Friday, June 5, 2009

The Portrait of Dorian Gray

The Portrait of Dorian Gray

“It was a poisonous book”
—Oscar Wilde, The Picture
of Dorian Gray

Lord Henry had sent—Dorian a yellow book
What kind of book—Dorian wondered to himself?

Dorian was bored—in need of diversion
It can be so tiring—being eternally young

It was a novel—without a plot
It was unlike any book—he’d ever seen

It was like the portrait—up in the attic
The book had a weird—strange life of its own

The pages started—turning on their own
Opening up to places—that wanted to be read

Immediately he fell—into poisonous depths
It was as if the book—suddenly seduced him

It had been waiting for him—smoldering
Petulantly there on—the pearl-colored stand

It picked him up—flung himself into an arm-chair
After a few minutes—it was no longer a book

It was some kind of—exquisite entertainment
A delicate filigree of desires—unspoken sins

Things only dimly imagined—suddenly got real
Things never dreamed—were gradually revealed

It was—a long desultory decadent story
A decadent monologue—by a young Parisian

Someone like Dorian—slowly ruining his life
Taking his time doing it—as if he had forever

Gradually realizing this—Dorian read deeper
Finally—a book that told the morbid truth

He’d always felt alienated—and ill at ease
Belonging to another time—not his own

His various moods—merely artificialities
Compared with some other—knowing other

It was a strange book—made stranger
By Dorian’s natural rebellion—against himself

The style of writing—was curiously segued
One strange addiction—following another

First scented oils—burning odorous gums
Frankincense and ambergris—stirred Dorian

Then sweet-smelling—aromatic balms
Dark and sickening—louche pheromones

Then devoting himself—like des Esseintes
To zithers—vermilion-gold scarved Gypsies

Grave Tunisians boys—playing flutes
Beneath ceilings of—olive-green lacquer

Crouching slim Indians—turbaned & pouty
Blowing thru long pipes—of reed and brass

Feigning to charm—out of woven baskets
Great hooded snakes—sleek horned adders

Such barbaric music—smoothed by hookahs
More beautiful than—Chopin’s sadness

Inevitably though—Dorian got bored
Ending up at the opera—with Lord Henry

Hopelessly Euro-tragic—Dorian eventually
Seeing Tannhäuser—as prelude to disaster

To calm himself—he took up jewelry
Appearing as—Admiral Anne de Joyeuse

In a dress—covered with 560 pearls
Such taste enthralling him—all weekend

Worshipping various—stones he collected
Olive-green chrysoberyl—red by candlelight

Pistachio-colored peridot—rose-pink and
Wine-colored topazes—scarlet rubies

Pearly-white moonstones—amethysts
Three Ecuadorian—simply huge emeralds

His many rings—of red gold and turquoise
The envy of—all the jealous connoisseurs

Diamonds rendered—Dorian invisible
The agates of India—made him eloquent

The cornelian—appeasing ruffian’s anger
The hyacinth—provoking sailor’s sleep

The garnet—casting out demons
The hydropicus—making the moon pale

Duke de Valentinois—son of Alexander VI
Visiting Louis XII of France—leafed with gold

Favorites of James I—wearing earrings of
Emeralds—set in serpentine gold filigree

Piers Galveston—in a suit of red-gold armor
Studded with opals—a collar of turquoise stones

Henry II—jeweled gloves reaching the elbow
Hawk-glove sewn—with 12 blood-red rubies

Charles the Rash—last Duke of Burgundy
His ducal hat—hung with sapphire teardrops

How exquisite—life had once been
So gorgeous & gay—the luxury of the dead

All these treasures—means of forgetfulness
Vivid & yet obscure—full of argot & archaisms

But soon these—various aesthetic treasures
Began taunting him—transgressively

Paraphrasing and smirking—Dorian’s desires
Slinking subversively—like French Symbolistes

The villa he shared—with aging Lord Henry
On the beach near Trouville—lost its touch

He no longer found entertaining—Algiers
Nor the foreign sailors—nude in Whitechapel

Entertaining the—fashionable young men
In his Nottinghamshire mansion—ended

Even thieves & hustlers—became hum-drum
Even young rough-trade—down by the docks

His life became—a deluge of lifeless inanities
A torrent of hackneyed—broken phrases

He felt full of—Baudelaire Evil Flowers
Putting up with insolence—male lechery

Forever haunting—the local brothel
Smelling the sheets—for new aromas

Others tolerating—his sullen insolences
Debonair manner—because he was rich

Whispered scandals—and up in the attic
The tainted portrait flesh—slowly rotting

Chapter by chapter—Against Nature
Haunted Dorian’s life—a wake of debris

History was into it—gilded decadent death
How many Caligula queens—biting the dust?

Dorian hardly knew at times—whether the
Book was reading him—or he was reading it

A poisonous book—morbidly confessional
Dramatic monologue—heavy odor of incense

Patchouli clinging—to the sticky pages
Reminding him of—fatal disambiguations

Subtle monotonies—complex boredoms
Ennui elaborately—hypnotically repeated

Producing in his mind—other chapters
A form of reckless reverie—forgetfulness

It made him unconscious—of the decay
Of portraiture—and creeping shadows

Cloudless—pierced by a solitary star
The copper-green sky—groaning metaphors

Monstrous orchids—devoured Dorian Gray
Clinging humid—glassed-in homicides

Dorian became—Des Esseintes’ book
The library locked—other books bored him

He became the book—like the portrait
The pages smelling—like pungent patchouli

Giving off—an odor of unhealthy mildew
An ongoing haunting—abhorrent decay

The book got up—placing Dorian on
The little Florentine table—by the bedside

Already the book—felt stunned & shocked—
Pleased with Dorian’s—unadulterated ennui

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