from Alphabets of Desire & Sorrow: A Book of Imaginary Colophons
Alphabet of Scratches
At St. Mary Bethlehem (which the world calls Bedlam), Jeremy Watt, shut up for insanity, discovered in a maze of scratches scribed by others' lunatic hands an alphabet with which he might invoke things not apparent to the eye. So it was that on a late November afternoon while winter rehearsed in the soot and shadows of the ward, Watt alchemized the asylum into a Moorfields mews where—in a fusty upper-storey room—his wife, who had denounced him to the magistrate, was partnered in adultery with a pie man. Uttering an uncouth scratch of noise (unintelligible to the madhouse staff), Watt slaughtered her remorselessly with an airy dagger—a perfect telepathic murder for which the pie man was condemned and hung.
Alphabet of Torment
Fluent in the languages of unnatural death, Luis Boscán set down on thick paper the confessions of the Spanish damned while, outside the cruel chamber furnished ingeniously with instruments of torment, the fountains of Seville produced liquid acanthus leaves to the sound of castanets. Had he been otherwise than agony's faithful amanuensis in the service of the auto de fé, he might have written liras to the woman in the silk bazaar (the whiteness and elegance of whose neck reminded him of a swan's) with a calligraphy derived from limpid columns of water. But the Latin's stern characters—barbed and black—with which he compiled for the Inquisition its savage history had murdered all desire, as light pulsing in veins of water might grow dark with the soot of the dead.
The Common Issue 3
Copyright © 2012 by Norman Lock
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Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission