Dorian in Flames

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.