Ian Stewart Black

Modern master of classical poetry

Seclusion

A maelstrom rages at the centre of my being,
And the mausoleums of the vanquished quake;
The reign of chaos sends my better angels fleeing
As forgotten devils in their tombs awake.
Some hellish sorcery avails, the seal is broken:
There is nothing left to stem the dreaded flood;
Whatever I once was, I now retain no token:
Doubtless, all is lost amid the tide of blood.
The Sorrow whispers to the wounded, its seduction
Apt to still the voice of any who decry;
My own relentless soul assents to self-destruction,
And the world hears nothing but a midnight sigh.

My dearest allies fall from favour, some delusion
Preys upon the virtues nature made my own;
A spectral vestige left to wither in seclusion,
I descend into adversity alone.
As pain and beauty pass beyond distinction, whether
By a mind’s emancipation or decline,
No longer may I claim the strength of will to tether
Thrashing horrors none would recognise as mine.
Upon a vacant throne there sits a crown surrendered,
Thus to exile is a broken king resigned;
Bereft of honour, stripped of sovereignty, and rendered
Low: adrift upon the waters of his mind.

Assailed by cherished hopes of old – the now fragmented
Flourishes of bitter memory that ache
As only all-consuming love – a long lamented
Innocence that life has smothered in its wake.
The gossamer conceit of self descends in splinters,
Raining doubt on all I struggle to appear;
I faded with the warm caress of tears in winter,
Even now I hold you on the windswept pier.
And still I see and feel and taste your hallowed essence;
Still I bask in your resplendence as the dawn;
And still I mourn your loving smile in evanescence;
Still I cry for us – both you and I are gone.

Perhaps too perfectly for truth I yet remember
How your jaded eyes outshone a falling star
The night we buried deep our one remaining ember
In that lonesome corner of the reservoir.
Where memory affects the colours of illusion,
There I labour under frail humanity;
But nothing seems more real to me than this collusion
Of an ailing mind with its insanity.
Depression harbours more of me than my reflection,
Wanders freely through the gardens of my soul,
And casts its shadow on my every recollection,
Daily waging war against my self-control.

Repugnant snarls of savagery are echoed loudly
To the farthest reaches of the battlefield,
To call upon the one whose scars are carried proudly
In defiance of the foe that bid him kneel.
The Samurai will meet his own annihilation
With a headlong surge into the hands of fate;
And as The Sorrow seeks to bind him in damnation,
Still he quickens: retribution cannot wait.
And so he charges into battle unencumbered
By dismay, for there is honour in his plight;
Whatever comes to pass, we all shall one day slumber
In the shade of leaves – until that day, we fight.

Alas, we forge our futures in the fire of anguish,
Better knowing who we are in times of peace;
And in such horrid days as these, if we should languish,
This eclipse of all we love shall never cease.
Therefore we take up arms to prove ourselves defiant
When the soundness of our strength is most unsure;
Upon resolve alone is destiny reliant:
Though perdition burns within us, we endure.
Although our lives are given to the whims of madness,
I will not believe we suffer it in vain;
In rising from the depths of such abysmal sadness,
We are stronger for the measure of our pain.

Beautiful Night

Autumnal leaves of sycamore,
Perhaps the pinnacle of nature,
Meekly strewn in perfect disarray
To gild a world of great indifference;
Yearly trampled underfoot,
A marker of the tide.

Dim beneath the royal starlight
Strained through drifting wisps of cloud;
The rain surmounts the fallen leaves,
And solemn city streets uphold
A mirror to the heavens.

All is still, and all is silent,
Save for the interminable ebb
Of a young man growing old;
The royal starlight only serves
To light the long road home.

Reverence

I look at you and know that poetry
will not avail; the art is nothing more
than vulgar words in weathered verse, unfit
to replicate your sacred energy.

What tongue could hold the fundamental truth
of my desire: the soundless, shapeless ache
of yearning to exhale my meagre soul,
and permeate the Eden of your flesh.

And is there yet, in all the countless songs
of sorrow, lamentation apt to bear
the quiet dignity and slow decay
of unrepenting, unrequited love.

My words are blood upon your altar, each
A shadow of the inexpressible.

In The Silver Autumn Night

Fallen leaves of Autumn glimmer
In the opalescent light;
Untrodden ways grow dimmer,
Wreathed in silken mists that shimmer
In the silver Autumn night.

The crystal lake is gleaming
In the opalescent light;
And the water, softly dreaming,
Conjures stars and moonbeams streaming
In the silver Autumn night.

Mirror to a grace undying
In the opalescent light;
With the ancient stillness vying,
A lonesome cello sighing
In the silver Autumn night.

Pendulum

By day, the soaring symphony
Is song unto the whole;
By night, a lonesome requiem
To my afflicted soul.

Although I strive, I strive in vain
To wrest my spirit free;
The demon that delights in pain
Is shadow of my glee.

By lightning struck and tempest tossed
Until I knew not where;
The better part of me is lost
To laughter and despair.

There Is More To Life Than Sorrow

Uphold the remnants of your patchwork heart,
For there is more to life than sorrow;
We’ll see our devils fall as we depart,
And find that all our woes are borrowed;

The anguish that assails us even now
Will lay its claim to all we treasure;
The leaves of autumn set upon our brow
Foretell the season of our pleasure;

These wounds will fade as if a laboured breath,
And carry with them all misgivings;
No sorrows wait in the embrace of death,
And sorrows will not stop us living.

Proletarian Prophets

And still the common symphony plays on:
The silences between the notes are drowned
In one unanimous plebeian song;
Our chorus ebbs away into the sound
Of boorish sophistry.

The muse resides enshrined in nothingness:
The breathless still which bids the balladeer
To nameless joys and sorrows acquiesce;
And still they sing, if only to revere
Their own simplicity.

Bedtime Stories – Crimes Of Tobias Crawley

Prologue

As with any story conveyed by word of mouth and recorded only in the nightmares of those who hear it, the story of Tobias Crawley is hard to authenticate. Details have been known to vary from person to person, with the truth ultimately surrendered into legend. For instance, the name of ‘Tobias Crawley’ does not appear in every telling of these stories, and it does indeed seem difficult to verify the presence of the same individual in all three tales. Regardless of speculation and reinterpretation, I have not charged myself with creating a work of fiction, but rather with recounting the version of events most akin to truth. However much we cannot know for sure about Tobias Crawley, we can be certain of one thing: it is remarkable that he grew into adolescence before he committed his first horrific deed.

Eyes

Tobias Crawley was not to be as we are, that much was clear from an early age. Unwilling to play with the other children, he would sit on the periphery and observe, blankly stalking their every motion with his eyes. Tobias’ father, a stern and brutal man, had taken steps to correct the boy’s unsettling behaviour – administering rigorous beatings on a daily basis. Despite these efforts, the boy grew into his teenage years with barely a word spoken, and seemed to meet his father’s cruelty with indifference.

It was Tobias’ sister who drew the only kindness from their father, and became a source of fascination for the brooding young man. Unnoticed at first, Tobias’ long study of his sister began to unsettle Mr Crawley, compelling him to lock the boy in the cellar each night for fear of what he might do. From then on, they could hear a muted clawing beneath their feet as they lay down to sleep, but neither ventured into the darkness where Tobias dwelled.

Weeks went by like this, the boy surfacing each day and returning to his dingy room beneath the earth at night; his father kept a closer eye on his ghoulish child than ever, watching as Tobias put his eye to a door left ajar and stared transfixed at the other side. Mr Crawley’s footsteps resounded as he loomed over Tobias, opening the door to find his precious daughter standing naked on the other side. He erupted in such terrible fury that his knuckles were that very second streaked with blood, and his son lay perfectly still on the hard, wooden floor; taking steps to protect his daughter from the malevolent youth, Tobias was locked in the cellar – the wretched boy was to be forgotten.

That night, as the father lay sleeping in his bed, Tobias’ sister stirred from her rest. She lay awake and listened to the silence… this was the first night in some time that hadn’t been accompanied by scratching from beneath the floorboards. As the minutes wore on, she realised that the silence was more chilling to her than the eerie noises from the cellar, and her heart began to race. These thoughts would soon subside as she was overcome by another dreadful sensation – that of being watched. She opened her eyes, and a few seconds passed as she adjusted to the murky dark of her bedroom… Tobias Crawley stared blankly at his sister as he pressed his thumbs into her pupils, pushing deeper and deeper still, immersed in the comforting warmth of her skull.

Creak

Late evening, many years later, a young couple were about to settle into bed for the night when there was a knock at the door. Police were going from house to house in search of a man who had been witnessed fleeing the scene of a particularly brutal murder; the couple were informed of the killer’s description, and given the urgent instruction to lock all doors and windows as a precautionary measure. The couple proceeded to do so, securing the ground floor and, on their return to the bedroom, they found a window left ajar and a couple of stray wet leaves on the windowsill. Looking at the gale blowing outside, the pair contented themselves that there was nothing unusual in this, and locked up for the night.

Before retiring to bed, the couple checked their phones one last time, imbibing wild speculation about the grisly occurrence in the area. Among various comments was one about local legend, Tobias Crawley, whose crimes were many and great for someone who may not even exist; after the murder of his own sister, Tobias seemingly disappeared beyond the reach of justice; to this day he surfaces only to recapture the orgasmic delight of that first execution, before dissolving into shadow once more – so the story goes. The pair joked together about how some people will believe anything, before turning off the lights and going to sleep.

During the night, the woman was briefly awoken by her partner going to the bathroom, and by the same creaking door that routinely disturbed her slumber. When she awoke again, she felt her lover’s hand around her waist, and through her lethargy she heard the faint sound of the bathroom door creaking. The sound began to unsettle her, though it was easily explained away by the door being left open. Even so, the noise continued on the far side of the room, and it was only her partner’s comforting warmth on her body that quelled the tremors of fear inside of her. The hand began to caress her body amorously, and soon it was all she thought about; before long, the eerie creaking had left her mind, and fallen silent.

The next morning, she reached out for her lover, but his side of the bed was empty. Slowly opening her eyes, she noticed that the bathroom door was closed, but no noise came from within. She made her way over to the door, turned the handle, and pushed it open… there on the cold tiles lay her lover, his throat cut, damp leaves strewn around him. She saw that her own body had been smeared with his blood, and it was then that she realised: the creaking sound she had heard was a desperate warning, the final tortured cries of the man she loved, as his killer lay in bed beside her.

Home

The witness reports would tell of a haunting presence outside her house, a man who some tried to describe in common terms, but most simply called “brutish”, “fierce”, and “demented”. His dead-eyed stare was mistaken for absent-mindedness at first, but any who saw him came to know his gaze as that of a hunter with his prey in sight. No official documentation links these events with Tobias Crawley, but those familiar with his name and deeds are left in little doubt.

The house was fairly unremarkable, tucked away in some anonymous suburb where nothing of note is likely to occur. The occupant lived a similarly ordinary life, dividing her time between an office job and home, where her cat had been a constant companion until a recent tragedy had claimed him; only mangled pieces of the animal were ever found, and his death had been attributed to a larger predator – in a way, that was true. At any rate, the woman now lived alone and felt a certain trepidation which only worsened after dark.

That particular night, she had chosen to entertain herself by reading some gruesome literary work which preyed upon her fears; the night, the dark, the loneliness, the words on the page: she was scared. Even so, she told herself that this is the real world and there was nothing to fear, and so she began the long walk to her bedroom, the long walk through the dark. Her imagination conjured villains from the shadows, and yet she carried on as adults are expected to. Once inside her bedroom, she glanced around and turned off the light, climbing into bed and burying herself beneath the covers a little more quickly than usual.

As fearless as she told herself she was, a doubt lingered at the back of her mind; a doubt lingered there and grew until she had no choice but to brave the dark once more. She tentatively lowered one foot to the ground and then tread as carefully and quietly as she could downstairs. She pressed down on the handle of the front door and… locked. Satisfied that her mind was playing tricks on her, she turned around and proceeded toward the stairs until a clattering sound from the street startled her; her heart racing, she peered through the living room window to see a few drunken men staggering home, a bottle freshly broken on the street.

Allowing her heart a moment to settle, she made her way up the stairs once more, the darkened corridor no longer a source of anxiety. She returned to her room, immersing herself in the comforting warmth of her bed, the night’s apprehension so far from her mind; as the minutes passed, she soon found herself drifting off to sleep… It was only then that she began to feel the warm breath of Tobias Crawley on the back of her neck.

Set In Stone

A footfall from the ravages
Of covetous society;
A leap or bound or glorious
Ascent into the bountiful;
One single step beyond the grey
Our fathers rung around our necks
Into a gleaming emerald:
A haven set in soulless steel.

Where waves of our immortal earth
Lie slumbering in slow crusade;
Innumerable rays of light
Descend into the verdant realm
On one such timeless pilgrimage;
And we who still remember pay
Our homage to the vital shrine:
The kiss of nature on our brow.

In reverence of those most rare
And precious acres still untouched
By man’s uncivilised design;
In love of truest origin,
We bid our primal spirits roam
The only country we call home:
The brook and bough more dear to us
Than any bauble of our youth.

And set in one immortal stone
Without the crutch of mortal tongue,
Inscribed into the ageless rock;
Dispelling shadows from our minds
In wordless whispers from the wind,
The earth in perfect slumber speaks:
Let all who live abide in peace,
For life is sacred to us all.

Tower

So comes the hour.
The godless stoop to pray,
And devils answer – their congregation veils
The sun; the day is night, and heroes cower.
Champions are slain; the bravest men are prey.
The last remaining hopes of our salvation fail
To hold, and monarchs quake for want of power.
Few survivors stagger from the bloodied fray,
And those who do, pursued; weary souls of pale
Complexion slouch toward the standing tower.
We exhausted remnants shudder in our grey
Asylum, hounded by the diabolic wails;
We are weak and feeble men.
So comes the hour.

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