Thursday, October 13, 2016

DAVID E. COWEN BRINGS SEVEN SORROWS TO MADHOUSE

Hello my lovelies,

Here in the madhouse today, I have my friend and colleague, David E. Cowen. David and I met for the first time this year, and in Vegas nonetheless, after we had spent the better part of a few months working on the third installment of the HWA Poetry Showcase together. At Stokercon, I got to chatting with David about his book, The Seven Yards of Sorrows, and told him that it was a must read for me, and after thoroughly enjoying it for his dark delicacies, I invited David to come visit me in my ward and have a chat about his book.

So sit back and relax--I've postponed all treatments until after story time.

With needles and blood spots,
Stephanie M. Wytovich
____

This book started with a lawsuit over the ownership of a grave site at one of the oldest cemeteries in Texas located on historic Galveston Island. My work for one set of kids from a first dead wife trying to prevent the children of a second wife from burying the second wife in the same grave as the first forced me to visit the cemetery and learn some of its history. Established in 1839 between 40th and 43rd Streets on the main road onto the Island these six small blocks are the final resting place for over 10,000 souls buried in three layers and comprising seven distinct yards within the wrought iron and concrete walls and gates. The first layer holds those who were lost before and during the Great Storm of 1900 which killed over 6,000 people on the island. The entire island was raised and those without relatives or money were lost to the anonymity of the lowest level. In 1932 the Pauper’s Field was filled in and resold as “new plots.” Over the past twenty years some of the broken stones of the first layer have been discovered and brought back to the surface.



The cemetery is filled with elaborate crypts, stones and beautifully carved angels and figures all weathered from almost two centuries of exposure. In the fog this is a very spooky place. Over the years I took my camera to this yard during Fall and Winter fogs and in the Spring when the grounds are overtaken by brilliant wildflowers; life abundant in this granite field of sorrows. Reading the names of the lost, some born in the late 1700s, I saw hints of the hidden and forgotten stories of lost love, regret, heroes unsatisfied with their loss, scoundrels and victims of war, storms, yellow fever and murder.

The dark and foreboding photographs that emerged from my lens inspired me to write this book. Hundreds of hours of research went into learning the history of many of the individuals buried there. I researched the documented past and compared it with local legend finding the horrible truth of so many deaths. Using historical fiction and poetic license The Seven Yards of Sorrow tells the story of these lost souls. Watching over all of them is a mysterious caretaker who has bound these souls within the walls of the yard. Neither heaven nor hell are within their reach as they lament the paths that brought them to this state. In this volume the reader is challenged to live the lives and horrors of these ghosts still lingering from the late 19th and 20th Centuries. The stones and angels, seemingly tortured and corrupted by the veil of dolor in these grounds also engage in a bitter dialogue with the caretaker in a series of poems interlaced amongst the stories of the dead. The ultimate question for the reader as you read these dialogues is deciding which is the Light and which comes from the Dark.


A few selections from the book, which can be purchased in hardcopy here, and electronically, here.

(chorus of the lost 1)

the aroma of faint smoke
bleeds onto the damp stained stone
tears flowing from the faces of cold angels
etching the lines of the years

do they weep for those who sleep
or those who have yet to wake?

a marble child
faced smoothed featureless
clings to the winged arms
of a stoic archangel
motionless markers of loss

sweet child
the century you did not witness
would have brought you here regardless

there are those who sleep
ignorant
like logs in water
ignoring the ebb of the flood

we others walk
awoken from the cascading veil
of dark dreams
to this place
this yard of no hope
heaven and hell beyond entry
souls confined
to the wet gates
of this enclave.

we know the spot
where what we were once
was laid
the symbols of belief mocking us

did you believe
that there was no sin
which could immolate you immortal soul?
did you believe that you would be resurrected
to sunshine and joy?
did you believe?
walk and weep
in the dripping dew

_____________________________________

(the horror)

there is a scientific explanation for everything –

methane building from the wasting of corpses
combined with extreme heat of a Texas summer sun
all contained in a concrete box
erupting
breaking the door once bolstered
with plywood to keep vandals out
there is always an explanation
science can provide

I cannot be contained

vandals
the flood
the wind
the internal pressure of heat and moisture
there is a scientific explanation
for everything

except for me
and now I am out

the body of the dog in the lane of stones
a shriveled stray cat found in the weeds
the drained carcass of the drunk
come to the yard to rest against the crypt walls
all can be explained

I eat because I hunger
I hunger because I eat

everything unexplained
is a truth waiting to be revealed
the ball lightning
hanging in the kitchen
as a child watches his mother
consumed by white light
the voices whispering
in bright vapors
hanging over a moon washed tidal flat
the figure in the doorway
only seen peripherally
dissipating as soon as the head turns
to focus on the blur
bringing the cold shiver

all can be explained

if I was not meant to be
then why am I

each time the sun fails to rise
over the eyes
of a sleeper
each time the night perpetual
swallows another old man
crouching in the corner of a dark room
fearful of the shadows
the light will cast
there is an explanation

there is also
the hand that reaches
to feed on the fear
to lap the liqueur of last breath
the lips that kiss
the trembling face
lusting for daylight
then sucking the essence
of light
from inside

despite the explanations
the robed ones with the black beads
sprinkle holy water over the doorway
rub ashes and ointment
at the re-sealing of the opened door
soothing the nervous onlookers

this void vessel
that binds me again to this yard
will open again
it will always be that way
because I wait behind the door
pushing

all within the realm
of modern explanation
as those who know
avoid the walkway to the repaired crypt

_____________________________________

(the grieved lover)

gentle
I begged them
removing your covered body
from your last bed

they obliged me
until
the undertaker
humorless in the years spent
with the dead
told me

the gentle woman of lace
was a man in her place

he accused
they all accused

how could I not have known

she was so shy with me
she never allowed me
we had separate rooms, beds and bath
after 35 years I did not know
how could I
forcing me to spend my nights
in the red lights of the rooms of sin
to satisfy me

they seemed to understood
this flower of the tea rooms
so prudish
so easy to blush
could hide from me and all men
the true sex
underneath her skirts

the women felt sorry for me
some even offering me
what they thought I longed for
unrequited for so long
only to be rebuffed by my grief
and pronounced shame

I lied
and if damned
I damn the gods
that cursed me
to live here without you

I loved you
loved the feel of you
inside me
the taste of you
I knew who you were
for 35 years
of pretending to the world
of pretending to enjoy
the diversions of Market street

to awaken next to you
birds clattering in the fall leaves
the tall palms singing
with the rising zephyr
was all I ever asked of life

the true curse of my current station
they would not place you in this hallowed ground

I wait to find your face
waiting for me
on the other side of the iron gates

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

On Traveling: Attending #DogCon5 with Raw Dog Screaming Press

This past weekend, I drove to Milton, Delaware to spend the weekend with my RDSP family at our annual event, DogCon. This year marked our five year anniversary with the conference, and every year that I attend, I find myself more and more thankful that I met Jennifer and John. You see, one of my favorite parts about being an RDSP author (and fan, and editor) is being able to be a part of the fabulous community of readers and writers that they have gathered over the years. That alone was why I didn’t mind leaving my apartment early Saturday morning and driving six hours to the beach house only to come back home the next day, because in the end, I got to see what has very much become my extended family, and no amount of distance can keep me away from spending time with such lovely people.

Now I focus on this sense of community because writing is an extremely lonely career. Essentially, we sit in a room and talk to ourselves and our characters for hours on end most days out of the week, and to a degree, where we’re out in the real world not writing, there is a definite sense of guilt that we should be composing and inventing instead of having fun. That’s why these gatherings are so important. Not only do they serve as beautiful and energetic creative boosters, but they let all of us reconnect and hug each other and tell each other stories about life and fantasy while being supported and encouraged in our creative endeavors and day-to-day life.

For instance, when I walked into the house, I was immediately met with hugs and laughs (and booze) and I instantly felt refreshed and awake and so unbelievably happy. I got to chat about upcoming projects, listen to some manuscript pitches, meet new friends and catch up with old ones, drink whiskey in the ocean with Jim and Janice Leach, laugh until I felt my abs with Blake Burkhead and William Hamilton, and have a slumber party with my girl, Jessica McHugh, where we stayed up laughing most of the night and were only summoned in the morning by the delicious smell of bacon.


In addition to an unforgettable Cards Against Humanity game with the crew, and a lot of cackling and debauchery with Arnzen, Jennifer also provided us with fabulous meals, a warm environment, and then introduced us all to the ever-fabulous Beverly Bambury, who gave us marketing and publicity tips and was just an absolute joy to be around and get to know.


J. L. Gribble and I also got to represent at the Reader’s Choice Award ceremony, where my selfie-partner and dear friend, Matt Betts, took the belt for a second time. I’ll be passing it along to him at our Halloween poetry reading at Alter-Ego Comics later this month…where we’ll be dressed as a zombified version of The White Stripes singing Blue Orchid, er, I mean, talking about monsters.

All in all, the trip was a blast and I’m so happy I went. I’ve been juggling a lot lately and making a ton of new and exciting adjustments in my life, and this trip just solidified the fact that surrounding myself with people who make me happy is an absolute blessing, and necessity, in life. I’m so happy that I got to see all of you and that we got to spend some much-needed time together. I want to give another big thank you to Jennifer and John for everything that they do for us, and for the press, and say how much I personally appreciate it.

Just please don’t let Joe run around in that morphsuit again.