This poem first appeared in Postscripts to Darkness Volume 5. Read the interview with Mike Allen that accompanies this reprint here.
Long before the partiers arrive, the Arborists
form the ballroom, standing in a dolmen circle,
stretching their many arms until vine-fingers
meet and entwine, bloodflow causing all
their leaves to fan out in rosy canopy,
transparent teeth unsheathed in long smiles
that serve for windows.
allegretto con grazia
From opposite corners, they play
a game, a duet. Xora unfolds hir head
so its branches uncurl, fork heavenward,
a radial candelabra, inverse chandelier,
each stalk tipped with a gorgeous gold eye,
succulent fruit encircling light.
Danyel’s neck, sleek and black,
stretches across the room, supporting
hir porcelain face. Ze winds hir neck
through the spires of Xora’s cranium,
speaks to the rest through lips that don’t move,
declaring hirself serpent in the tree,
calling for guesses as to which temptations
ze offers. A dance, someone chitters,
and X and D both kneel, elongated neck
that bridged the ballroom now a line
for us to limbo beneath. R tries first,
barely clears as ze bends sculpted legs
beneath hir custom body with its wings
and gables. The little dolls that hold
hir consciousness cheer from hir windows
as ze stands. F cheats, hir entire shape
unraveling in sea-snake tendrils
before ze undulates under the bar
in an hieroglyphic wave. We delight
in our clowning, how it rearranges us
through the room, each of us a work of art,
each random pattern a new curation.
M can’t dance this game at all.
Ze towers above us, hir upper half
a stack of vertical diadem membranes
stretched over crossed bones, soaked
with shifting colors. Ze cannot flex
as we. Yet get hir out onto the plain
outside the Hierophant’s city,
where ze can unspool all hir kites
from hir belly, let them swoop defiance
against the evergrey sky.
The gathered separate
into those with heads
and those without.
The headless more numerous,
their torsos replaced altogether
with cages of whistling,
musical bone, or deft
or miniature castles
populated by mechamenageries.
Those who’ve retained faces,
hewn more closely
to antiquated physiology
in their self-selected designs,
kneel ballroom center,
allow the headless
to place the maidenbox
restraints around them,
clamp them shut.
The prisoners bow their heads,
swivel gazes to the floor.
The headless dance,
weaving between them
in peacock display.
All are silent.
Only those few gluttons
for history can guess
at what the game means.
allegro con molto spirito
A whisper flitters ear to ear:
The Aesthetes are marching past.
D snakes hir head
to a windowsmile, confirms.
Even in this now
fashion has trends to defile.
The Aesthetes have all kept torsos,
disposed of their legs,
replaced them with outsized monkeybar skirts,
pyramid scaffolds two stories high,
their trunks crowning the points,
their unmodified arms outstretched.
Their tiny clones support their frames,
hordes of identical homunculi
marching beneath each one,
a laborphalanx of Atlases
holding up their parent bodies
on bulging shoulders.
They move forward in spirals.
Slow architectural dervishes.
Their discomfort is evident.
It’s true, M sings, peering through
the highest window. They’ve heads,
but no mouths or ears or eyes.
Now they all watch.
The Aesthetes believe, it’s said,
existence without sleep or thought,
surrender to void and pain,
for long enough duration,
will inspire their bodies
of their own to birth
the next evolution
sans any surgery.
The partygoers silently will
this dream come true,
pray the moment arrives in front of them,
this spontaneous transcendence
something they all long to see.