Arms wide I reach toward the tide
I, Dorian, trapped behind the flame
and, though I burn with dark desire,
no longer shall you know my name.
Lifetimes ago I walked these streets
when gaslights broke the seamless night
and gentle death no man would greet–
those lepers caked by chanchre’d blight…
When high above the running sewers
the well-bred souls drank bowls of wine
and far away from desperate moors
the nobles in their castles dined…
Poor men, like rats, forged meager meals
of scraps dropped from those linen’d laps.
What deeds have greased time’s well-worn wheels
across the night sky’s starry maps?
Can evil works speed men along
to claim their just rewards so soon?
And are we judged but by our wrongs,
each step one closer toward our doom?
I swore I would not be held down
by those with coin or friends or power.
I would not kneel before a crown
or let my spirit be devoured.
I would conquer time and death
although it meant a soul for sale.
A single oath, a well-timed breath–
the pact was sealed. I did not fail.
Familiar trapped in tints and oils,
the artist’s brush a countenance made.
A canvas spread to take the spoils–
each hurt, each wound, each scathe displayed.
Thus beauty, charm, and grace preserved,
the freedom to pursue my whims
unhindered by the threat of night,
this darkened heart, redemption dimmed.
I could not push things far enough.
No threat of pain could hold me fast.
So farther, farther I would go
and begged each danger be the last.
I thought my soul to be preserved
within that painting, safe and still.
What magic had I once deserved?
What reason for the chase and thrill
when other men were doomed to fail,
succumb to, each, his conquering worm?
The slow repose beneath a veil
of time and lies and flesh infirm–
I rose above those well-bred souls
and loomed over their crowns of greed.
I helped them dig their graveyard holes
and used their screams to sate my need.
I toppled and turned upside-down
the towers of aristocracy,
insinuating hateful roots
to choke the roses with my weeds.
But once I turned to look upon
all that my wretched hands had wrought–
the beauty of the world was gone,
those gardens wrecked and turned to rot–
that’s when I knew my heart was black
with sick revenge for sins unknown.
The why’s, the how’s, the long way back
to sanity—all gone—alone.
And snaking deep inside my breast
the itching sting of fear and shame.
It’s done, this ride. I pray for rest
and pray that you forget my name.
I can’t undo all that I’ve done
and can’t give back all that I stole.
Touch flame to canvas… Death, you’ve won.
Be kind to that, my orphaned soul.