An ashen angel hangs from the rafters, wings caught
in ropes, the angel face twisted in astonishment
or fear. We zoom out—crossbeams, pulleys, shadow slabs . . .
An audience murmurs—dark men in chains, silhouetted
against stone, spectral forms on parapets. Everything subsequent follows
an ancient script. Ladders, rope stairs, stone steps leading nowhere.
We have nowhere else to go, we who are here, hollowed
out by what we know, what we knew before we entered.
Hollow, echoing the echoes of stone walls.
No lights—the candelabra sketchy—an instrument of torture.
What with the pulleys, ropes and chains.
Clanking chains, pulled by shadows, hovered over by hooded figures.
They understand the human body, the human mind.
They pull wires; men scream, stone walls echo.
Some lose purchase and tumble down the stone steps.
Screams continue but echoes muffle them and other screams—
layer upon layer, restructuring the architecture.
And yet it is daylight, and the illuminated foyer suspends dreams.
Black flags on spiked poles hang from wall mounts.
Flags of no country, flags of dissipation, despair.
Among the men live pirates, chained to dead parrots.
In the foyer, a knight in full armor consorts with an ape-man.
This is shadow-work, a twilight concordance, conspiracy.
Indefinable beings lock together in a dance before them.
And yet, men from above look down in silent awe.
This is the song they will remember: the screaming song.
The song danced by the indefinable.
There is no fire under the stone arches: only smoke.
And yet shadow men mount wooden ladders.
The chapel bell rings and rings. Who are the summoned?
Who prays to the charcoal shadows, the dank stones?
Who knows the story of their presence here?
Pulleys creak, a giant iron cone plummets to the stone floor.
Everything will further darken, within minutes.
The men on ladders cry out blasphemies as the smoke thickens.
A priest appears, giving benediction.
Men tied to stakes; men wrapped in oilskins, bearing sharp sticks.
They jab the tied men. Blood trickles over the stones.
Only jeweled eyes and a stench of death give away the finish.
Who will be next? They all deserve the stake, the sticks.
They all know they deserve it, but some resist its inevitability.
They do not see themselves partaking in history.
Thus their deaths will not be recorded, nor their sufferings.
Nothing will be remembered of them, save their echoes,
which, given infinite time and space, reverberate infinitely.
Unseen men work the pulleys, black ropes creaking,
black bulk pulled into the shadows of the arches,
buckling their densities briefly. Candlelight, muffled shrieking.
Muted monotones behind the stones, behind the steel,
a prayer but for lack of human feeling,
lack of human being, behind the stones and steel.
Even if egress was an idea, flickering
like a slack candle flame, it has long since lost its efficacy,
represented now by a curling wisp of carbon black.
Salvatore Difalco resides in Toronto. His novel Mean Season (Mansfield Press) was published in autumn 2015.