"Lord of Misrule"

Jake Byrne

Jake Byrne is a queer writer whose poem “Parallel Volumes” was the winner of the 2019 CV2 Young Buck Poetry Prize. His work has appeared in Bat City Review, PRISM international, Lambda Literary’s Poetry Spotlight, The Puritan, Plenitude, Poetry is Dead, The Fiddlehead, and elsewhere. His first chapbook, The Tide (Rahila’s Ghost, 2017), was shortlisted for the bpNichol Chapbook Award in 2018. He is a settler based in Tkaronto, at the traditional meeting place of the nations of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, the Haudenosaunee, and the Mississaugas of the Credit River.

“William Kurelek (1927 – 1977) had been a lifelong atheist until a mental health crisis precipitated his religious conversion, a circumstance I can relate to. I found The Rock (1962) by chance — perhaps, divine intervention — walking through the Art Gallery of Ontario and was drawn to the red hues and Bosch-like figures swarming the citadel. What I respond to in this work is not only the humour Kurelek hides in the sea of horrors (one of the banners of sin the devils carry reads ‘FORM’) but also the notion that the adversity you face washes away what is unnecessary, revealing what remains at your core. This poem, like many I write these days, considers what remains after life’s bloody tide has crashed onto the shore. Whether the answer is grace, humanity, or art, I don’t know. Your mileage may vary.”

“the teachings say no earthly thing is worthy of affection or contemplation”
—Karen Solie, “He enquires of the silence”

It’s not only Shinji’s dreams that end
In rows of crosses made of light.
Rude of Kurelek to lump in sodomy.
In the filigreed abbey
On Mont-Saint-Michel I confessed

My atheism, my thirteen-year-old desire
To be a goth (“It’s just how I feel inside, man”), but no
Mention of the sodomy.
These days I try to promise little
And deliver even less.

But grace is not invoked. Only bestowed.
My desire was to renounce desire and to love
A woman you love, her
Hand sliding on the coffin’s glaze.
The priest reciting the formula

Expressed in the hymnal book
As “Today we celebrate the life of N”
Where N is “Name.” What wretched soul
Would comfort themselves in that.
The ancient dead and shellacked wood

Of the sacristy, the only life in the air
The red-shoed dance of frankincense.
It was a hard week to be on Starship Earth,
It was a crucial day to be online.
It was hard to explain

What was redeemable about humanity
Given that we were only human
The congregation sitting, standing,
Kneeling, bringing our voices to
God’s attention, moving from

Velar voiced fricative to alveopalatal stop
Where the word began. I could never
Be the right boyfriend or son for you.
I could promise only that my most
Burning desire was whomever had

Caught my evil eye
Most recently. But that like a pilgrim
Returning to an altar or an
Employee to a restroom I would
In my grand devotion

Periodically return my eye to you
But never how you’d want me to.
I filed my nails till they were
Soft as a gibbous moon
For when I spat on them and shoved them in you

My doctor counseled
Bring condoms to Japan. But there was no
Latex sheeting that would keep
Life oozing in from the outside.
There’s a pill for that, he says,

But it’ll cost your faggot ass.
I’m ready. I’m so already there
So fucking give it to me
The common and ordinary persons
On whom the greatness of the nation

Staked its claim, lacking fame
Or otherworldly beauty sought their thrills
Through other means. That week
I was to get fucked like it was my job
As much as I could bear and it was my job

To pantomime as though I liked it.
I did like it. It was irrespective of the point
At which the appearance of the thing
And the doing of the thing
Were very close. There

Were the labours that I did for love.
The coarse and vulgar kind.
The higher loves that I aspired to
And never did attain. The violence we enacted
On others and more crucially ourselves.

In this way it was hard to disprove original sin.
But I wanted to trust
That hell was empty
The door to hell
Was locked from the inside

But when the ornate key was turned
In the shape of millennia, bat vomit, qualia
And every earthly valence and above described
The moment when you realized hell was empty
That you were already living in or thru it

It was no consolation of philosophy to know that
My untold sufferings    My griefs    My sufferings to come
My conversations with my father      Cain bashing his brother’s brains
Into the dry and arid field laced with wild grasses
I would never know, or even know I didn’t know

The sun baking the blood into a jam.
Spreading the marrow of an auroch
Onto a crisp rye biscuit. The coin in the air
My darling gentle kitten dying in my eye of vision
Frothing at the mouth with a wonky neck

Yet today was not that day now was it
To birth something was to condemn it to death
For now was the kingdom, the power, and the glory
Like sands thru the hourglass the days of our lives
That lead us down the primrose path to

The structure that a sea of blood assails.
Take us down into the rainbow kingdom
Pass us chalices vibrating with ergot
Horny nubile barely legal teens
Initiation rituals, revolutionary accelerants

Amphetamines, Beauty’s disinterested and
Baleful stare. How I walk up the steps
To your temple so that I may place my mouth
At the fount to drink. The peace that passeth
Understanding. Shantih shantih shantih

Fucking give it to me