"Lord of Misrule"


Jake Byrne

Jake Byrne is a queer writer whose poem “Parallel Volumes” was the winner of the 2019 CV2 Young Buck Poetry Prize. His work has appeared in Bat City Review, PRISM international, Lambda Literary’s Poetry Spotlight, The Puritan, Plenitude, Poetry is Dead, The Fiddlehead, and elsewhere. His first chapbook, The Tide (Rahila’s Ghost, 2017), was shortlisted for the bpNichol Chapbook Award in 2018. He is a settler based in Tkaronto, at the traditional meeting place of the nations of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, the Haudenosaunee, and the Mississaugas of the Credit River.


"William Kurelek (1927 – 1977) had been a lifelong atheist until a mental health crisis precipitated his religious conversion, a circumstance I can relate to. I found The Rock by chance — perhaps, divine intervention — walking through the Art Gallery of Ontario and was drawn to the red hues and Bosch-like figures swarming the citadel. What I respond to in this work is not only the humour Kurelek hides in the sea of horrors (one of the banners of sin the devils carry reads ‘FORM’) but also the notion that the adversity you face washes away what is unnecessary, revealing what remains at your core. This poem, like many I write these days, considers what remains after life’s bloody tide has crashed onto the shore. Whether the answer is grace, humanity, or art, I don’t know. Your mileage may vary."

"the teachings say no earthly thing is worthy of affection or contemplation"

—Karen Solie, “He enquires of the silence”

     It’s not only Shinji’s dreams that end

     In rows of crosses made of light.

     Rude of Kurelek to lump in sodomy.

     In the filigreed abbey 

     On Mont-Saint-Michel I confessed

My atheism, my thirteen-year-old desire     

To be a goth (“It’s just how I feel inside, man”), but no     

Mention of the sodomy.     

These days I try to promise little     

And deliver even less.     

     But grace is not invoked. Only bestowed.

     My desire was to renounce desire and to love

     A woman you love, her

     Hand sliding on the coffin’s glaze.

     The priest reciting the formula



Expressed in the hymnal book     

As “Today we celebrate the life of N”     

Where N is “Name.” What wretched soul     

Would comfort themselves in that.     

The ancient dead and shellacked wood     



     Of the sacristy, the only life in the air

     The red-shoed dance of frankincense.

     It was a hard week to be on Starship Earth,

     It was a crucial day to be online.

     It was hard to explain


What was redeemable about humanity     

Given that we were only human     

The congregation sitting, standing,     

Kneeling, bringing our voices to     

God’s attention, moving from     



     Velar voiced fricative to alveopalatal stop

     Where the word began. I could never

     Be the right boyfriend or son for you.

     I could promise only that my most 

     Burning desire was whomever had 



Caught my evil eye     

Most recently. But that like a pilgrim     

Returning to an altar or an     

Employee to a restroom I would     

In my grand devotion     



     Periodically return my eye to you

     But never how you’d want me to.

     I filed my nails till they were 

     Soft as a gibbous moon

     For when I spat on them and shoved them in you


My doctor counseled     

Bring condoms to Japan. But there was no     

Latex sheeting that would keep     

Life oozing in from the outside.     

There’s a pill for that, he says,     



     But it’ll cost your faggot ass.

     I’m ready. I’m so already there

     So fucking give it to me

     The common and ordinary persons

     On whom the greatness of the nation


Staked its claim, lacking fame     

Or otherworldly beauty sought their thrills      

Through other means. That week     

I was to get fucked like it was my job     

As much as I could bear and it was my job     


     To pantomime as though I liked it.

     I did like it. It was irrespective of the point

     At which the appearance of the thing

     And the doing of the thing

     Were very close. There 


Were the labours that I did for love.     

The coarse and vulgar kind.     

The higher loves that I aspired to     

And never did attain. The violence we enacted     

On others and more crucially ourselves.     



     In this way it was hard to disprove original sin.

     But I wanted to trust

     That hell was empty

     The door to hell

     Was locked from the inside



But when the ornate key was turned     

In the shape of millennia, bat vomit, qualia     

And every earthly valence and above described     

The moment when you realized hell was empty     

That you were already living in or thru it     



     It was no consolation of philosophy to know that

     My untold sufferings   My griefs   My sufferings to come

     My conversations with my father      Cain bashing his brother’s brains

     Into the dry and arid field laced with wild grasses

     I would never know, or even know I didn’t know


The sun baking the blood into a jam.     

Spreading the marrow of an auroch     

Onto a crisp rye biscuit. The coin in the air     

My darling gentle kitten dying in my eye of vision     

Frothing at the mouth with a wonky neck     



     Yet today was not that day now was it

     To birth something was to condemn it to death

     For now was the kingdom, the power, and the glory

     Like sands thru the hourglass the days of our lives

     That lead us down the primrose path to 


The structure that a sea of blood assails.     

Take us down into the rainbow kingdom     

Pass us chalices vibrating with ergot     

Horny nubile barely legal teens     

Initiation rituals, revolutionary accelerants     



     Amphetamines, Beauty’s disinterested and

     Baleful stare. How I walk up the steps

     To your temple so that I may place my mouth

     At the fount to drink. The peace that passeth

     Understanding. Shantih shantih shantih

Fucking give it to me

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