Prologue: Geoffrey's Introduction

[It's worth commenting here on the idea I was working on beginning with this poem and continuing for a number of months at UCSD. I was attempting to put together a chapbook which centered around a fictitious Gothic nightclub called Livia's, named after the mother of the Roman emperor Tiberius. At the time, I had just seem the series I, Claudius and was struck by the overall callous wickedness of this woman who is reputed to have poisoned her own husband and many others in her efforts to rule Rome through her son.

I've never been a great fan of bars and nightclubs, as a general rule. The idea of sitting or standing around in smoke and blaring music where you have to shout to be heard; the idea of sitting in a stupor amongst strangers and drinking yourself into oblivion or trying to take advantage of members of the opposite sex that are halfway to that destination, has never appealed to me. Yet, perhaps there might be some hypothetical (ideal?) nightclub that I might conceive of which, if it existed, might be more to my personal tastes.

In this poem and many that follow, I tried to create such a place in words. My initial idea was to make character sketches of the regulars at this place, as well as the events that transpired there. Then, it occurred to me that one activity at this place might be open-mike poetry readings. I decided then that there would be certain regulars there that would read their works and their works, by dint of their style and subject matter, would serve to illuminate the reader of the chapbook as to their general character. 17 poems were written with specific narrators in mind. They were:

  1. Prologue: Geoffrey's Introduction (Geoffrey)
  2. An Ale Song in Praise of Livia (the general crowd there)
  3. O Fangéd Fate (Max)
  4. A Plea to Beauty (Alan)
  5. Give Me Love (Alan)
  6. While Abaddon Waits (Max)
  7. The Autumn (Cynthia)
  8. A Thing About Water (Cynthia)
  9. A Place For Sorrow? (Walter)
  10. Portrait of the Lady-Faust (Geoffrey)
  11. A Brief Discourse On Metaphysics (Alfred)
  12. Bringin' Home the Bacon (Jim)
  13. Some Truths (Jack)
  14. The Dark Rider (Geoffrey)
  15. I Sing of a Murdered Queen (Victor)
  16. Ode to a Shy, Intellectual Lady (Alan)
  17. Pastorale On Hearing a Rachmaninoff Concerto (Geoffrey)

Geoffrey, introduced in this poem, is the main narrator and compiler of this hypothetical chronicle.

These poems will be presented as separate, autonomous entities in the Poetry Gallery, but those interested in the Livia concept might return here to look at the name of the character who is the "author" of the work.

G.C., April 2000]

There's something kindly in the night,
An adagio and minuet to this fateful symphony,
A day of life.

A lone gypsy in the fold,
I am a judge, a traveler
Through movements bleak and bright,
And with fiddle in hand,
I ply my nocturnal airs
Ordained under Fate's baton.

A tempter by trade?
Oh, if only it were so,
But mine is a quiet rebellion,
A retreat from the ranks of the executive parade.

Maybe I read too much history in my college days,
Heard too many political speeches,
Maybe I've seen too many Hollywood flicks,
Heard far too often the banal utterances of pop musicians,
To not be, at heart, a cynic.

I imagine myself immortal;
Then I imagine how I would view the unfolding generations
Of wars, philosophic musings, rituals and pageantry,
The many faces of mortaldom, always changing masks,
Always tearing down and reconstructing their universe,
Yet all of them are too blind to see the entire picture,
Too deaf to perceive the entire symphony,
And the truths which come later in life are lost by the next generation
To be rediscovered later by some poet or musician,
And retranslated into the tongue of the times.

With all these epochs of demolition and reconstruction,
One would think that we are converging on something,
Some final cadence in a turbulent orchestral drama,
But there seems no end,
And mine is a part buried in the second violins.
For but a few brief measures
My voice resounds in unison with a thousand others,
And lately I wonder if indeed there is a cadence,
Or if the music of Fate is bounded as the ocean,
Full of recurring eddies and currents.
Then finally I am lead to ask:
Does it really matter either way?

And so I come here seeking the Lady-Faust,
For she knows the one who wrote the score,
Fate's script: each line and part (my own included),
It's said she knows them well,
And that she is a lovely dame besides.

Were I to find her here at last,
I'd fiddle her my most romantic airs.
I'd sing as I may, an amorous lay,
An ode to charm a queen.
I'd dry her tears of wisdom with flowers of song;
From Lethe I'd draw a cup of succoring wine
And she would smile for once, shorn of the albatross
Of knowing.
Then I could smile, and bear my love away
To meadows lovely as the gown of May,
Where we could live and love, our final days.

But though I've searched,
Thus far I have not found her,
Not yet, at any rate, though there are others here,
Other fallen stars,
The fraternity of the disillusioned:
Artists, poets, idealists, failed intellectuals,
Come in search of a flock of sycophants.
There are celebrities and politicians,
Come to escape the many eyes and their consciences.
Musicians, authors, playwrights,
Come to escape the critic's cawing.
Some come here out of curiosity,
Some in desperation,
Some out of ennui,
Some for love.

And so the strangers meet here,
Gathered in the court of our queen of consolation,
Lady Livia,
Whose name once spelled death to a mighty emperor
(And many others besides),
Yet for me and for these others her name means
That mother who closes her child's eyes
Before the axe falls.

With tape recorder and fond recollections,
I have captured (if only figuratively) the heart and soul of this place.
So now I relate to you what I have seen,
What I have heard here
In this purgatory of restless spirits,
And I'm sure I speak for many in my own observations.

The songs, the poetry read under the dim lights here,
I scribe herein for posterity,
And others here I have met, some whose names I change for their sake,
Others whose names I retain for their preservation and edification,
I present to you in full candor and color.
Their souls and mine are the spirit of this place;
My offering to you is a cask of ancient vintage
From which you may draw forth at leisure a chalice of rare potence:
Nostalgia perhaps,
Perhaps an empathy with our kind,
Perhaps a sense between hope and hopelessness,
Between love of life, and yearning for death,
Between complacence and restlessness,
Between amor and implacable hate,
Between Reason and Sentiment,
Between the Bound and the Infinite.
Undoubtedly there will be questions left unanswered,
Abandoned as intractable,
Or left instead to some deific presence,
And there will be songs of pure being,
Reflections of the senses and the passions they engender.
So take from my offering what you may;
For me its wonder was in the making.

George Chadderdon © 1994