The Gargoyles Return

Joseph O’Brien

– to M.L.

This fixation with grotesques’ gross-weight stone
Began with bog and marsh, the search for mired
Delight in clean disgust; rock slime swallowed
By rain-swelled creeks, ooze beading black plates of shale.

In time I took bullet-like between the eyes,
Familiar as scum-skimmed ponds of mossy rock,
The guttural spirits perched in pictures of
Notre Dame, Chartres, Grand Central Station . . .

Fanged and ogling theologians, these—like
Salon stalagmites built up from stone’s drip
Into bodies of beautiful ugliness—
Have hampered nothing in me for my quest:

The dizzy apocalypse of their return
Steeped in malevolence—like ashen crows—
Like gravity’s own loci genii—
They stare down the rain from plinths and parapets.

Joseph O’Brien is a freelance writer who lives with his wife Cecilia and their seven children on a rural homestead near Soldiers Grove, Wis. He prefers Horace in the country to Vergil in the city and Ovid in any case.