Paul Ilechko was born in England but has lived much of his life in the USA. He currently lives in Lambertville, NJ with his girlfriend and a cat. Paul has had poetry published recently by Dash Literary Journal, Gravel Magazine, Gloom Cupboard, MockingHeart Review and Slag Review, among others.
The Age of Mud and Darkness
Black earth is better than red. A rich,
loamy soil, seeded and worked, fertile.
Black mud; truly black when wet, soaking
up the pouring rain. A light, ashy gray when
dry, but never sienna, never that toasted
red earth, signaling the hardness of red clay.
The best earth is found in the valley. Walk
through those bottomlands in your muddy
hiking boots. Reflect on the glory of agriculture,
rather than the overwrought cliché of the mountain
top. Once a battlefield – like all flatlands,
everywhere – but now turned into perfect farmland.
Yet now we sink into the mud. Knee deep
in this squalid blackness, sinking as we failed
to comprehend the changes that had been, at
the last, inevitable. The absolute deterioration
of the social contract, the end of civil society
as we have known it – we plunge into darkness.
She abides, unacknowledged, in the corner of her garden,
next to where the mulch pile used to be. To her left,
that’s where the chrysanthemums once grew, their
flamboyant blossoms shivering in the Autumn breeze.
Her husband, long dead, was a horticulturist.
Famed in this small town for the beauty of his landscapes,
every season was tinted with his unique sense of color,
ordered and aligned around a singular creative vision.
Behind her stands the decrepit ruin of his crumbling greenhouse.
Cracked glass and peeling paint mirror her mental state.
She no longer recognizes any of the passersby, not even
old friends from those years that have slipped through her fingers.
Alzheimer’s has eaten her brain. She stands silently swaying.
The curious smile playing on her lips is disconnected,
an inchoate response to external stimuli, as she exists
In a world of her own, one that we may never enter.
All houses are yellow, but some
are more yellow than others. The
man in blue swoops down over the
wet slate rooftops to the girl in
the red dress and kisses her boldly
on her tear-stained cheek.
It’s a world of color, of stained glass
and flying horses. The sad goat
sits quietly, reading the farmer’s
autobiography. In the middle
distance the plangent melody
of a violin is heard.
The nude girl marries her childhood
lover, eyes averted from the
terrifying crucifixion that
looms above. Life and death, love and fear,
all are present here. The colors
of emotion mingle and glow.
The music is not visible, but we
know, instinctively, that it’s there.
Synesthesia demands that the
violins play only yellow notes.
The bass answers, its throaty rustic
song colored deepest blue.
As darkness falls the birds return,
guiding the guileless lovers back
to the contrapuntal amber
glory of their bridal suite, to
their laddered windows and their
spotless laundered sheets.
The river flows rapidly here,
slipping over the rocks
like an eel sliding from
the mouth of a dead horse.
It's a very British river,
never showing any anger.
Downstream it deepens, becomes
sluggish. But here, in this sad
provincial market town,
a passerby might walk
across, skipping from stone
to stone to keep his footwear dry.
In the city, the canals
steal water from the fat and
lazy stream. Overshadowed
by the hustle of the streets,
they reclaim preeminence with
their subtle redactions of reality.
The riverboats shine red and
purple, reflections rippling
hazily in the gloomy
waters. Hemmed in by tower blocks,
those miserable stockades
of the poor and defenseless.
Further still, and the foggy
shores spread their legs wide as
the sea penetrates with its probing,
salty tongue. The giants of nautilus
prowl the horizon, black shapes
of unloved portentous bulk.
And this is where the river
finds peace. A hundred miles of
tortured wandering, never
free from its confining banks,
dissolving in sand and mud as
the estuary prevails.
In the old library, the books quietly disintegrate.
Some of them have not been touched by human hands for fifty
years or more. A fine, papery dust fills the air, visible
only when sunlight glances in through the grimy skylight.
The quality of light down here is almost aquatic;
it would be no great surprise if an eel were to squirm
around the nearest stack, moving with a silent but eerie
grace as it slides out of view into the musty distance.
The odor in the room is dampness mixed with gasoline.
The heating system is erratic; sometimes too cold
to stay here long, sometimes so warm that it attracts a crowd
of sleepy undesirables, reeking of cigarettes and gin.
Despite everything, there is a peacefulness that is
difficult to obtain anywhere else. No one speaks aloud,
allowing my thoughts to develop at their own speed, pulling
me along on the lengthy, devious path to self-discovery.
If I were impossibly wealthy, I would create libraries
in every town. I would place them in old, crumbling edifices,
the kind of building where silence echoes louder than speech,
where the unspeaking introvert can dance inside their own mind.