She said it would eat her, such fancies were her diet
but at last she broke the shell away from her heart
at vespers underneath her coat –
the leathern psalter in his hand,
he mounts the stairs in her spiralled mind
so take the bell and ring it thrice, he falls.
Out cold for weeks and months
beneath a blanket made of snow; they told her
what she already knew, the broken spit
upon a distant shore too hard to navigate, to find
unbound leaves , a broken spine.
Lying lies. It stays down when nailed fast
beneath the wood, the varnished unsmiling smile
his blacke wyrme bites and squirms
he is unaneled, unhouseled
a hungry ghost on skewering pins
She soars and swoops
a gold eyed ravening wild bird.
Veronica Aldous 2016 all rights reserved
Christopher Thomas Schmitz writes: There is an interaction between a man and a woman in “Gothick,” but its nature is mysterious to me. The poem sounds in places like a dangerous liaison, an erotic but deadly game of cat-and-mouse. Christian imagery is threaded throughout: vespers (evening prayers), psalter (book of psalms), unaneled (not given Last Rites), unhouseled (not given Holy Communion), but there are pagan touches as well like bells ringing three times, hungry ghosts, and wild birds.
The poem begins with an image of consumption, (“She said it would eat her”), and ends with one as well (“She is a gold-eyed ravening wild bird”). The feeding throughout may be from death whose “blacke wyrme bites and squirms” but also from an erotic force. Camille Paglia has said: “Sexual intercourse, from kissing to penetration, consists of movements of barely controlled cruelty and consumption.”