called from some arcane dimension -
Summoned to take form
A frisson of dramatic tension!
Comes the Conqueror Worm!
Demon Muse-child! Fanged and taloned!
Taking shape in gloom
Dagger-clawed and scale-medallioned!
A horrid birth-cry shakes the room.
Turning on the books that beckoned,
It cracks their spines, on leaves to feed.
More corporeal by the second,
It reaches out to slake its need.
Works of Strieber, Koontz, and King
Consumed to reinforce its might.
Angels cringe to see the Thing,
Spawn of evil, rot, and night.
All's ingested, yet the worm stays,
Tethered to its place of birth.
The angels cry out words of great praise.
It can't break free to plague the Earth!
The creature wails! It howls! It rages!
Scrapes its claws across the floor!
Child of one hundred thousand pages,
Needing just one hundred more.
Dawn's clear light will bring its ending,
Dispel the beast angels abhor.
Abort this Hell-begotten sending -
Wait! There swings the warehouse door!
A watchman makes his way inside,
Drawn by the noise or mayhap Fate.
A book in his back pocket's spied,
The creature doesn't hesitate!
In a flash the beast's astride him,
Grabs him up and swallows whole.
Rends him flesh and bone and limb!
(Regurgitates his startled soul)
This now completes the summoning!
The angels cry anew in woe.
The book, pink with gold lettering,
Adjoining Straub, Milton, and Poe.
Completed now, it rears to cry
A ghastly challenge to our Sphere!
Instead, sharp pain beclouds its eye.
It whimpers in its pain and fear.
The creature feels a tremor in
Its mighty literary thews.
One angel rises up and grins!
"Oh cherubim! Attend my news!
The fetid worm has erred indeed
As it will soon discover!
For in its haste it failed to read
That last book's gaudy cover."
Behold! As bones of Koontz and Blake,
Vertebrae of Poe and Milton,
Twist cruelly from the beast's mistake:
'Selected Poems by Paris Hilton'
The cries of agonized distress
Diminishing as pages peel
Away from fast-dissolving flesh,
The monster ceases to be real.
The watchman's soul is taken high,
By angels to a better place.
As morning's sun ascends the sky,
Of the beast there is no trace.
Let forth the cry throughout the land,
Celebrate with flags unfurled!
A modern miracle's at hand!
Paris Hilton Saves the World!
An original poem by the author, written for The Poet and the Worm and The Night's Plutonian Shore on everything2.com. Edgar Allan Poe's The Conqueror Worm inspired the creature, and Poe's The Haunted Palace provided a metrical model for this poem. The celebutante's book of poetry is, insofar as this author is aware, fictional.