Types of Poetry

This is one of the Types of Poetry.
A 2,500 word, epic poem (*) about magic, evil and faith.

This type or class of poetry is known as an "epic" poem and is one of our oldest forms of storytelling.

Yes, poetry as a form (contrary to popular belief) is all about telling a story. Consider "The Odyssey" and "The Iliad" two major ancient (800 B.C.) Greek epic poems attributed to Homer.

And in more resent times we have Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" published in 1956.

At least I'm in good company.

For my experiment in this ancient form I give you...

Duchess of Denmark


by

Richard A. McCullough


Types of Poetry


Duchess of Denmark
robes flailing in lamplight
high above the gate of her castle.
Lamplight along the castle walls.
The old steps weep dew
and cry
clammy droplets against the slow, slow wind,
of moving clouds
stretched out thin and close to the ground
whispering like a blanket,
to the far off mountains
drawn up across the valley.
From the foot of her bed,
the sea grows quiet and gives up her moist comforter.

The Duchess stands like a turret
a strand of damp hair hanging out
from the shadows of her cowl.
Types of Poetry
Her robes hang in straight folds
from her shoulders
and sway imperceptibly about
the cold stone where she stands
damp clinging to the hem, gathering dust.
Types of Poetry
A copper hammered horn sounds dull
and disappears.
Sounds sudden, in the thick air.
She waits.
The shadowed cowl * points towards the sea.
That's where they'll be coming from.

* * *
Types of Poetry
The fog has thickened
to clouds in their mouths,
men, her father's warriors, stand huddled
wrapped and dripping about small oily fires
that hiss and smoke from the damp air.
Polished steel glimmers, dull through the fog
winking in ripples,
dents of battles hammered out
crashed and beaten again.
Types of Poetry
'They're strong men,' she knows.
Fearless warriors of many battles
used to waiting
disciplined to stand for hours and days, waiting
poised and ready but in silence.
However, they are fearful this night
they feel the presence of something
that no mere sword can slay.
No mere shield defend against.

Their arms and legs and torsos drawn tight
skin stretched over muscles on muscles.
Big men, who spit on graves
curse the holy men
laugh at death
drink deep from their cups
and are always ready to stand alone.

But tonight, they cluster in huddled groups
darting their eyes about
like frightened little boys
shivering against the fear of shadows.

The Duchess does not think of them,
she too knows,
their weapons will be useless.

* * *
Types of Poetry
The horn had long ago
sounded the middle of the night
the air had turned crisp
forcing the fog down close against the ground
it lays like a billowed blanket
against the walls of the castle.

The Duchess had decided,
had looked out with the eye
and felt the presence, still far out
but coming fast.
She knew that she must meet it
far up in its element.

Silently she drew her robes
closer still about her.
And gliding unseen to the massive oak door;
that guarded the narrow stone steps
up to the tower,
winding slowly in the darkness
she used the sight.
Only sparingly
to see her way,
least she fall.
The sight was precious
and though she could not use it up
the presence of it would be felt by the men
and their minds were already troubled enough.
It was best they be not further frightened.

* * *
Types of Poetry
Now she stands tired from waiting
head bowed in silent listening.
'Turn the eye within to rest.'

She leans her slender frame against
the walls of the turret.

Fresh moonlight cold and clear
cuts sharp shadows
through the arches of the tower openings
one for each direction.

The stone roof
has stopped dripping

The moon is almost full
bouncing sharply
up from the back of the fog bank
casting eerie shadows
in the crisp cool air.

* * *
Types of Poetry
Finally
just before moonset
her eyes gone dry cold in the waiting,
she sees it.

A glimmer of blackness
against the backdrop
of cool gray blue.

The speck is slowly
growing.

She lifts her face
tired and stiff
muscles tense and then
relax again
like a cat
waking.

She raises her arms
and the robes sway
releasing tiny droplets of dew
about the stone
where she stands.

The speck she watches,
to see what shape, this thing will be
what form it will take
what visage to frighten her
to shake her with its face.
Demons from her dreams
or will it show its own
hideous unmasked features.
Gradually it forms its shape
now like a moth, far off
indicating its size
to be very large.

Now like a bird
coming fast and straight
towards her it grows.
She can feel its cold
empty
motionless wind,
the space of a vacuum
sucking the hearts of men
in its passing.

* * *
Types of Poetry
A cry from the court yard
the sound of gruff voices
barking at their fear.
Feet running
the clank of swords in their scabbards
thudding at the sides
and about the legs of running men.

Torches hissing
in oily smoke
passed about
as brave men take their posts.

A growl of anger
down on the wall below her.

Someone has recognized
the coming shape
for what it is.

But the voice,
he said his prayers hurriedly
and crossed his chest.
He knows his mere steel
is no match for this visage.
But he draws it just the same
vowing in his guard house language
that he'll pluck the eyes
of this enemy.

* * *
Types of Poetry
The Duchess has dropped her cowl
and tucked the one loose auburn strand
back amongst the others.

Her right hand slips beneath her robes
and fastens the fingers
about the crystal.
She can feel its warm eye winking, slowly
as she cradles it with her hand
drawing power from one another.
Her frame grows tense and light.
The visage can now be seen;
as a winged horseman.

* * *
Types of Poetry
The black stallion
flailing its hooves, through the cold air
in powerful strides, that blank out the stars
leaving a powderless dust, of steam in its wake.

Huge black wings
reach out behind the riders legs
slowly beating, against the night air.

Nostrils flared
billowing steamy puffs, of heavy breathing.
Onward and closing still
charges this stallion.
Beyond the speed of its own endurance
eyes red in glazed madness.
Leather gray, against its sweat damp blackness.
Froth about its red mouth
and along the lines of leather,
that the rider has woven, about this beast.

* * *
Types of Poetry
The Duchess can see the rider now.
Empty cowl, filled with black night
looks straight at her.
Empty sleeves of black.
Billowus robes flail about
and stream beating back
from the shape
of the thing within.
Black boots shimmer
in the moon light
cruel spurs spinning
and lashing
digging endlessly
into the red dripping flesh
of its fear crazed beast.

* * *
Types of Poetry
The Duchess watches
and feels the cold breath
darkness pressing, against her robes
then slowly like fingers of ice
passing through the fabrics
through her skin
to her very bones.

The crystal pulses
breathing heavily in her pocket.

* * *
Types of Poetry
The rider, now blocks out the sky.
She can hear the frantic beast
heaving with all its strength
hear its big heart boiling
pulsing its black blood life
through cold veins.
Closer
and closer still,
until it would seem bent
upon its own destruction
against the walls of the tower.

But she knows this thing
knows it is too smart
to dash itself
against the rocks
like driftwood.

* * *

The men wail below
and some brave soul
barks for attention.

"Stand brave you bastards
or this sword of mine
will slice the bones of your backs.
"If you fear -
that demon will devour your soul
from out your filthy bodies.
SILENCE NOW!"

'Brave man', she thought.
'But mortal bravery
will not win out
against this visage of darkness.'

* * *

At the last instant
the black rider hauls back
on the reins of the beast
pulling its head so hard
the wild eyes bulge
and spurt blood.

Skidding through moonlight
hooves plowing against the sky
sliding through the gossamer black
the beast explodes.
Its ashes falling slowly
circling
covering the shoulders below.

"QUICK", one shouted
"Get that off you
least you'll be
the next beast of burden
for that black thing."

* * *
Types of Poetry
The ashes fell
and there in all consuming blackness
like a hole yawning into nothing
stood the thing itself.
That void so complete
it sucked away all light about it.
Still in its cloak
it slowly settled
to just above the stone floor
hovering there.

All consuming blackness.
The bottomless void
of fear itself.
About to show its face.
About to claim another soul.

* * *

"To what do I owe this honor?"
Said the Duchess.
"To receive a visit from YOU yourself.
Why didn't you send a mere messenger?
Or is that all you are,
just a messenger, to be cast aside
with a blink and a wave of my hand?"

* * *

The blackness spoke
its robes waved
and sucked the light
from the moon.
The pale shadows near it
became black
like holes.

The robes moved,
but melted
to black expanse itself.
There wasn't even any starlight behind it.

The space that was
was blackness,
that reached beyond the sky
a hole that stretched
out through the universe
a doorway
into the void
a mouth with no end
yawning its dark throat
before her.

* * *

"COME."
Its voice reaching
across the universe,
a cold, dry bottomless whisper.
"COME, Let us not play games.
I've come myself
to take your soul.

So feel honored
and step into my arms
and join all those
who have gone before you."

"You are then
emptiness itself?"

"I am he."

"Then show me your face"
Her fingers sweated
against the pulsing crystal,
hidden deep within
the folds of her robe.

"Come closer," he said
"I'll do one better
I'll BREATHE in your face."

"SHOW ME YOUR FACE!" she shouted
"I'll be sure
that I am speaking
to the power of the dark,
not some lowly servant."

* * *

The visage raised its arms
sucked the moonbeam reflections
the stones disappeared
the cavern pulled at her clothes
and whipped with a powerful wind
about her.
The mouth of nothing yawned
wide and growing close about her

"I am the power of nothing,"
said the blackness.
"Come closer
and I'll show you my face."
The shadow crept closer
drawing the black void
nearer
and nearer.

"STOP!" she shouted,
and made the sign
with her left hand.

The shadow
jerked back at the sign.
And out of the yawning chasm
she heard the wail
of faceless children,
the cry of all hunger,
it pulled at her robes
brushed at her cheeks.

"I'll not deal with a mere servant!"
she shouted.
"Don't show me mere tricks
show me your face,
or be gone you scrap of nothing.
I fear not the blackness."

The black hole of emptiness
recoiled
shrank back from clutching at her robes
and retreated to a point
then stopped
and began to spread itself again.

"Ha!" it laughed,
"You think I am not the Master
then I will show you
but you will pay.
Your demand for power
will earn YOU
as my next winged beast.
And when I leave this time
I have much further to go.
But I'll enjoy sitting
astride your slender body
spurring you on
until your heart should explode.

"But no.
I'll not let you go so soon.
I'll press your flesh
beyond your wildest dreams of endurance.
Then I'll press it on
again.
You demand to see my face
then, YOU SHALL HAVE IT!"

* * *
Types of Poetry
With that
the empty sleeves reached up
and dropped the cowl back.

The face of death itself
sprang out.
Consumed the world.
The tower and its' dripping stone
disappeared.
Blackness yawned to nothing
all about her then
she saw the face.

The eyes of misery itself
the pupils made of human suffering,
the teeth dripping blood of war,
and hatred shone
with the bones of unborn babes,
the nostrils flared
with the breath of human souls,
crying in and out,
endless breath
after endless breath.
The damned crying
for forgiveness
too late remembering
past sorrows,
too late wishing
for another chance
to give.

The hot breath of eternity
breathed its ice fire
and sucked and blew away her robes
and she was naked
in the all pervasive presence
of all that is evil.

There, not before her
but within her very being
separated only by a thread
was the totalness of nothing
breathing its breath
through her
and she was afraid.

* * *
Types of Poetry
'Fear,' said her eye
the crystal still clutched
within her hand.
'Fear is the only thing
that you must fear.'

The crystal became a center
and she sought to pass it
close to her heart.
But the wind was intense
and swirled about her.
There was no reference
as to up and down.
All the wind blew
out of her head.

The void was eternal
the wailing of nothing.
Her arms still trying
to raise the stone
up
near her heart.
Both hands now
together
straining to lift,
what was so soon ago
as light as a sparrow
taking to wing,
now is as a boulder
hot like fire brazed steel.
'Don't drop the crystal.'
said a voice within her head
'HOLD ON!'

* * *

The black void
becomes colder still.
Laughter like emptiness
rings through her head.

Louder and louder still
echoing
and echoing
chasms without walls.
The wind blowing away
sucking, away all of her
that is not of the center.

* * *
Types of Poetry
Slowly she strains
first to her waist.
The scream of emptiness increases,
howling louder and louder still
spinning and spinning
through the void.
Painfully she raises the crystal to her breast
then still slowly
she raises it to her neck.

Laughter
made of suffering,
rings like bells
giant bells pealing.

She is inside
she is the clacker
her whole being
banging against the bronze
that is the nothing,
the ringing that is beyond sound.

She holds the crystal
against her head
and slowly
opens her hand.

* * *
Types of Poetry
The soldiers found her
when suddenly the door broke free
and rushing big men up
those tiny stairs,
they found her
naked
and unconscious,
lying against the stone
like a big wind
would have thrown a leaf
against a wall.

Wrapping her in a cloak
one of them carried her
to her rooms
and ordered a fire built.
The physician came
but said there were no wounds
there was nothing
he could do.

And so;
the kingdom and the castle
waited.
Until one day in August
she awakened.
With a crystal pressed
against her head.



THE END



(*) cowl (koul) noun
1. a. The hood or hooded robe worn especially by a monk.

(*) Epic – long narrative poem. a lengthy narrative poem in elevated language celebrating the adventures and achievements of a legendary or traditional hero, e.g. Homer's Odyssey

Write on...

Richard A. McCullough


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