The poet stares at the blank sheet of paper
looking like a soldier,
with his eyes glazed over and fixed
in a thousand-yard stare

The sweat drips from his knotted brow and
leaves stains on what once was emptiness
His hands have tightened into clenched fists
and his breath seems labored and stale

How many hours, how many days
has he been sitting there waiting?
Waiting for an idea, waiting for something,
anything, to commit to the page

To the poet, the concept of time
has lost all meaning
To him, the sweep of the second hand
might well take centuries

He wonders if he can feel his own
blood slowing as it moves through his veins
and as his thoughts become more random
and fractured

His bones stiffen but he can’t feel the ache,
his eyes close and the brightness of the blank page
is replaced by nothing but silence and darkness
and he does not go to the light

He feels nothing when he is discovered
slumped over his desk
his skin mottled and blue in places
where his life’s blood has settled

He feels nothing when he is first dissected
and then later lowered into the ground.
The dirt that surrounds him is neither hot nor cold,
it remains just dirt

Upon discovering the poet,
the worm feels nothing but instinct and hunger
and the need to exist is stronger
than that of the need to die

The worm remains by the poet's side
and is reluctant to leave his prize
He creates another generation of worms that will do the same
to another generations of poets that are sure to come.

Cut of clod and slap of earth,
Faint rhythm on my oaken drum.
With slack lungs that hold no breath,
I pray with might for death to come.

Though my heart beat cannot quicken,
To my horror something’s come;
Silent crawling undulation,
In me content to make a home.


A slow glimpse beneath closed lashes
The worm lifts its finger-tongue.
Staring face to face with blindness
I understand what is to come.


I imagine in him sense and purpose,
And give the worm speech of its own.
“I am here as God’s mistress-
Condemn me not: this work must be done.”


“Your soul is rotten, vile wordsmith,
You could have magnified His throne,
Instead you filled the world with filth,
Now for you, your curse has come.”


“One thousand days of this slow torture
My kind and I will work your tomb.
But when you are once more with nature
Your soul shall once more be free to roam.”


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 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.

i was the worm
snatched from its dew-laden pasture
as others were trampled in the wan glow of a waning quarter moon.

i was the worm
thrown among a blind and faceless throng
in a cardboard shanty,
at the foot of an incipient mudslide,

forced to make its bed in excrement and litter,
to make its diet of mercury and lead,
to efface its anger with the glue used
to repair the shoes of those with feet
and hands that look like bowls of money.

i was the worm
shaken from its fever dreams and laid out in the bare light of dawn,
squeezed in two by calloused fingers, cast
in vomit and fear, its own excrement
its own litter.

i feel myself falling away. i feel
the plunge of cold tempered cruelty.

i am not the cat
with her nine chances at life. oh, but i have heart—

heart enough to crawl through sawdust even as i dangle,
breathlessly from my branch,
baiting dogs and resentful swine into desperate acts of violence.

look at me.

there is poetry in the sidelong glance of destiny,
in the flick of the wrist, and the sinuous flow of line,
in the tiny splash as i sink.
Viral perpetration of the accepted rites, swill to flow out from the bottle and spit to flow back in. The worm remains at the bottom.  Cares to be cast out with the demons and the space created henceforth shall be the seat of discontent. Said he, "I miss my sin. I send remittance to satan with each breath, razor underneath my tongue in case I should run across jesus again." In the joint, he pulls a wishbone with his jailers on thanksgiving. Gets the short end of the stick and stuck out a month in solitary. It's hard not to stick out when yr the only one there, but the floor is earth and vermin are like unto me.  In medieval france every castle had an 'oubliette.' As is the case with most words, this one comes from another--"Oublier." To forget. They put you there and forgot about you. Most likely you slept, if you slept at all, on a pile of mouldering bones. I remember them as a particularly uncomfortable bed; to the vermin bed and occupant are one and the same feast.

"Tell me truly," sez he upon his return to the world, "Am I forgotten?" Runs the silent gauntlet as no one interferes as he walks straight out the prison as he crosses the dead-grass hangdog yard and the football game does not stop--a clod fresh from the kickoff flies over his head--as he passes sleepy guards at rusting gates as he treads for what could have been the first time upon a dusty road as a bus passes and does not slow down. So he continues to walk. Walks until the shoes with which he entered prison (conveniently left outside his cell door as he also left, without a word in either case) begin to fray and at this time he imagines that it would be fitting if snow began to fall. But no one is listening and there is no snow. Not even rain; it was his second choice since he feels he could use a shower. Walks until the shoes have fallen off and as they do he reaches a bar. "Garbage in, garbage out" he thinks, also thinking that garbage would be better than nothing as a thing to get out of life.  Thinks of his position at the bottom of a hole, of a bottle, of an infernal pecking order.  Thinks of a world of hungry birds and unprotected nightcrawlers after a heavy rain.  But there was no rain.  He continues to burrow towards solace and safety.  Silence and anonymity may be blessings here.

A felon walks into a bar. Silence resounds and he asks, the first he's spoken freely in six (don't ask why six, it just seemed like the right number) in six in six in six in six in six years he asks, "What? Did somebody tell a bad joke?"  Confronted with stares.  No voices.  Worms' only pockets are of earth and do not contain the likes of keys and cash.  Worms get no free drinks, even when they have just crawled out of prison.

The worm won.

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