walked through the wilderness
of this world through the city with the loud electric faces and the crowded
petrols of the wind dazzling and drowning me that
winter night before the West
I remembered the winds of the high, white world that bore me and
the faces of a noiseless million in the busy hood of heaven staring on the
They who nudged through the literate light of the city,
shouldered and elbowed me, catching my trilby with the spokes of their
umbrellas, who offered me matches and music.
Take away, I told them
silently, the flannel and cotton, the cheap felt and leather, I am the nakedest
and baldest nothing between the pinnacle and the base,
an alderman of
ghosts holding to watch-chain and wallet on the wet pavement, the narrator
I have Old Scratch by the beard, and
the news of the world is no
world's news, the gossips of heaven and the fallen rumors are enough and
too much for a shadow that
casts no shadow, I said to the blind beggars and the paperboys who
shouted into the
They who were
hurrying by me on the narrow errands of the world, time bound to their
wrists or blinded in their pockets, who consulted the time strapped to a holy
tower, and dodged between bonnets and wheels, heard in my fellow's footsteps
the timeless accents of another walking.
On the brilliant pavements
under a smoky moon, their man's world turning to the bass roll of the traffic,
they saw in the shape of my fellow another staring under the pale lids, and
heard the spheres turn as he spoke.
This is a
strange city, gentlemen on your own, gentlemen arm-in-arm making a rehearsed
salute, gentlemen with ladies, ladies this is a strange city.
in the friendless houses in the streets of pennies and
pleasures a million
ladies and gentlemen moved up in bed, time moved with the practised moon over a
million roofs that night, and grim
policemen stood at each corner in the evil wind.
0 mister lonely, said
the ladies on their own, we shall be naked as new-born mice, loving you long in
the short sparks of the night.
We are not ladies with feathers between
breasts, who lay eggs on the quilt.
I walked through the
the lamps walked at
my side like electrocuted men or the trees of
a new scripture, I
jostled the devil at my elbow, but lust in his city shadows
dogged me under the
arches, down the black blind streets.
the shape of a bald girl
smiling, a wailing wanton with handcuffs for earrings, or
the lean girls that lived on pickings, now in ragged woman with a muckrake
curtseying in the slime, the
tempter of angels whispered over my shoulder.
We shall be naked but
for garters and black stockings, loving you long on
a bed of strawberries and cream, and the
nakeder for a ribbon that hides the nipples.
We are not the ladies that
eat into the brain behind the
ear, or feed on the fat of the
I remembered the sexless shining women in the first hours of
the world that bore me, and the golden sexless men that cried All Praise in the
sounds of shape.
Taking strength from a sudden
shining, I have Old Scratch by the beard, I cried aloud.
short-time shapes still followed, and the counselor of an unholy nakedness
nagged at my heels.
No, not for nothing did
the packed thoroughfares confront me at each cross and pavement's turning with
these figures in the shapes of sounds, the lamp-chalked silhouettes and the walking frames
of dreams, out of a darker allegory than the
fictions of the earth could
turn in twelve suns' time.
There was more than man's meaning to the
bare skull bogies thumbing the skeletons of their noses, to the marrow-merry
snackers scratching their armpits in a tavern light, and to the dead man,
smiling through his bandages, who laid hand on my sleeve, saying in no man's
There is more than man's meaning in a stuffed man talking and
more in the horned ladies at your heels than a pinch of the cloven delights and the tang of
hell shift up and down the
I have the God of
Israel in the image of a painted boy, and
Satan, in a
woman's shirt, pisses from a
window in Damaroid Alley.
See now, you shining ones, how the tuner
of harps has fallen, and the painter of winds like a bag of henna into the
The high hopes lie with broken bottles and suspender-belts, the
white mud falls like feathers, there out of Pessary Court comes the Bishop of
Bumdom, dressed like a ratcatcher, a holy sister in Gamarouche Mews sharpens
her index tooth on a bloodstone, two weasels couple on
He who played the sorcerer, appearing all at one time in a dozen
sulphurous beckonings, saying, out of a dozen mouths.
We shall be naked
as the greased lightning of a serpent
striking from within the nest holes at the bases of the cathedral pillars,
tracking the margins of four cindery winds.
A mouse tailed woman and a
holy snake, the symbols of the city writher before me. But by one red horn I
had that double image, tore off the furry
stays and leather jacket.
We shall be naked, said Old Scratch
emerging, as a Jewish girl
crucified to the bedposts.
We are all
metaphors of the
sound of shape of the shape of sound.
Break us we take
and the woman stroke a cross in the air.
I saw the star fall that
broke a cloud up, and dodged between bonnets and wheels to the ill-lit streets
where I saw Daniel Dom lurching after a painted shadow.
We walked into the Seven Sins.
Two little girls
danced barefoot in the sawdust.
A negress loosened the straps of her
yellow frock and bared a breast.
Buy a pound, she said, and thrust her breast
in Daniel's face.
faced the women and caught the half-naked negress by the wrist.
Like a woman confronted by a tower,
You are so strong,
my love, she said, and kissed him full on the mouth
Before the sea
could circle us, we were out through the swing-doors into the street and the
mid-winter night where the
moonlight, salt white no longer,
hung windlessly over the city.
They were night's enemies who made
a lamp out of the devil's
eye, but we followed a midnight radiance around the corners, like two weird
brothers trod in the glittering web prints.
In their damp hats and
raincoats, in the blaze of shop window, the people jostled against us on the
pavements, and a gutter boy caught me by the sleeve.
Buy an almanac, he
It was the bitter end of the year.
Now the star fall had
ended, the sky was a hole in space.
How long, how long, lord of the
hail, shall my city rock on, and the seven deadly seas wait tidelessly for the
moon, the bitter end the last tide-spinning of the full circle.
lamented, trailing the midnight radiance to the door of the Deadly Virtue where
the light went out and the glittering web prints faded.
forever climbing the steps of a sea tower,
crying aloud from the turret that we might warn us, as
we clambered around the spiked
maiden in the turret corners.
Make way for Mister Dom and friend.
Walking into the Deadly Virtue, we heard our names announced through
the loudspeaker trumpet of the wooden image over the central mirror, and,
staring in the glass as the oracle continued, we saw two
distorted faces grinning through the smoke.
Make way, said the
loudspeaker, for Daniel, ace of Destruction, old Dom the toper of Doom's
kitchen, and for the alderman of
Is the translator of man's manuscript, his walking
chapters, said the trumpet-faced, a
member of my Virtue?
What is the color of the
Put a leech on his forearm.
Make way, the
image cried, for bald and naked
Mister Dreamer of the bluest veins this
side of the blood-colored sea.
As the sea of faces parted, the
bare-backed ladies scraped back from the counter, and the matchstick-waisted
men, the trussed and corsetted
stilt-walkers with the tits of ladies, sought out the darker recesses of
the saloon, we stumbled forward to the fiery bottles.
dreamer and the pilgrim, said the wooden voice.
Gentlemen, it is my Call, said
the loudspeaker, death is in my house.
It was then, in the tangled
hours of a new morning, surrounded by the dead faces of the drinkers,
the wail of lost voices, and the words of
the one electric image, that Daniel, hair-on-end, lamented first to me of the
death on the city and the lost hero of the
There can be no
armistice for the sexless, golden singers and the
the flying beast and the
walking bird that war about us, for the horn and the
I could light the voices
of the fiery virgins winking in my glass, catch the brandy-brown beast and bird
as they fumed before my eyes, and kiss the two-antlered angel.
for nothing were these two intangible brandy maids neighboring Daniel who
cried, syringe in hand.
Open your cocaine white legs, you ladies of stainless steel needles,
Dom thunder Daniel is the
lightning drug and the doctor.
Now a wind sprang through the room
from the dead street; from the racked tower where two men lay in chains and a
hole broke in the wall, we heard our own cries travel through the fumes of
brandy and the loudspeaker's
We pawed, in our tower agony, at the club shapes dancing, at
the black girls tattooed from shoulder to nipple with a white dancing shape,
frocked with snail-headed rushes and capped like antlers.
slipped from us into the rubber corners where their black lovers waited
invisibly; and the music grew louder until the tower cry was lost among it; and
again Daniel lurched after
a painted shadow that
led him, threading through smoke and dancers,
to the stained window.
him lay the city sleeping, curled in its streets and houses, lamped by its own
red-waxed and iron stars,
with a built moon above it, and the spires crossed over the bed.
stared down, rocking at his side, on to the unsmoking roofs and the burned-out
candles. Destruction slept.
Slowly the room behind us flowed, like four
waters, down the seven gutters of the city into a black sea.
catching the loudspeaker in its mouth, sucked up the wood and music; for the
last time a mountainous wave circled the drinkers and dragged them down, out of
the world of light, to a crawling sea-bed; we saw a wave jumping and the last
bright eyes go under, the last raw head, cut like a straw, fall crying through
the destroying water.
Daniel and I stood alone in the city.
sea of destruction lapped around our feet.
We saw the star fall that broke the night
The glass lights on iron went out, and the waves grew down into
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