The Saturday Night Special: “Faust” by Phil Slattery

Phil Slattery portrait

Phil Slattery
March, 2015

I have been negligent over the last few weeks regarding posting the Saturday Night Special as I like to do. Tonight, I would like to resurrect it, if only for the night, with one of my own creations: the poem “Faust”. This is one of the first works, poem or fiction, that I ever wrote. I wrote in in probably 1991. I remember it was a summer’s day and the weather was beautiful, but I had a drive to write poetry in those days and I decided to stay in until I wrote a poem. I decided to write on the German legend of Faust as it had always fascinated me.

So I stayed in my living room that beautiful day for eight hours until I had this finished. What I did after that, I am not certain, I probably searched the Poet’s Market (no Internet back then) for that year until I found a possible publisher.  I did not have a personal computer then, so I typed it up and submitted it by USPS, which was the only option then. I do not recall how many times I submitted it before it was accepted, but it wasn’t many. I may have even got it on the first attempt, which is rare. “Faust” was first published in February, 1992 by The Hollins Critic (for which I was paid $25, the only money I ever made from a single poem). It was reprinted by Blood Moon Rising Magazine on July 10, 2013 and by Literary Hatchet on December 22, 2015.

If you are not familiar with the legend, Faust was a German alchemist/scientist in the middle ages-Renaissance who sold his soul for knowledge. The legend was most famously made into a long play by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and many consider it to be his magnum opus and the greatest work of German literature. Goethe published part I in 1806 and finished part II in 1831, but part II was not published until after Goethe’s death.

“Faust” is probably my favorite poem of all the ones I ever wrote.

 

Faust

Quiet.
All is damnably quiet.
I can hear the spiders spinning in the darkness,
the breath of a rat against the stone walls,
a cockroach crawling through the sulphur-laden air.
The roaring silence fills the air like the grumble of the sea.

Pitiless Eternity.

But a second ago he was here,
he whose eyes glowed like falling stars in bottomless pools,
he with the comforting voice of the practiced whore.
My wounds still bleed, my sleeves are still wet.
The rats have yet to smell the droplets on the floor.

For what have I been sold?
Square roots? Sines? Sums?
Will I profit knowing winds are not the breath of God
knowing the sun is not a chariot of fire?
knowing mountains are not the bones of giants?
knowing why the sound of pouring wine tickles the ear?
why lovers’ eyes sparkle as purest silver?
why cool grass and shade bring easy sleep?

Did Da Vinci paint with a carpenter’s angle?
Michaelangelo sculpt with a plumb?

I will be reduced to monotonous lectures and boring sums.
And should I escape eternal hell
I nonetheless lose my soul.

 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in the Roman countryside by J.H.W. Tischbein

The Saturday Night Special: “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe (1849)

It was many and many a year ago,
   In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
   By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
   Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
   I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
   Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
   My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
   And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
   In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
   Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
   In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
   Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
   Of those who were older than we—
   Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
   Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
   Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
   In her sepulchre there by the sea—
   In her tomb by the sounding sea.
Edgar Allan Poe, circa 1849

Edgar Allan Poe, circa 1849

Update: October 9, 2019, Second Edition Planning for Nocturne

Working late at night in an IHOP in Midland, Texas, May 2019 (photo by Francene Kilgore-Slattery)

I worked on my novel Shadows and Stars for some time this evening and added around  2,000 words. I brought some things together and worked on eliminating inconsistencies. Then while I was watching a re-run of an episodes of Breaking Bad’s third season and simultaneously, my lower back seized up causing great pain. I took some Ibuprofen and waited for it to calm down so that I could sleep. I did several stretches and various things to decrease the pain. The pain did start to decrease after a while, but I don’t know if the stimulus was my stretches or the ibuprofen.

In any case, while I was waiting for my back pain to ease up and I started ego-surfing the Internet. I found three poems I had published in Apollo’s Lyre (now defunct), two of which are fairly intense romantically speaking. I decided they rated inclusion in Nocturne, so I decided to publish a second edition of Nocturne. I then looked for some other poems that I hadn’t in there, but probably should have. I found a few of those. I then looked at my photo file and went online to check out a couple of public domain photos. They had what I wanted, so I determined to come out with the second edition of Nocturne. There’s not much to add, so it should come out in a month or two. These poems and accompanying photos will definitely ratchet up the collections intensity overall.

Stay tuned for more updates.

Podcast: My Interview on KSJE radio (90.9FM) with Traci Hales-Vass on Nocturne… and more

For those of you who have not heard it, here is a link to my interview with Traci Hales-Vass for Farmington (NM) public radio KSJE 90.9 FM, which aired on September 18, 2019. The topic was my poetry collection Nocturne: Poems of Love, Distance, and the Night, a callous and disinterested lover.  Many heartfelt thanks to Traci for having me on her show.

The interview is also on YouTube.

You can find another review by Aakanksha Jain here. Many heartfelt thanks to Aakanksha as well.

Also Aakanksha did a written interview with me as well, which came out in July and which you can find here.

The Saturday Night Special: “Red is the Color of Blood” by Conrad Aiken (1918)

RED is the color of blood, and I will seek it:

I have sought it in the grass.

It is the color of steep sun seen through eyelids.

 

It is hidden under the suave flesh of women–

Flows there, quietly flows.

It mounts from the heart to the temples, the singing

mouth–

As cold sap climbs to the rose.

I am confused in webs and knots of scarlet

Spun from the darkness;

Or shuttled from the mouths of thirsty spiders.

 

Madness for red! I devour the leaves of autumn.

I tire of the green of the world.

I am myself a mouth for blood …

 

Here, in the golden haze of the late slant sun,

Let us walk, with the light in our eyes,

To a single bench from the outset predetermined.

Look: there are seagulls in these city skies,

Kindled against the blue.

But I do not think of the seagulls, I think of you.

 

Your eyes, with the late sun in them,

Are like blue pools dazzled with yellow petals.

This pale green suits them well.

 

Here is your finger, with an emerald on it:

The one I gave you. I say these things politely–

But what I think beneath them, who can tell?

 

For I think of you, crumpled against a whiteness;

Flayed and torn, with a dulled face.

I think of you, writing, a thing of scarlet,

And myself, rising red from that embrace.

 

November sun is sunlight poured through honey:

Old things, in such a light, grow subtle and fine.

Bare oaks are like still fire.

Talk to me: now we drink the evening’s wine.

Look, how our shadows creep along the grave!–

And this way, how the gravel begins to shine!

 

This is the time of day for recollections,

For sentimental regrets, oblique allusions,

Rose-leaves, shrivelled in a musty jar.

Scatter them to the wind! There are tempests coming.

It is dark, with a windy star.

 

If human mouths were really roses, my dear,–

(Why must we link things so?–)

I would tear yours petal by petal with slow murder.

I would pluck the stamens, the pistils,

The gold and the green,–

Spreading the subtle sweetness that was your breath

On a cold wave of death….

 

Now let us walk back, slowly, as we came.

We will light the room with candles; they may shine

Like rows of yellow eyes.

Your hair is like spun fire, by candle-flame.

You smile at me–say nothing. You are wise.

 

For I think of you, flung down brutal darkness;

Crushed and red, with pale face.

I think of you, with your hair disordered and dripping.

And myself, rising red from that embrace.

###

This poem is from Gothic Romantic Poetry, which adds this note about Conrad Aiken:

“Conrad Aiken came from a  wealthy, and well known family who were from New England but moved to Savannah, Georgia. His father was a respected physician and surgeon however for no apparent reason Conrad’s father

Conrad Aiken October 3, 2013 (photographer unknown)

Conrad Aiken
October 3, 2013
(photographer unknown)

suddenly  seemed to change his temperament and became difficult to get on with and violent. Then early in the morning of February 27, 1901, he murdered his wife and shot himself. Conrad (who was eleven years old) heard the gunshots and discovered the bodies. After this tragedy he was raised by his great-great-aunt in Massachusetts.

“To read more about the life of Conrad Aiken read his autobiographical novel Ushant (1952), one of his major works which is an excellent source of information. In this book he speaks candidly about his various affairs and marriages, his attempted suicide and fear of insanity.”