Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Infernal Operator

The Infernal Operator

The incubus is having
another rough night;
a bitter bell keeps ringing
between his horns, foreign, 
off-tempo, pounding like
the gallop of a three-legged horse,
or the arrhythmic crash of cambered granite
tumbling from a fallen cathedral,
and to top it off

there's an angel in the fire,
feathers burning acrid, ashy black,
dialing, dialing the clouds, asking 
the great silence left when the clacking
rotary wheel cogs home: Where is the bird-winged host, 
my alabaster birth brothers, the holy
triune fatherspiritson
to pull me out?

The incubus knows the angel
has landed in the wrong fireplace for this,
yet still he wishes
it would happen, to see at last a miracle 
not born of tormented flesh,  
and also so the noise would stop,
the pale, luminous eyes cease following him
from window to window as
he tries frantically to let out the stink.

Doesn't it care, this minister of grace, that
the incessant ringing, the billowing smoke
of its rendered virtue, distract him 
from his greatest opus?
(50 Shades of Damnation,
to be published next spring.)

Why doesn't its everpresent
compassionate disaster master save it?
Instead it burns and burns
as the phone rings on unanswered,
sweetly smiling, staring at him 
as if the lines weren't down,
as if there was something
he could do.

~October 2015

posted for    real toads

(For my other poems in the incubus series, just hit the eponymous tag below.)

Images by Salvador Dali, Fair Use via
Top:Debris of an Autobile Gives Birth to a Blind Horse Biting a Telephone, 1938
Lobster Telephone, 1938


  1. Oh dear! It really is a rough night for the incubus--where is salvation from ourselves!? Certainly not so easy to find when the angel is in the fire. (50 Shades of Damnation sounds like an updated version of Dante--and certainly better than the other shades book--also so funny when one thinks of shades as ghosts)--a super clever take on this prompt and on the whole subject of guilt I think and inner demons-- wonderful work this whole month. k.

  2. This was so visual for me! Your words painted such a picture of Hell as I have never thought on, invaded by modern technology, and the frustration of a call ignored! Great piece!

  3. 50 Shades of Damnation, to be published this spring

    My morning has officially been made!

  4. Everything you touch turns to gold, Joy. This is a vision of the hellish, Bosch may have been proud of (or Dali). I believe you have the vision to delve deeply into the psyche with these tales of the incubus.

  5. To make this even more torturous, I imagine ABBA's "Ring Ring" playing in the background. Very fun.

  6. Poor Incubus, another rough night, and no Glade in the cupboard! How do I love this, let me count the ways. The idea of the burning angel, the prayer as telephone, the italicized words, the question of why, if God exists, He doesn't swoop down and save his own, and all the while, the rather workaday aspect of the demon, which is pitch perfect. Thanks so much for contributing this beauty to my challenge, Joy.

  7. Just like Karin I get the feeling of Dante or Paradise lost here.. I wonder if Lucifer could have been saved if it had not been for the sloppy operators.. You never cease to amaze me with your ideas... :-)

  8. Shay asked for some poetic magic and you delivered. Awesome work.

  9. I love this! I'd like to imagine that such an aching devil was hoping Joan of Arc would be saved
    "to see at last a miracle
    not born of tormented flesh"
    What a picture of fire and angel and headache and bell. And I love the Dali phone.

  10. It's a perfect metaphor, the nightmare of the infernal operator—everyone calling God in the middle of the night but no one's home, or worse, that was always the point. They say you have to be careful what you pray for, and it may also be true that you have to be careful who you call, especially now that the house has fallen. The rassle with this incubus to me here somehow makes insomnia the chore of walking Mephisto's poodle (at night he's more like Charon): gotta see all that dreadful business until the critter does his business. If deity is part of our nature, then profound dark music is on every corner the damned thing needs to piddle. Whaddayagonnado? There were some funhouse angles here that made it almost funny if it weren't to blistering. Keeps us hangin' on the telephone.

    1. Laughing at the late-night chore of Mephisto's poodle and his bladderly (and other) needs. There's a great metaphor for philosophy itself in there somewhere. I can remember times/romances when the telephone(unringing, or never answered) was indeed an instrument of torture, as it is here for our incubus. Thanks, as always, for the commentary, B.

  11. Bloody inconsiderate angels, eh! When one is TRYING to write.

  12. So often I have felt I have been on hold when I raise a prayer emergency....Our demon humanity devours us...This is brilliant!

  13. Work of genius! I loved everything including the photos!


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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