A Terrible Beauty

Part I. A Terrible Beauty

Siempre que hablo contigo
acabo murièndome un poco mas.
-Frida Kahlo

It was a horrible time that we had of it
That one month in autumn
When the searing sun captured in mid-conception our dreams
Withered before they hit ground
Hissing as the wind blew through the trees
Cracked beneath our feet as we walked by the old church
Where the bells reminded her of only death
And from then on we took the shortcut through the garden
Where I put dead flowers in her hair
And smiling she was the most beautiful of all the flowers

Amid the fiercest of flames the roses will blacken but still thrive
Akin to the fallen crests amid life’s mortal coil slings
Coiled like the talon clenching a broken heart
Drawing blood from the stone
Birthing a terrible beauty

And every morning after that one night
Every awakening after that visit
When I looked up at her face against the stars
When she ran and I gave chase
Just to once again look back into the pearls that were her eyes
After having lost her in the darkness
Resigned to the truth that she was but a ghost
Living within our empty glass walls as but a seed of memory
Stillborn was every sunrise thereafter.


This poem is the first in a ten part story/cycle entitled “The Pine Barrens”.

The Darkling Busker

I walk the busy street
Shuffling feet, cold concrete
Past furtive dark basaltic pairs
Of eyes that glance, others stare
Up to vacuous heights I see
Cascade the shrines to industry
Dizzy I get as I turn down
My head back to this dying town
And how long must her secret keep
To end her life while her people sleep

The smog is like a corpse that fell
And never heard the final knell
The toll that wakes you with a jerk
And bids you sleepwalk off to work
Cast aspersions to the sky
Crowded but forlorn as I
The dead that walk upon the earth
Spewed air conditioned live stillbirth
From womb awaken with a sigh
Heaven’s scorched beclouded eye

But from amid the wall of noise
That ever drowns and then destroys
A busker with the softest voice
Singing as beyond all choice
Into the din, the whirlpool sound
Cries like there’s no one around
Sweetly in the stifling air
A dulcet voice without a care
Weaves beauty in her ballad’s plot
Of which she knows and I do not


The Wasp, the Widow, the Butterfly and the Bird

Bertram states that this poem was written by him in a past life as a 14th century monk in France under the name Fr. Bertrand Gilles de Crist. Originally titled L’guêpe’, La veuve noir, La papillon et La Corneille.  It is printed here unabridged and fully translated by Mr. Gilchrist, himself.

A wasp there was, both solitary and regretful
That in both love and life, to his passions had been forgetful
So in search of the former, he left his quiet den
Guided by an instinct that burdens both wasps and men
And after midway through his journey, came upon a lavish silken web
Surely, thought the wasp, a lovely creature calls this her bed
Calling out a greeting, a polite and cheerful “tally-ho!”
Taken aback by she who answered, a dark and seductive black widow
She beckoned him come closer and to lay upon the dewy strands
The intricate kaleidoscope which was woven by her hands
They locked into each other’s arms and made love for quite a spell
But, when asked if she would be his mate, the widow would not tell
Instead, she sang a song to him, a quiet lullaby
As he laid his head upon her breast and closed his eyes with just a sigh
But the wasp awakened in a panic when he felt the widow’s poisoned bite
He broke free of her clutches and flew out into the night
And looking back, he waved adieu to the widow on the silk
Knowing she had only done just what’s expected of her ilk
And so on he flew to continue with his earthly quest
Both alive and wiser and, yet, still hoping for the best
Attracted by its fragrance, he beheld a field of flowers
And a brightly colored maiden, therein, passing daylight’s hours
Startled and bewildered by his swiftly seized approach
She was repulsed by this creature that in her Eden had encroached
She hastily flew and out from the garden she raced
But the wasp, undeterred, gave a valiant and love-bitten chase
She flew so fast and paid no mind to which way she went
And she noticed too late that into the mouth of a toad she’d been sent
Thinking she’d breathed her last breath on this life-giving earth
She suddenly saw light as the toad’s mouth opened and gave her a rebirth
Why, she thought, have I from death’s mouth been suddenly flung
She turned to look and saw that, by the wasp, the toad’s eye had been stung
Then, as if a veil was drawn away, she saw the wasp with brand new eyes
Such a handsome being, how, she thought, was I before not mesmerized
Enamored at once, she flew with him back to her garden
Bidding the wasp forgive her hasty retreat and grant her a full lover’s pardon
At that, they swore never to part and the two became only but one
Their love intertwined like a rich tapestry and their new day had only begun
When one day after time spent within ardor’s splendid garden of wealth
The wasp decided it was finally time to reveal to his love his true self
In her presence he shed his false skin and showed his true colors and wings
He was not a real wasp but also a butterfly, a perfect a match, so he thinks
But the maiden she cried upon seeing his beautiful guise
And the butterfly wasp was no comfort at all, nor could he dry tears from her eyes
For what she had to say all but broke the poor wasp’s heart
She could not love another like herself, so soft, and their ways they had to part
But, he argued that he’d proven his love, his honor and his bravery
Still the maiden would not hear it, and could not love one more fair than she
Broken, the butterfly once again donned his wasp regalia
And flew away from the fragrant scents of rose and lilac and azalea
Into the dark he retreated and in the wild lost his tracks
Until he spied the open web of the same seductive widow black
His journey proven fruitless to end his life of leisure
He decided to end it, nevertheless, within the throes of pleasure
And back into the arms he went of the temptress in the strands
Sworn to never fly again but die by her poisoned fangs
Meanwhile, back in the garden the maiden spies a shadow in the lea
And gets in closer for a look at the beautiful and new mystery
Pierced by a black darker than she’s ever seen
Put in a trance or something like a waking dream
A voice emerged from the shadow like a sirens call
And too late she realized that it was no dream at all
Before awe could turn to fear, the shadow began to move and grow
In an instant she was faced with what was once a shadow but now a crow
The black one’s smile was as wicked as the devil on his throne
The butterfly stood no chance in this garden all alone
With a snap and a clap, the crow had the maiden in his beak
And the maiden had but a second to cry out a desperate shriek
Through the blackened forest where the light eternally disappears
Went the scream of the troubled maiden into the wasps now-dying ears
Startled into waking from a poison nightmare state
The wasp knew that he must break free before it was too late
With all his dying strength summoned up into his wings
He broke free and swiftly delivered to the widow a death sting
Racing to the sound of the maidens fearful cries
With poison in his veins and tears running down his eyes
The wasp landed on the bird and plunged his deadly lance
Into the crow before the crow had any chance
The bird spat the butterfly and went into a flail
As the wasp injected venom and fought him tooth and nail
Though getting weaker and weaker, the wasp would not stop the attack
Just to save the dear life of his only beloved without ever looking back
Then with a crash, the crow’s lifeless wings hit the ground
His beak opened up but he uttered not one single sound
The butterfly wasp dragged himself to his love and made sure she had come to no harm
Before giving his breath, his final on earth, and dying in her gentle arms
And the butterfly maiden lay crying alone in her garden among all the flowers
On a stone that became the wasp’s very tombstone and where she spends now most of her hours.



My head was pounding as incessantly as the cold cold rain. I went to bed and off to sleep with Scarlit on my brain.

I just love the way she looks at me from across a million other stares
And slacks away the night with me like no one even cares
Like there exists no distance between me and the furthest star
And doesn’t give a damn about who we really are
She hides a jewel in each laugh, a sound not hard to miss
There’s nothing that she does without a smile…
And her smile is just like a kiss

Never have to beg or even ask for her affection
Never felt the barbs of a cold and sharp rejection
Among all the brightest faces in this endless lovely sea
I was casting out for Scarlit while she casted out for me

I wish that I could say more, but Scarlit’s just a dream
A dream to fill the emptiness of life’s ever-flowing stream

I don’t think this poem requires much explanation other than it is about the fanciful notion of the ideal woman. I do feel the urge to include something that Bertram said about poetry here; he said, “A good poem should not just be something that you read and then forget. It should be like something that you dream and then awake from.” Think about that while you dream of Scarlit.


Untitled (Perhaps called “She was” or something about The Truth…)

She was
Gone, but not without a trace
She left a faint whisper
Of repetitious nothings in my ear
Like a signal faintly beaming in from outer space
Or a ringing softly singing, do you hear?
Except I only sometimes hear it
In my quietest of dreams
When I push aside the darkness
And the thousand pinpoint focused screams
Then her voice is left no other choice
But to sing
Like a smokey cabaret performance
While I sit quietly in the wings

Calling for the truth from her was my bitterest mistake
Reaching for a serpent while my senses took a brake
First strike was nearly death
The next felt like two hits of crystal meth
She dealt the final blow
And put my soul to rest
Stung by the words of her song
My life, summed up, felt like an infinite jest

This is a singular little piece which I managed to convince Bertram to make public. There are certain works he considers deeply personal; some of which may or may not make it on to the pages of this blog. On top of being very personal, he considers the piece riddled with flaws. I beg to differ. 

Big Dream

I like when the wind blows the stars around at night
Against the darkness in the sky your shadow stands out
Like a light.
The eternal time between you and I is something we don’t discuss
Like a void created by the quiet distance
Between you and me and us.
And it’s so strange how this timeless yearning
Sets to motion all these words unspoken
At once still but always turning.

This wondrous life as perfectly random as it may seem
Is all just written in a book kept locked away
It’s all just someone’s big dream.

And I like it when the air just suddenly leaves the room
I know you’re near, I want to see you here
Take a stake in all my gloom.
I like the lines on your face that say you know too much
I use them like a map to your soul, your heart
When my wounded spirit needs a crutch.
Don’t look too long or else we’ll both begin to change
But there’s something in the air that makes me want to stare
I don’t know what it is but it’s really very strange.

The world so grand fits in our hands can die so quietly without a scream
Yet we keep it locked away waiting for the perfect day
Waiting for our own big dream.

The only thing Mr. Gilchrist said about this poem was, “I think it’s horrible that people go through life depriving themselves of happiness. So many times we say we feel great and really only mean it once or twice.” I don’t fully understand what that statement says about this work, but this may be Bertram’s version of a “carpe diem poem”. Until he says otherwise, I’ll just continue to think that.


Unfinished #4

I caught a memory that drifted out from back in time
Like a moth stuck in a closet flying circles in my mind
Of a face that seemed familiar but whose name I can’t recall
Be they a friend or foe or flame or be they anything at all
I cannot help but think if they look on me the same
Like a fading portrait that’s been left for years out in the rain
Or do they remember fondly something I can’t recollect
And are they longing for the day we meet again and reconnect
But, something in my mind’s eye begins to make this phantom form
Like clouds becoming demons before the coming of a storm
This transient shadow figure that wandered out into the light
Begins to pierce me with the haunting stare of a prowler in the night

Bertram will leave poems unfinished from time to time; usually because he just loses interest or runs out of ideas. However, this unfinished poem is different. This one, he says, remains unfinished because the ending “scared the living daylights outta me.” He says that while writing this piece, he must have “dug too deep” into his mind and pulled something dark and disturbing from its inner most depths. Strange indeed, and it is the only unfinished poem that he is fine with me publishing. That tells me that this poem looks to remain unfinished.

Twice Deadly Kiss

A storm is brewing like the coffee in my pot
I sit and ponder on what I have and have not
But a headache is all I really got
As I hear the thunder and the rain
Pound like a lynch mob
On my brain
But I still think of you

Your memory haunts me like a murder scene
Your voice like that of the victim’s screams
I know how surreal this all may seem
To be faced with the thought of losing you
Damning myself
Just for choosing you

A lonely train stifles out my cries
Whistles to no one as it passes by
Fades until it’s just a sigh
And the silence grows so cold
As a madness like a fever
Takes its hold
Once more

By now I’ve cursed myself a million times
With all these dull and senseless rhymes
And never one mountain did I climb
The pale hillsides lay as bare
As the heavy burden of love
I no longer wear
On my shoulders

A twice deadly kiss is still a kiss
Like poison on lava as it starts to hiss
The only thing in life I’ll truly miss
After I’m swinging away
Like the fruit on the vine
On a breezy day
Is you

This dark, brooding piece is another example of what Bertram calls his “jazz poetry”. It has an unconventional rhyme pattern and it is structured in a way so that the stanzas vaguely resemble guns; bringing another level of coldness to an already chilling work.



If you would ask me why my love for you is so strong
I could write a million verses to a soon-abandoned song
And tell you that you own the key to my heart
Which you could use to lock it up or set it free
But, either way, it will stay by your side
Such is my heart’s blind loyalty.
I could write a story or a book
One that surely you might one day come across
Flip through its thousand pages, then casually overlook
Because it speaks in riddles, in metaphors and vaguely has a rhyme
Or because the ending may be tragic and, for that, you have no time
With a jolt, your eyes would come across my name and you’d laugh
Knowing that you could sum me up much better within just a paragraph.
Then, you’d wonder how I could write about a love so deep
When it’s all just silent answers to the one-sided conversation
I have with you in my sleep.
There would be time to dwell on the protagonist’s imperfections
The thousand and one times he felt the blow of love’s rejection.
And would the hero die for nothing?
So that you could miss the meaning of the plot?
Supposing that you caught a glimpse of something special
For just a moment, but then turn and whisper, “I’m sorry, but I forgot”?
When I wrote about your feelings being stuck deep in a mire
When I compared your heart to a cold stone long ago pulled out from the fire
Whose flames no longer fill your eyes with sparks like they do my soul
Whose warmth will not defrost a longing that ended its life as coal.
But, you still ask me why I love you
And if there is any end for it in sight
You still ask
And I still write.

The author Rita Mae Brown once said, “There’s nothing foolish in loving anyone. Thinking you’ll be loved in return is what’s foolish.” I’m thinking those were Bertram’s thoughts when he wrote this poem. He rarely talks openly about things like love (which he considers a sickness, akin to anemia), so the best way to get to know that side of Mr. Gilchrist is to read what he call’s his “vacant musings” on the subject.


Music from a Distant Room

As stated before, Bertram Gilchrist is also a musician and songwriter. One may often catch him noodling out an original piece on his guitar while sitting on his porch at sunset. Or, he will sit at his piano composing some cool jazzy melodies. Either way, he usually likes to begin with lyrics to his songs. To a poet, lyrics are obviously the most important part of a song. Although, Bertram’s melodies are extremely catchy, as well.This is one of his songs. It’s an old style jazzy number.

Music from another room, I hear it all the time
Meant for someone else’s ears but not for mine
The beckoning mistress puts out her call
But, turns her back and says it’s not what she meant at all
Why does a heart most dear to you
Play the fool to the one who is near to you

I sing the words to a song
Only sung in dreams
Which by day only come out wrong
Or get drowned out by your screams

Music from another room, like memories of yesterday
Linger in my mind, bleeding on into today
Drag me back to where I don’t belong
Into the verses of your favorite song
But, when you listen you just laugh
And put on a different phonograph

I sing the lyrics to a melody
That once I thought were true
The song much greater than a symphony
Because it was of you

There’s always music in a distant room
Like a passing silhouette
Here, then gone away much too soon
But, much too hard to forget

There will be time for one more dance
One more sick and twisted dark romance
Then you can leave without a trace
With just the memory of my face
And the words I say with my last breath
Will be on the coin you hand to death