DARK  ROADS  SAMPLER
Poems:  Bruce Boston
CONFESSIONS OF A BODY THIEF

To take a stranger’s mind
and wear a stranger’s face,
to step into another’s flesh
and claim a life in toto,
was a talent I discovered
at a raw and tender age,
when the world itself was
changing in unexpected ways.

Youth was in rebellion.
Generations ripped apart.
A war on foreign shores
and injustice on our own
soon led to cries of protest
and bloodshed in the streets.
Consciousness expanded like
a roiling mushroom cloud.
Those who offered answers
said it had to do with love

Amidst the fervor and the rage
I could have any life I chose,
from a pompous politician
feeding on the masses’ needs,
riding high in limousines,
to a rail-thin rock idol
prancing on a concert stage
with women in the wings.
Flush with youthful vigor,
a burgeoning libido,
and a head full of ideals,
I promptly chose the latter
without a shade of doubt.

Wielding my axe like a pen,
and often like a sword,
I defined a shaggy credo,
my generation’s song.
With the lyrics of another
I felt the wild exultation
of ovation upon ovation
and the instant adulation
that music can engender.
I lived my life so rapidly,
losing track of night and day,
the drugs within my veins,
time bunched and crushed
together like the jackknifed
cars of a derailing train.

When my body overdosed
I abandoned its dying shell.
After one or two false starts
I settled on my second host.
I became a cybernetic genius,
worked for IBM and Rand.
I calculated decimal points
to infinity and back again.
I’d never mastered logic
and never cared for math,
but I had another’s brain
and a Ph. D. from M. I. T.
to think in algorithms
and converse with binary.

Abstract numbers galled
so I pursued the real sort,
the kind with dollar signs
that can buy a luxury yacht
to sail on the
Côte d’Azur.
I was a Wall Street whiz kid,
a black belt of the exchange,
trading stocks and debentures
until I made a hundred million.
Then the junk-bond scandal hit,
and for the novelty alone
I spent a year in prison.

Once I surfaced as a woman,
more seductive than sin itself.
I learned what men will do
for the lust that they call love.
I learned how they’ll compete
like fierce animals in heat
to possess a surface beauty
and caress a shapely thigh,
with no interest or concern
for whatever lies beneath.

I became a different woman
and fought for women’s rights.
I battled like a termagant
with overblown executives
for an equal scale of pay,
for acceptance and promotion
on the corporation ladder
and all that should be mine.
The end result of this was
I soon became another man.

I’ve been brown and black
and white and yellow,
and all the shades between.
I’ve toiled stooped and sweaty
through the sun-baked fields.
I’ve sat in the awning’s shade,
with a cool drink by my arm,
sporting an evil overseer’s grin.
I’ve penned a best-selling novel
and composed a symphony.
Like a chameleon understudy
I have played most any part
as I moved across the stage
of this metamorphic age,
yet all of it soon paled
without my own identity.

I’ve cruised and skimmed
along the skin of things
like a surfer on a wave,
a rock skipping across a lake,
or a raindrop on a window
that reflects the room beyond
but can never find a passage
through the surface of the pane.
I’ve looked into the mirror
but never past my eyes.
I’ve only known my ego,
its desires and its needs,
the ocean’s tidal roar
that belies the silent deep.

My future now stands open
like an endless avenue,
for every time I start to age
I seize on youth once more.
Yet is it worth the trouble
to keep changing hats and coats,
not in rhythm with the seasons,
just to please my petty whims,
when my soul is lost forever
in the shuffling and the rippling
of a hundred different skins?

If there is a kind of answer
that has to do with love,
if consciousness can change
and the world can follow suit,
I am not the one to judge.
I have stolen other lives.
I’ve ravaged mind and limb.
I have left my spirit far behind
and forsaken my own name.
FIRE IS THE DEVIL'S ONLY FRIEND

Igniting his dank soul
in the enduring night
of his eternal damnation,
backlighting his mammoth
head and cruel horns in
the halo glow of its fury,
reflected in his wild eyes,
fire is the Devil's only
friend and consolation.

He delights as he sees
it rise from its bed,
passing from burning red
through orange to yellow,
from shades of searing blue
to the pure white light
of absolute incineration.

He savors the way it
slithers along his sides
and caresses his flanks.
He loves to slather himself
with it, to breathe it in
and exhale in glorious gouts
of smoky incandescence
that send his minions
slinking and scurrying
in every direction.

He treasures its obedience,
how it comes to his call,
devastating entire cities
as he marks them on the map,
Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki.
The shadows of ashed bodies
photo flashed upon the walls
by nuclear irradiation
rank among his favorite
instantaneous creations.

Still there are moments,
countless ones through
the internecine ages,
when Satan often craves
another brand of fellow,
a friend with whom to share
an evening's relaxation,
the pleasure of a meal,
a glass or two of fine cognac
amid the formidable intricacies
of enlightened conversation.

Fire has long since eaten
and will soon devour again,
will continue to consume
and remain ever ravenous,
yet its taste is indifferent
and forsakes appreciation
of the rare decadent fare
on the table of a fallen angel.

Fire's tongues are legion
yet they speak as one with
no shred of wit or reason,
a chorus of mad idiots
jabbering away like Babel,
ranting in a gibberish
that apes the souls
consigned to its flames.

Lucifer tugs his beard
and is brusque with fire
at times such as these,
stripping away its power,
confining it to the grate,
making it small and tame.

With a voice that bellows
through Hellish caverns
he berates it incessantly
for all its inadequacies,
its lack of discernment
and a worthless education.

For His Infernal Majesty
would never countenance
a friend or companion
he could not dominate,
and blame for the untold
eons passed and yet to be
of his drear incarceration.
THE HOUSE BROODS OVER US

i.
It was always the house with its
crumbling eaves and weathered gables,
its turrets and cupolas, its ornate
fretwork and blank window eyes. It
was the house with its sagging porticos
and scattered trellises, the dark green
vines trailing up the walls until their
leaves turned sere and pale in the sun's
heat.

It was always the house with its
trenched history and ineradicable
stains on the hardwood floors, vivid as
birthmarks or faded as old scars.

ii.
I gathered the tools of the draftsman's
trade with a serious intent, to learn the
craft of the cartographer, to create a
detailed map with a detailed legend,
extensive and accurate, that would not
only chart the limits of the house but
give specific definition to its varied
elaborations.

I set out to explore its multiple levels
and seductive recesses, the shadow and
substance of its rectilinear maze.

And you came with me in your
wayward fashion, less than innocent
and far from knowing, to share my
explorations and test the dimensions of
the world waiting beyond each wall.

iii.
We discovered hallways that led to
nothing and others that turned back
upon themselves. We entered rooms
that were ordered and others in rank
disarray.

You sat at a slender desk in a high
drawing room that bathed your flesh in
films of light. I paced beyond the
carpet, dictating imaginary letters to
composers and poets and heads of state.

We slept in a Victorian boudoir rich in
its mock oriental decadence, the
portraits of dead sinners gracing our
walls.

When I cut my hand on a splintered
balustrade, your lips closed on the
single drop of blood that welled in the
lines of my palm.

iv.
When you turned back, gathering up
the ball of yarn you had cleverly
unwound to mark our distracted
passage, I ventured farther to uncover
corridors and cul-de-sacs that recalled
ones we had visited together, standing
rooms and sitting rooms and those
stripped bare of all decor.

Was it days or only hours that I
wandered before you found me
crouched against a wall, unable to
speak beyond a thirst that filled my
body to its pores?

v.
We have settled in the rooms we
inhabit and we do not stray past their
boundaries. We stay close by our hearth
and our fire beneath a mantel lined
with framed images of these same
rooms.

Beyond us we can feel the house
brooding through days of neglect, the
accumulated dust sifting into its bones,
the sun shadows and moon shadows
crawling across deserted floors, the
shame in its solitude as it waits for a
step to cut the silence.
A MISSIONARY OF THE MUTANT RAIN FOREST

Cassock torn, rorshached by blood and sweat,
a detailed gold crucifix with broken chain
clutched so fiercely in one skeletal fist
that an intaglio of the thrice-nailed Jesus
imprints like a scar in the hollow of his palm,
he trods through patches of light and shadow
cast by vast vegetal eruptions he cannot name
except to christen them infernal or sublime.
Having penetrated farther into the wilderness

than any of his far less stalwart brethren,
all of whom have fled to the coast or died,
his aquiline features are increasingly set
in a rigorous mask of beatific masochism,
he is sustained by the fervor of a faith
more maniacal than the landscape he tracks.
The creatures of the forest do not harm him,
in awe of the madness inherent in his quest.
Swarming clouds of carnivorous redjackets

shun the taste of his pale fevered flesh.
Or it may be his sermons that protect him,
leaden tracts rehearsed till letter perfect
in the sanctum of some distant spartan cell,
now raged and chanted through the awful glens,
against the scattered shards of unthatched sky,
embellished by a rising hallucinatory passion,
peppered with the mucous rattle of his breath.
On a morning born from nightmares he awakens,

no memory in his mind of how he came to sleep;
the congregation he has sought is all about him,
a flock of clever felines who walk upon two feet.
With the scraps of human tongue they've gathered,
they listen to his tales of the sacrificial son.
Here his faith is heresy, his form abomination,
he whets their appetites with his talk of blood.
As their paws and claws defrock him, pry the gold
from his hands, strip away his sacerdotal shreds,

his dreams take flight beyond a martyr's death.
He envisions the pomp of his future consecration,
in the Holy City, a host of hosannas sung on high,
yet the fate he soon discovers is far from divine.
Bound by mutant skins, stained with mutant dyes,
he becomes a penitent before a graven shrine,
novitiate and servant to a pagan panther priest.
For visionary madness is familiar to their kind,
and they only devour the ones they cannot teach.

In the ghetto of Caracas you can see him every day,
an excommunicant, a derelict, a holy man some claim,
a strangely-tattooed apparition both hirsute and gray,
who preaches the imminence of a feline Second Coming,
and sees the reborn Saviour as a bestial incarnation,
complete with taloned forepaws and the eyes of a cat.
DARK ROADS
Selected Long Poems 1971-2012
Dark Renaissance Books

Trade paper and ebook editions available at Amazon

Signed limited trade paper at Bad Moon Books
and Dark Regions Press

Signed limited deluxe hardcover
with slipcase and eight extra poems
at
Bad Moon Books and Camelot Books

Free PDF file for SFPA Members
for Elgin Award Consideration
Email Bruce Boston at bruboston@aol.com
Quotes from Reviews

“This is writing that will resonate and which you, as a
reader, will want to savor. It is one of the most thought
provoking and yet intensely engrossing books I’ve read
this year and I cannot recommend it too highly. Even if
you think you hate poetry—perhaps especially if you
think you hate poetry—you owe it to yourself
to read
Dark Roads, as it will alter your perception of
poetry forever.” — Norm Rubinstein,
Horror World

“This collection from Bruce Boston spans his entire
career, and the selections are amazing for their depth and
diversity. This is not cheap horror poetry about monsters
and the apocalypse. Boston’s vivid imagery and elegant
style captures the long, dark shadows of twilight and the
haunting fear of midnight. Decay, terror, fear, hope, the
light at the end of the tunnel, madness, nightmares, and
dreams. Bruce Boston is the Byron of our age.”
— Citation with Gothic Readers Choice Award

“Selected from Boston’s dazzling canon of exquisitely
crafted speculative poems, Dark Roads collects a group of
longer poems over a period of forty years in this stunning
volume opulently illustrated by celebrated artist M.
Wayne Miller. A dark sorcery of language ensnares the
reader in fully realized wordscapes…. One can almost feel
the psyche tilt and bend toward the printed page while
reading these 31 extraordinary poems.
It is a very dark ride, indeed.”
— J. L. Comeau,
Creature Feature Reviews

"Dark Roads is a collection of poems spanning Bruce
Boston's long and illustrious writing career. They have
been gathered in one volume and give readers an amazing
peek into the depth and power of Boston's writing....His
work is fierce, ferocious, haunting, poignant, and
emotive. Hope, despair, anger, and fear are there....
It's what dark poetry is meant to be."
— Drake Morgan,
Monster Librarian