In Honor of Crazy Ex-Boyfriend Poetry


Dearest Oscar,

I’ve enclosed some clippings I found concerning the success of the ‘Ballad of Reading Gaol.”  It seems to be a smashing success.

Though I have done my best to keep you hidden from your detractors, there is one detractor whose persistence has been a nuisance.  Alas, if he cannot stalk you, Lord Alfred Douglas must stalk me.  I sent him your poem, ‘De Profundis’ as you requested.  He wrote back saying he burned it without even reading it.  I anticipated this and had a copy made, apologetically against your wishes.  Its literary merit is noteworthy, though I do not anticipate its publication the near future.

How is Berneval treating you?  Reggie Turner tells me you are looking quite smart and fit.  Have you considered writing another play?

To come to the point more directly, Bosie sent me this little prose piece in response to a poem he claims to have never read.  I have not disclosed your location, though he persists in his cruel fashion.  Still, as your loyal friend, I have included his ‘prose’ in this care package as intended, for better or worse.

Take care,

Bobbie Ross

My incarcerated vanity,

Oh!  How your absence in my heart gouged my quaking shell rattled down to a nub!  How I looked to your love as the sunflower looks to Apollo!  The warmth of your green garden stains these feet with our travels.  I journey too long alone along these muddied roads, sullying bare soles with rainy contempt.

My new memory, born from that time I visited your incarceration is tainted with the distance between our two desks.  A constable passed between closeness once held, like silence providing a mute-tongued torture.  Those shared visiting hours arrested, if only for hours, both of us.  And these hours are wasted for response to my queries?  You leave prison as mine begins.  What has caused this apprehension?  Has it been that mealy-mouthed lout, Ross?  His jealousy taints you, reprimanding our every crossroad, a divergence further than fate dare to bend the bough.  Why are you avoiding me?

If lovers either damned or destined, I care not which.  So long as we possess each other in our darkly moonlit garden where the sly minds of our wry kind converge, I will suffer more without you.  Do my promises fail to arouse?  Am I no longer your tremulous Narcissus bloom at the edge of quivering water, as you reflect upon me?

You cannot deny our love fashioned from what lights the starry nights.  How could you turn so many against me?  After all we shared, after all our adventures and scalding retorts on the shunning society? And you blame me, me, the love of your life for your misdeeds–it is unforgivable.  And yet I forgive.

How you have chastised me for a heritage I revolted against protecting you!  It is not my fault my father is a monster, and yet you deem me a demon’s spawn.  Has prison made you so feeble of mind, now atrophied so far as to not recognize my love?  It must have, as you of all people know I was at your side every waking moment, save for those moments when you fell ill and ran out of money.  You were a terrible bore and ugly then.  How could you forget corrupting me into loving you?  I despise you, unable to live without you.  What testament do you have against such a bold ache I live with?

Let me take you back to all you have forgotten.  Do you remember our first encounter, where you took me by the hand and led me down an alley to undo my life and trousers?  With a wry smirk reeking of rye, you hummed a prayer into my seeded garden.  Have you forgotten what that intimate moment meant to me?  Nights later, I would reciprocate and you now repay me with scorn? We entered each other’s dark garden beneath a pale moon, knocking wind from the ferryman’s sails, crossing the river Styx together.  After years, you pass me off as a full-paid trick?  And with you imprisoned, the trick is upon you, but I do not jest.

Do you think so lowly of me as to pass me off as some messenger boy?  The love that dare not speak its’ name could not keep secret.  The boys we shared, mere pawns between two superior chessmen, and yet you still fail to win or lose.  You forget to love me, and you can love no other.  Will you see me soon?  I miss you terribly.  Every boy I bring home cannot console me as you did.

For awhile, I thought you insane for insinuating that we were not of this Earth.  Of course, these unnatural souls locked in human bodies have our proclivities.  To convince me that I, too, was much too beautiful for this world begs a cruel hypothesis you had no right to bestow.  I know discomfort was not your intent.  I forgive you for making me think I was above humanity.  I know better than to think this from someone as inhuman as you.  How I bent my life deviously to your deformed conformity!  You should be mindful of your influence on such a young and impressionable mind as mine.  Why would you hint that we were not of this world if we weren’t?

Why do you not return my letters?

I disowned my father for your side, and found it lonely.  How could you disown me?  Of course, if your wife hadn’t divorced you first, I would have forced you to leave her and live off my fortunes.  And don’t dare accuse me of using you for your money, for this was my repayment plan.    Imagine what our love would be if I were to be Marquess of Queensberry!  And yet you chose to challenge all I worked for.  It disgusts me, knowing how intelligent you are and not see this genius! Could you not see this conspiracy to the final note?  Apparently not, for you never saw your own obvious downfall everyone warned you against.  Why do you do this to me, Oscar?  You act like a sickening child, unable to give after receiving so much.

How selfish you are, not thinking about me in your imprisonment!  Did you ever imagine about how lonely I was in your absence?  Surely, someone as egotistical as you only thought of his own imprisonment!  Yet I suffered right along with you.  I brought home only the most beautiful, young, and desperate boys every night, hoping one would know my body as well as you.  Some knew my body better than you could ever know and seduced giggles from me.  Yet you sat in some cell, oblivious to my suffering.

Where do I begin my suffering?  You had the safety of prison, while I had to face daily scrutiny!  And how did you support me?  With silence!  I had to deny my cherished love for you to survive!  My wounds fill with salt as you turn every friend against me, even that cur, Bobbie Ross.  Why you chose him to look after your affairs instead of me is bewildering. What insult!

You taught me I was different, better.  I lived most of my life cowering in the shadow of my father and his goons.  Then you came along to show me such force and power–I was not human, but super human, a superman.  Past and future were arbitrary and mutable.  We could speak freely of human society without boundaries.  Society was our ant farm.  Painfully, I accepted that I was also an ant.  And you left, trying to get into legal fisticuffs with my father.  In stairwells, where we stole kisses and held each other tight enough to crack spines…I still visit those old worlds, hoping to feel what I felt with you there, and fail.  I never backed away from the challenges my stupid father presented us.  I’m glad you didn’t either, but the outcome was unforeseeably tragic.  I will never recuperate this loss and pay for it with a dull and endless ache of your absence.  What torments those unrequited lovers was to know that a love such as ours could never be undone.  And here I sit, tears welling in my eyes, knowing this love cannot be complete or final. And in its stead I must be undone, devastated.

Years from now, I will look back on you with fondness and agony that such a smitten season ended to such a bitter winter.  The chill will never leave these arms as the frost licks my eyelashes!  Never again will the perfume of your pipe organ taint these fingers, which I would inhale, leaving your place on Tite Street. The sweet ambergris of your caressing touch vanishes with this starless, moonless night.

My death would not do justice to my anger.  How easy it would be for me to follow in my brother’s footsteps and you be rid of me so easily!  Yet I can’t die without you.  Birds stop singing in my presence and the sunflowers hang their somber blooms as I pass, weeping seeds in honor of seeds I wept for you.

How can you accuse me of my insecurities with a father who beats oppressors with horsewhips?  My childhood is riddled with scars.  Breaking posterior barriers are no more painful than asking for a second helping of porridge.  In fact, those pleasant motions made of love are better without hatred’s rage and leave less obvious markings.  But markings nonetheless.

Without you, Oscar, I have been in shambles.  Think back.  Think back to when that wretch Ross came to YOU with what you came to me with.  Think about what life was like.  Think of what a lie you lived.  And you come along and showered me with truth.  You saw that what I already knew; I was not like other men.  You showed me more than I cared to know.  I left you and slept in your house and wept myself to sleep, afraid of what a damned soul I was to be.  It was you who showed me there was no damnation in the love we shared, as God was love.  And we were gods, blessed by the divine.

Love was not some social obligation fitting procreation.  It was more than that.  When you entered me that first time, I held back my tears because I knew I was more than just a man.  How much more terrible it is to know potential filled out, than to know potential unfulfilled.

In your absence, I have been taking boys as they come.  But they leave in the morning, and are quite stupid.  I go about them, teasing them with Plato and grow disappointed by their minds.  Oscar, I hope you know what you are doing, because most of the boys I have been taking to task are dumb and beautiful.  It is a terrible curse, as their faces wither without a mind worthy to seduce when the flesh betrays their pathetic minds.  I fear a future where all are sound and fury, signifying nothing.  Yet that is what I have been reduced to, and they think Shakespeare is wagging off the last bit of seed before tucking it back in the trousers!

Are these truly our people?  Are you really going to prison for boys so ungrateful?  Truly?

You were my first and only love, Oscar.  Perhaps if I met another who rivaled you, I would not be so adamant about my kneeling position.  But I haven’t, and that leaves me at your mercy.  I regret such a position, having none for anyone.  But I lay myself at your feet for you to pick up or step over.  I’ve never met someone like you and I won’t again in my lifetime.  If you feel I’ve mistreated you, then you must understand that we have mistreated each other.  I can’t live without you.  If I do, it will be through subterfuge, renouncing all I know.

If I must live with you, I will rewrite my history so you never had such an impact you, indeed, had upon me.  And I will refashion my life into a lie in honor of the love you deny.  No one will fill me as fully as you have.  I regret you teaching me so much about love and leaving me to create love my own.  The love I have created in its stead is patchwork, threadbare and tawdry.  Your friends blame me for these weaknesses.  I dare not blame you, yet without you I am helpless to understand myself.

Your friends think I lash out at them in my search for guidance.  They find me a psychopath, but they do not know me as you do.  Please.  Meet me soon.  I cannot hold my own against my former friends, society at large, and all that I need to survive without striking down all I love.  You know how fragile I am without you.  Please, find me.  I’m begging you.  I’m nothing without you.  I know this to the core of my being, because I know you feel the same.  Please let me not find solace to this desperation at the end of a rifle.  I have no future without the past we built upon.

Allow me a history with you, even if you prefer beauty to truth.

I was just a lad, studying abroad to stay at the house beautiful, where life was gay.  We ate dinners together where I innocently read, and joined you and your wife to break dinner’s bread.  Furtive schoolboy glances, devious and secretive, volleyed the table.  How my heart cleaved out a space for you, knowing not what my heart would do.  How your mind sparked against mine! What firestorms we began with flint, tin, and twine! And your heart were tied in kindling’s fire, with mine.

And what resplendent princes were we, conjoined twins as the Gemini’s three: Us, myself, and thee.  What pence we rubbed upon a saucy lad, shared and spent to make an evening grand.   No care for wife, life, or strife–The horizon being our land.  Your innocence was mine as our arms entwined, the spider’s web pulled taut, ebbing stress, a memory for naught.  Nothing could tear us apart, painting us, another, for art!  And though things seemed out of hand, I must concede to your heart’s demand.  Our entwined fingers unraveled, only to weave together in stories of travel.

With style and grace, you beguiled our opponents.  Though with whimsy and mirth (and a bit of your girth) fell undone by my rite of birth.  Oh Oscar, how I have missed thee, regardless of how thy turned ugly in spirit and seed!  I cannot go chaste if your will not be with me. Queensberry! Queensberry! Queensberry! How his rancor doth cause glee!  My only regret is these eyes to see your infirmary.

You are a lover, not a warrior, fighting the Queensberry cur!  I would have gone to prison with you, but daddy did not concur.

And yet you leave me!  Me! Me! Me! How could you let myself be?  What you call profound is merely indulgent vanity! How are you to NOT die and leave me here, hung out to dry?  To disappoint is sorrow, but apathy has no morrow.

How the heavens were in your grasp!  Were you Icarus rending heights, or Narcissus, in vain sightless night?  We could have been together as the Gemini stars, made of milken light.  But you fell behind bars, blinding us with sight.

And now our transparency becomes opaque.  The flirty glance cast, no longer fake.  To keep me from your light is the plant dying, lacking your brilliant sight.

And you chose to strike the tip of the pike, impaled to save our like.  Before thinking of such honorable falls, you thought not of me in Reading Gaol.  This world is cruel, vicious and untame–yet the hunter gets captured by the game.  If we could be together, it would be as before, no reason to keep score.  To tap our feet and drink wine sublime, and live out life as criminals without crime!  We could still have this dance, if you would with given chance.

What breast flutters at your presence!  What swoon awaits? All succumb to your penitence.  My hand grows heavy extended, awaiting your grip, where you doth slip, and I wait to be amended.  In waiting, I am only a beggar.




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