Thursday 30 January 2020

The Church of Despair

by Nick Gisburne

We carried the corpse to the Sinister Sea
And we rowed to the Isle of the Dead
We wept in the shade of the Misery Tree
Where a sorrowful sermon was read

The Rock of Illusion, the Church of Despair
Towered over the mist and the trees
The Brothers of Infamy beckoned us there
And in silence we fell to our knees

They murmured a mystery, words within words
Subtle whispers, each softer than sighs
They summoned the omens, the revenant birds
Swirling ravens, and rooks, and magpies

The least of the Brothers struck iron to wood
Hammered hard on a hideous door
A second, a third, then in silence he stood
Till within, from the shadows, a roar

A bellow of anger, of hunger, of rage
But a measure of anguish and pain
A monster, a beast from a Stygian age
Was it evil, or driven insane?

Approaching the threshold, we tasted its breath
As it snorted and sullied the air
We laid out the body, an offer of death
From a credo of grief and despair

The Brothers of Infamy called to the skies
With a resonant chorus of song
The spiralling birds with their murderous cries
Now a menacing, dangerous throng

With madness upon him, the elder, the priest
Threw the barricade beam from the door
It silenced the Brothers, the birds and the beast
Then, the sickening scrape of a claw

It tested the timbers of powerful oak
And it measured long hinges of steel
Perhaps something human inside it awoke
Was it rational? What did it feel?

The door, groaning, heavy, swung open and wide
Till our hearts begged our bodies to run
When it came, from the darkness, from somewhere inside
All our senses unravelled, undone

What heavenly being, what angel so pure
What illusion, what splendour was this?
He walked with a soft and seductive allure
And a shimmering, radiant bliss

His nakedness, humble, untainted with shame
Was a beacon of beauty and light
No sign of the creature, the beast without name
Only innocence entered our sight

He knelt down in reverence, mourning the dead
And a tear passed away on his face
He lifted the body, caressing the head
Not with fingers; now claws took their place

The light in his eyes burned with crimson and jet
Muscles swollen, necrotic and grey
The virtuous smile now a grimacing threat
As he howled with a cry of dismay

He turned to the doorway, but staggered and fell
As his shoulders ripped crudely apart
Dark wings, not of angels, foul torments from Hell
Marked the murderous hue of his heart

My terrified kinsmen fell back in despair
But the Brothers of Infamy rose
They chanted a savage and blasphemous prayer
For the beast, for a moment, time froze

The corpse and the creature were carried at speed
In the church they were hurled to the floor
The holding spell broken, he, waking to feed
Heard the monks lock him in, bar the door

A furious, nightmarish, powerful storm
Lashed the wood and the windows within
For seven long days in this devilish form
He resisted his prison of sin

The body, devoured, as all of them are
Now at last gave the creature his rest
The passing created a symbol, a star
And with this was our pilgrimage blessed

The Brothers, in bitterness, exiled their priest
For revealing the sights we had seen
As penance we swore not to speak of the beast
And his appetites, evil, obscene

Our faith in the gods is grown stronger, made whole
When we carry our dead to the sea
We all hide our demons, but locked in each soul
Is an angel who longs to be free