Night Visitors ©
One by one, the phantoms faded;
Some were bitter, jaundered, jaded,
Others merry, blithe, untainted
By the world on which they're painted.
All of them I knew; by stages,
Different answers, different ages,
Grasping what they dreamed would be,
For were they once not unlike me?
Ghosts were they, foretelling doom
So gently, calmly, in this room.
There, just there, by the fireside
Where hope once blossomed, flourished - died!
All did come, each had their say,
As fresh, as crisp, as yesterday.
What particular satisfaction
Thus was gained by my reaction
To distressful times unfolding,
To promises I'm no more holding?
Night visitors imparted news,
Saw my sorrow, sought my views,
All by that fireside's bright glow;
Yet bidding me good health - they know!
Aye, they know, for were they not
Once like myself, without a jot
Of sympathy for other's plight?
Yet always, always, came dread night.
Now what one morrow surely brings
Is part of their scheme of things;
One final visit, yes, just one
They tell me, and their duty's done.
So long days passed, erupted, went,
Old memories a long time spent,
No more, it seemed, to torture me
With dire thoughts of what must be.
Yet they had said one visit, one,
Before their duty full was done.
No more I viewed companions past
As shadows lengthened slow, then fast;
No more reminders to recall
Gone days, when everything was all.
Seasons flowed in close procession,
Summer built on Spring's recession,
Yet still no visitors I saw
Come walking, walking, through my door.
Right glad I put those things behind
Which weighed not easy on my mind,
Then looked towards a future life
No more on edge of balanced knife.
Faith! With all I touched expanding
Past what I should deem outstanding
All businesses addressed - excel!!
Then Autumn rose, as Summer fell.
I banked the fire as nights grew longer,
Contented, heavy, waxing stronger;
About me, old familiar things
As night-sound whistles, slaps, and sings.
Dozing then, by the fire's glow
Thoughts drifting thither, where they'd go.
The rain beat gentle on the walls
As middle-distance thunder calls.
A calm therein this wretch would keep
Who contemplated naught but sleep.
The rain beat gentle, then one crack
Of fury roused me, brought me back
To chills no Hell-blast could rebut;
The downstairs door clicked firmly shut.
I heard the hissing throng assembling,
Felt them focus on this trembling
Sunken form, but no remission
Formed a part of their commission.
Tense I waited, cold I shivered,
Sensed the slow encroachment, quivered;
Heard the stair creak, every sinew
Screaming: This should not continue!
Heard the hissing, heard the mocking,
Then - the unaccustomed knocking;
Heard the knocking, knocking, knocking,
Each one tapping, each one shocking,
Heard the plea: "Begone! Begone!
Let not this awful thing be done!"
Felt the anger, felt the hating,
Felt the patient waiting, waiting!
Lonely, fraughtly, thus transcending
Judgements I'd spent life defending,
And making this the cruelest jest -
They must proceed at my request.
The ranting clock on mantle-piece
Struck nine, then did its ranting cease.
Full wound it were, yet tick nor tock
No further issued from that clock.
Silence; precious time unbought,
Golden, priceless fragments sought,
Ere the steady stream of gloom
Walked ultimately through this room,
Ere the morphid expedition
Surely, recommends perdition.
A voice, detached, said: "Enter! Come!"
Hard-tensed nerves froze ice-cold, numb;
The door slipped open, my permission
Granted the ravening horde admission.
In semi-circled rows, they stressed
Deep anger, rage but bare-suppressed.
Hissing, vorpid, mordant tongues
Insulted fibre, heart, and lungs,
Accursed fingers point at me;
Pointing, pointing, ceaselessly.
Harsh maledictions they reveal,
Pounding, rising, screech and squeal
In joyous, shrill cacophony;
I plunge to quaking, shaking knees.
"No more!", I begged, "No more!" I cried,
"Whate'er befall, whate'er betide,
To every charge I full confess,
To every charge you choose to press
I'm full contrite!
No more, no more, of you this night.
Pray leave me, then, to my own device!"
The hissing ceased, as in a trice.
The hissing ceased, the fury run;
The hissing ceased, the duty done.
I heard them laugh, a baleful sound,
I heard them shuffle, turn around
I heard them talk, like naught had been
Heard them slowly quit that scene
Unheeding, in their bobbing wake,
This soul-less, shredded, empty - fake!
'Twas then I knew, right then, I knew,
The end that I'd be coming to.
One by one, the phantoms faded;
None were bitter, jaundered, jaded,
All were merry, laughing, bright,
As the downstairs door shut firmly tight.