DEATH, OR THE BEAST CATHEDRAL
By Bryan Edenfield
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the Beast Cathedral
of Flesh and Decay
All the soul
The First Crypt
The Second Crypt
a spiral spine,
through a spire
that stitches the
The Long Hall
The Beast Cathedral
Church of Corpses
Enter through stone arches
built when the ghost was infant
holiness and still a language of trees.
Enter underneath the skull
of the great stag, black-boned
and eyeless, its antlers wrap
the dry air in somber stillness.
Enter through the recoil of methane
and curl of shivered skin as
a fungal web devours through the crypt
and wooden caskets, kisses
the leather faces of criminals and
kings, witches and sorcerers, nuns
This wither memorial of sunken
heads, chest caverns, and unholy
holes lies just beyond the river
quiet beyond the cemetery of
Some douse the famine
with shutter and collect
grotesque figures along the
mason edges, but can you
steal a gone soul from a
thing-body, a decomposition?
We tunnel long deep below the burn
and hustle into the quiet of limestone
and graves, a hovel of handless
unknowns bent and cracked but with
nails intact and lips open.
The glimmer barkeep creaks
the heavy door and tells us
of the reformed whore; she
bloodied the pub in brawl and tears
gave crestfallen explosion to
her man’s ugly eye.
The golden seal and broken glyph
suggest a borrowed wealth
undivine and stolen from the sweat
of little men bound by burden and
muscle to drink sin and sing stupid
songs about soldiers that shake in dread
revelry and fire that dominos
from building to building because
a poor woman steeped in dread memory
couldn’t control her screaming moocow.
Along marble pillars, portraits hang
of only men maybe great who
spent their inheritance on guaranteed
passage down the bleak river, coins
in mouth and palm, gold in eye
sockets and beneath skin
We overlook the marsh and I sign
my name with spilled ink as
begins the zoological liturgy,
a worship of the bone portal
and ritual to reanimate the hunted
gone. The priestess wears the mask
of bull and sets her blood on fire,
swallows ivory swords and dances
a swamp invocation to whisper
music that whistles through the
taxidermy, a citadel of animals.
Torn from their homes and reassembled
by curious fingers in the echo chamber,
locked in the cabinets of a palace built
from vials of formaldehyde and ammonium
and held together by rhino horns and the wings
of bats, the great whale presides over
the sky and the elephant sentry fade
memory through hypnotic murmurs that
tremble the tiles of lyre and angel.
The skeletons of the great deer
watch over the coral procession to the
glass sea while otters splash in
vagrant glue to dream forever now
about one single alone thing.
The windows are fogged from the breath
of drowning rebels, outside cut into
quarters, throats and stomachs slit,
bodies thrown into the peat. Souls
are thrown into a facsimile of hell,
or an enactment of it.
The Beast Cathedral is demonic,
a mimic of eternal punishment or
a despair dance to bring death
into breathing. His long shadow
ruins the corridors. Protected in
glass, my maybe ancestors remain
unrotted but collapsed, sapped
of fluids and wilted into leaves
of painless humanness, hides
wrinkled into dumps of body objects.
Everything that can die has died
and we have collected the remains to
worship or mock. Different people
have different relationships with their victims.
The hopeful wise no longer hang
dead the trophy heads of snarl
and sadness but inspire a necromancy
to divine the fortunes of the dead,
to save the not yet gone.
The not-wise school of narcissist
sorrow and carnival of full self
empty of other spirits, now only
daydream of kingly conquest:
an arrow through the cheek,
a rifle blast to the temple,
a shotgun shell to the face and heart.
We are messy dreamers, the barkeep
reminds this coven of tourists.
We want the snake and the snail
to climb our arms and we want then
to crush them, animal arm and all.
Notice the ceiling held up by pillars
Maybe death is a great
forgetting, wordless and songless.
Here we write the rough draft
in the silence of embalming
liquids, the curves of cadavers
and the occasional crucifixion.
Ode to Bones
But there is some primal
gnawing in these bones,
a tactile resonance of blue
yawn and grotto scorn.
I want to sleep in a nest
I want my utensils, toys, and tools
to be bones. I want to decorate
my body and home with bones.
I want to ingest bones, crack them
between my teeth, pulverize them
and inject them into my blood.
I want to sharpen bones and cut
into my flesh with bones.
I want to hang bones from trees,
arrange them in patterns around stones,
build steeples and towers with bones.
I want to climb a ladder of bone and
break my neck with a bone.
I want to stir the clouds into
a frothy boiling with bones,
dig into the earth and spit
out cairns of lostness
I want my bones external,
like an insect; I want to
womb in an encasement of bone.
I want to make music with bones,
rattle them and hack at them and
drum click drill whistle with them.
I want tiny bones to jingle
in my glass of water like ice cubes.
I want to clean my fingernails,
my ears, my every dirty crevice
I want to pave the streets with
a mosaic of bones, drive over
them and walk under bridges of
I want to dye the bones a rainbow
of colors and throw them still wet
into the river and watch the colors
run and paint the banks. I want
to dip bones into molten chocolate
and lick them clean until my
I want to smash baskets of spices
with bones and billow red scent
into the air. I want
to die choking on a bone.
I want heaven to be a castle
or city built of bones; I want
to live in a labyrinth of bones.
I imagine infinity as a
tangled web of bones buttressing
up the universe, holding it
together lest it drip into the
milky nothing. I want to bite
I want to guide the bone,
see it and feel it and I want
to be boneless internal,
all to be boneless internal,
so that nothing is hidden
and we are all aware.
Baile Átha Cliath
The dead have been so longer
than home life. When I
try to picture the gone lasting
last moment of naught and
maw light of the raw and severed
unknown, I only feel vertigo choke
over the empty spaces inside and
around my vibrant quiver of earth.
We are sucklings unbloomed, I
think. We are not yet a garden
not yet a grave; here is
garden and grave the same.
When I try to feel the negative space,
try to squirm into it, I am knotted
bluntly. I am not soil bled yet.
What if we are smoke after flame?
I don’t swim in the dark pool here,
but I do feel hurtled forth into
a kind of drowning. I fear
the crossing of rivers and sticks,
and the climb across the muddy water.
But darkness is a safety of soil,
a comfort of deep night. This
thing across is no darkness and
it is a surprisingly easy journey
to the other side. I will get there;
I will take my time.
Hanging on the red wall
in the scrape, photographs
of the deceased, not their
bodies but spirits, reveal
blindness in the haunted. Breath
of a flicker floats around forgetters
and headstones, the halls and alive
rooms, parlors and weeping trees.
I feel stupid snapping up
the invisible remains lying along
the leafy floor. My idiot foliage
folds picturesque into itself
but for grieving, it embraces
with cold halo all limbs and
contains the swallowed tumors
of sorrow now burl and deformed trunk.
We see three churches around
the cemetery. Bells ring.
I cannot lift the curse; a
gargoyle grips my neck and whispers:
Steal the souls trapped in the cross,
take them from their engravings, rip
them away from their flowers and statues.
Add them to the infernal collection,
your hellbox buried beneath
tectonic toxicity and layers
of envy and anxiety.
Because this is what I do:
take the puppet poltergeist
on my heathen knee and clap
open and shut those mouths
longing for heavenly solace
but trapped in my electric
loop, my dumb infinity current.
And I hope someone trapped
like me cycles through this catalogue
of kidnappings: here lies
the soul I took from sleep.
I raped its rest and stomped it
into spiritual scurvy, hateful
hurt imagined in pose as
perfect status. I infect
the ether. Here is the disease collage.
Stone birds cry in the palm
of priests. The crown
of thorns cuts the celtic cross
and a torn rib wraps around
the fist, clenched tightly.
Nails dig into the perfect
stigmata wrought in iron
like the spears that slash
the skyline. Final tone, the
bells of three churches dischord
against one another, each alone
and apart. Welcome to my cacophony;
my sin is regret.
I am scared to enumerate my
regrets but in generalities
for fear specificity will re-enact
the crime or boil forth renewed
disgust with myself. Dear
Something-Something, up or
in Whatever, please forgive me
I should have taken her hand and kissed
her cheek but there lies a dead
thing inside of me or the inside of me
is a dead thing. The outside is
uncertain but terror is the normal
operation; its tabula rosa laughs
at me now. Please forgive my
impulse to abandon but it is bred
into my blood and bones.
Something follows me, my missing
half perhaps; it crawls
around any shard of planet it finds,
a spy not a friend. I am
a foreigner never home and I hear
footsteps but cannot hide from
the rustle ringing closer over
linoleum and through this glass cage.
Now the pickpocket of experience
yelps a noisy silence or spits
still air waiting for agitation
and the thief of data grabs
my stomach and crushes
it slowly like a paper bag.
I imagine ways to suicide
and assemble a monster of me that
I then share delicately with all
of the forgettable families. Maybe
I have done this before and
maybe I have lied and said
I have never done this at all.
Dispose of this, please! Burn
my dreams until my eyes bleed.
I don’t wish to die; I wish
to never have been born, so
answer this empty prayer
or don’t, I couldn’t care.
Save me from eternal damnation
if you can get around to it, but
paradise is a blissful nothing
and so is hell, so prepare
me with the strength to stare
into the void and smile so that
when it may stare back at me,
it smiles too. For now…
I feel an obligation to stick around
in this fool existing thing.
Life is a wrinkle or quirk
in the universe, a mistake.
It is not as things should be;
Be is not as things should.
Maybe it’s sort of miraculous,
all of this breathing and growing and
pain and decay and birthing
and fear. This life thing
is rare; maybe I will wait
see if it lasts.
Grant me strength,
Bryan Edenfield is a living human mammal animal.