The Unmistakable Shape of Night’s River, by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.


Art by Raven Daegmorgan – – click to enlarge

of stained dictionaries (many, madman or crisp elegist, would call them or see them as, ghosts with frayed edges), an obstacle course of abbreviated entries (some slaves, edited and rehashed until they’re waterlogged, some paragraphs of ignored lust ending with cigarettes AND/OR stale sentimental scenery borrowed from an old book, a totem of black fire and ecstasytongue, unopened for decades, but made more nostalgic by the webbed silence),
and shy loaves unfolded by swords,
of gull infantries
and the grail-sick veins of the hopeheaded…
of fists (and lack of evidence) and
Please help me and historical biographical etymological tossed reversed… and mergers
and scars—

from (the ragged histories of day-to-day) shop doorways (shall not go to the market today) into the Soul Francisco streets (beaks ready for the thunderbolt, or the air-conditioned structure of their rent-controlled nest), from the (carefully documented and approved) office into bars (to find gold or sweet accumulation, or forget the numbered ID badge and get off the wheel), toward weekends (suitcases packed with sunshine and salt in mind), Eva Laverl, Bob, Matt Pete Ric (their pockets lined with data to trade), Marilyn (and the reflection of Marilyn, adjusting lipstick in the LADIES ROOM mirror, checking her hair—again), Brian (I’m-in-love smile, blue eyes, one-hundred seventy-two pounds of hard muscle on Nate’s arm), Jack and Jim (and his slate of petty criminal-transactions headed to potluck and no screaming), (sexdreams), Pat Tim Maria, Wendy (brown shoes laughed at and called listless, and a bus ticket back home to her mother), (sleeveless bygone detonated by Bacharach’s “Alfie” on the radio), Thom (on shore leave, headed to 5th & Main… remembering wet Gloucester and wrestling insistentANDirritableANDsorrowseeking 19 and being TOOhigh—oh, the feathers and the breast of the sun, birth in the air grasping it—but in today’s shoes/cash in hand/in this corridor ready to act, finally good with it), and Miss Anne Irby (impatient, not staying late tonight), (by a sign, handmade and confined to a window of reflections, chattering with deceptions) Holly (a retrospective of dreaming) dancing, (abbreviations and other damn things), (“Jeez.”), (“I’m sorry.”), (rhetoric) (“My country.”) (dispossessed), (landscape with quite real characters involved), (the agile hammering of religion), (long pause), (self-pity—hurt and rehurt within deny and deny, by its own failures—that will be a sorrow-shaped extension of the jukebox in an hour), Richard (born and raised in Brooklyn) another Friday hunting among stones (ready to talk even if he doesn’t understand, ready to buy an empty glass drinks), (embroidered with petals red, then scandalized), (disowned each other when the cocaine ran out), wingless palpitating Mike and the bloodstained violence of his bloodstained ghosts, (screaming communicable “FUCK IT!”), (“The Grimreaper is the next bigthing!”), Loretta (excited, ready for not wearing anything but moonlight in Dolly’s room) . . . after the flaring roar of pushing rushhour, and the five-piece brassband August sunset burned itself to a cinder, where lamplight and goblinshadows meet to entrap

heaps of low-life
corner of elbow-to-(cut rate)elbow
particular interest—pederasty, sodomy, flagellomania—
or quick, simple head to take off the edge
no risk
or extraspecial—you pick the intent
shouting litter
hypodermic candy/gin/bullshit
fleshy GIRLS that smell angry
watery brown eyes
an unbearable smell
chafing calculations by the gallon
(lined with loneliness
the moon
came down, dropped
its glow
and in
the eyeing of leaning malehustlers,
lie in the gutter)
Special show . . . Private room.’
“For you.”
(bodieS /formS /unique
journeyS in ongoingness
give up/TAKE
ginseng foot lotion
organic clitoral gel
red leatherette

/performances containing—)

a human in episodes of moods

blood and (pale yellow) fire –
half-opened karma (wet & shiny), a need’s worth

understanding the trail and trials of hell’s work,
among the million “Yeah. So?”

ivory teeth comes right up flashing skin… acts successful, invited
“Just picking over the bones?”
the CASHcrave of ivory teeth’s doppelganger foams
“Or looking for a room of comfy in The Tower?”
“100 gets you all you can eat.”
looks me in the eye
“Or all the rendez-vous your backbone can interpret.”
looks at my ass

would Dr. Archer raise an eyebrow?
would Mr. Wilde look up from his current summaries of reparations, and root them in a history of economics? or might he, with no pause, offer, “No… no, I haven’t.”
and what of Thale at his withered window (in his slowly darkening room), the months he sucked up, dreaming of you here . . .

“so, you just out lookin’ at girl-on-girl books, or you want the real thing?”
“these tits ain’t raisins and they ain’t commonplace.”

There was a Victorian book, A Secret Life, some called it a transaction with the grave, a noxious compendium of carnal excess—perversions—and pornographic frolics. Mother asked Her to read to me. She did, and after those nights of instruction (she came into my room, her clothes were almost off), she was swift in moving along to another tome (‘The dying stars grew madblack; the last light faded from them; went out. Awaiting the inevitable removal of such temporary conventions as render the incident of human existence possible, the brooding King which men call Truth, stares steadily at Carcosa under the high stars which are passing too, and which at last shall pass away and leave the King watching all alone amid the ruins of eternity. The Queen, naked in her empty bed, laughed.’) Both, in distinctive manners, taught that under the sexual, lie, the real, the “meaningless void”. My studies were profound. I, eager to expose what was under the blanket of puzzlement and soaked in anti-prudence, was a skillful student.

street-lure signs and mirrors march
youngmen swish
queens breeze
I can hear Richard Burton recite
from a Dylan Thomas poem…

cobweb drum

Ida Lupino on the small black and white television set in the darling little house by the bay… there was the difficult morality of a sincere knife and facts, and, as if tragically structured by a playwright (an emotional cannibal) divested of the controlled strategies of conventional society, a strange woman at the door. she said the close-up stare of the camera, its desire to subvert history, made her feel she was a million . . .  one moment the room was dominate, demonic, then there was as no air.

am I in the wrong room?

I move to the limitations of page 11

in the darling little house by the bay. she—blonde girl small breasts, in an old-fashioned maid’s outfit—came to talk to me… again. a nimble shepherdess with a gardenia smile. from an old fashioned book, she, my Scheherazade ‘a haze of pearl and lavender’, read to me of Hiata. “‘Beautiful being,” he cried, “if thou wilt but deign to accept all the devotion of my heart and soul – after Hastur be served – it is thine forever.’ a graceful kiss that won’t be staved off. nearer, wet, thighs parting—forward—wriggles. “You mustn’t.” heavings—“Yes.” the return of kisses—“Yes—no.” modesty toppled. legs against legs harmony—fingers curl arrange. long-stemmed-tongues fitted together. “I… I—give you” tapped open. sparks, the ripe tidal-fire you climb. the forest odors and laced-stars awakened by musk. “To warmly fall upon—” scorpion-fingers moist, fucking—“and… cause… my bridal flower to… swoon.” the pieces of the machinery… the deed—the prose of it rendering flows. unmasked drenched. the hurricane… I come to sweet . . . then I sat (at the vanity and smiled at the three of me smiling back from the mirror and mirrored side-panels). I sipped tea and thought of my friend, Juliette (in her rooms in Paris with her cigarettes), and her, straddling the noose of her grandfather and Saucy Jack and her time-after-time time problem—ahead of again and weather and the moments where the changeless shark thought creation began on the dissecting table. “Toys. Time-bound pleasures.” there are interludes—nocturnal farewells, without tears or mercy, or kneeling down, when the gaze of her lullaby looks into the curtained window of my darling little house by the bay. my darling little house by the bay (so often silent with time past—its storytellers so far… so near.)

Stanza XXIV concluded

I could be. home. (in my upholstered mahogany Lincoln rocking chair that sits by the window that overlooks the bay.) reading. about. ash. and ash (leaping from the page). night. night. shining in an eye. on a tear. night. touching it. obeying. it. quiet. night. laden. the flare of the hour (arriving) smeared with crime. home. reading (with latehour eyes). some tragedy. passages of prolific scandals. I could be home reading a special account, a fairytale about 2 siblings. one is a cripple, a creature of the bedroom. one a tempter, she likes to stand on the terrace in the moonlight above the seven shepherdesses (each named Maria) (who sing queer chansons to the seven shackled ghosts each herds) and the green lawns, and wear a strange costume that transforms her appearance from nymphet to half-woman/half-goat. they are sisters (born to very different, unwed mothers, in different places—far apart, but at the same hour). wild things, and more. uninhibited in their pleasures. sisters and devils. their faces are grim forgeries. between them blood ties. a body. a noun. a verb. an act (another in a string that is centuries old, another that will never be discovered by the measuring examinations of an ardent sleuth). night. screaming. your. death. I could be home reading about how Death himself covered with dull ghosts takes his knife and stabs the page with truth. I could be home reading about the seamstress that stuffed autumnal clouds into the care of a drum and how the scent of sickness (and the details of fungus and rain) dried-out to hold. I could be home (my heart refusing to grieve—the grammar of that orchard is for another) reading (I have some interesting French pamphlets from the 1930s) about life (the fatigue and sublimation, what we hoard, what we loath, the dreams that pulse within us) and after life, about the truth.
a siren
a scream
a corner
of disease (at and in) and
decreation of vernacular grime.
a clearview
of epidemic in-your-face
and the ghastly
evasion (on ghost legs) addressing
study the
double exposure immorality.
soaked in cannot and
condemned to
on the drearybarebranches of
there is no phoenix or
nerves triggeredbyspring
this place apart.

(looking back in the tell and goodbye)
(enter the movable parts of painful change)
cascade –
the animal’s weapons,
the lies of forest and mountain and voice –
in celebration of death
(a human sings, a human dies,
and the mailman delivers
the peek-a-boo – page 4 under the header)

(Disabled homeless vet Grateful for any help GOD BLESS
distorted poverty
distorted loneliness
the world is old, cold
solitary has
come out of its room
smokes its cigarette
for the mood
the promise
to catch fire)
tracking shots
(times are harder
on cowards
lot of eyes
drifting over
lot of sins
a getaway face
the art of these hands pointblank
tinker tailor seaman self-delusion
every seam of El Infierno unmasked)
close up (stray with a stray dirty twin) too close
(heat in the heat of the night)
(cheap) (sheer) (joint) (dingy)
(blare back and forth against each other)
(elbow-to-elbow that doesn’t know each other)
colonizing light as
ghost [pictures painted on air from many old books] and
control unremembering some
small parts of just what and
adjustments integration
the backstoried seeker
weathered by layers of backstoried titles,
Volhynia, To Hear the Thunder of the Sea, A Rat Hunt, The Crime Doctor, A Change Impends, The Flower & the Nail, The Road to Paris,
and sorted names—read and bookmarked,
isle, bandit, in the backstoried moaning
autumnal light—
and deep focus narrations)
(the cluttered, dirty sky)

“Sweet hot pussy—lapped, fucked, fingered, you pick. Two fingers up your ass while I suck your clit and you’ll be begging me to take your money. All you need to do is say yes.”
“She’ll make yer pussy feel like a power plant.”
“I’ve got coke and weed, and 100 dildos.”
“Every color you can think of.”

blowing sunshine up your ass.
(their formulas spilling
fox functions in the nest
of a
never change.

a long, long time ago . . . in a land of guesses and looking, outside the reflections of time. sunset burned and we had notions (some gave us goosepimples), tried to gather our strength . . . but His Light, laughing eternally, rejected what we (so young—clueless of jeopardy, so thin, weeds really, yet full of inner need) pushed at it. a long, long time ago there was a bad sunset—and then

I am a squadron of pages hidden in a thousand books, my wings affixed to yellow delight. I am a shadow curled around leaves, the name the fox barks as you as you run from the frigid moon, the angel of the underworld you fear. I am the Pale Queen, rushing into the story where sentiment crumbles, thrown forward by the weight of winter words, always exploring. The Pale Queen… echoed in every clock and mirror I pass.

the viper and her toad
nice girls
nice girls
one with scorpions in her pocket
severed from
offering applause and pirouettes
it does not look like these two
need new

Hello. I am here to show you Forever. It is a dark place, a place for lovers.

Paris—City of Lights by night. in my eye, in my camera’s lens, filling my mouth with its naked radiance. the ebb and flow of Paris stirring my blood, making me wet. my all-too-brief holiday, no rain, no cold and soggy outside my windows. following moths, and beauty. Juliette, me (once the other Victorian), laughing wickedly, strolling from siren’s Valentine to siren’s Valentine, at home in the cafés and places where there was no law, pressing flavors and melodies. Smoking clove cigarettes in the moviehouse as Ida Lupino’s eyes broke hearts. In Juliette’s vast sprawl of rooms, substances and pussy, gay women with weaknesses for lascivious amusements and spells of blood. Gin in the evening, when she—blonde girl small breasts, in an old-fashioned maid’s outfit, my nimble Scheherazade with the gardenia smile came to us and read from an old fashioned book of starry wisdom. When my Scheherazade (tethered with yellow ribbons to the hardback chair) enacted “Première Soirée”. spread wide, fluttering, gangs of fingers dancing in Sappho’s garden. Juliette gasping, begging me to fuck her again with the dildo. Juliette swallowing pills or binging on cocaine. Juliette hugging me. Juliette (in sheer blacksilk underwear) and the underage maiden (she giggled, smoked our weed, called herself Chandler, had blue hair and small feet… never had the chance to say, “You can’t do that.”) living the red wet voluptuous dream. Juliette and the panic of leggy whores. Juliette (the madness risen from her core kissed me like I was prey… her tongue left me breathless) painted my nipples with whore’s blood and gently licked them clean. Paris awake. Paris wild as L’America.     

“Yeah, wanna?” identical asked

cold as ice and
migrations of surface tensions
(part Weill,
part inner space applied to parchman tongue)
is slanted by the sacred neon-momentum

(she, delicious live toy,
has never heard of
the Imperial Dynasty of America)
(“Wanna? Wanna?”)
(she, delicious live toy,
has never heard of
the Imperial Dynasty of America)
(to row—)
(chasing what’s covered)
(night’s river)
the grid of put-it-all-aside
is melting
(murmurs come from the hole that was shut
each says, “I am with you.”
they make me stronger)

ivory teeth staring at the tattoo on my left breast
ivory teeth’s (stale smelling) doppelganger staring at the tattoo on my left breast
“Yeah, are ya?”

appointed for quietude, there has never been a television or a telephone in this spacious room. despite being well-travelled, the adagios and fairytales of Scheherazade and other storied tellers have yet to carve their voyages into the lovely old Oriental carpet that covers the parquet floor. there is a forest green sofa and a matching armchair that were made before the Great War in the room, they look as fresh and charming as the day they were bought. Study of an Event: (Bemused) Nude With A Dead Seagull, a large Impressionistic oil painting done by Mother (when she spent a summer and fall in Bab El Oued) hangs above the sofa; the subject, blonde girl small breasts, has Mother’s eyes, her perfect little smile does not disappoint. the mantle above the brick fireplace is lined with silver-framed photographs of Mother before her sandaled steps led her from Eternity to the City By the Bay. Mother as a younger woman (when she was a poet and a beekeeper, when she was daring and smoked cigarettes and laughed at the voices of despair), her body narrated by the unexpected, courageous, singing, her hands glowing with sea shells, transfigured by some supple passion, understanding, existing, discovering. Mother inventing happiness, before the deathchilled spells unfolded and dried her; we could be sisters. the cherrywood bookcases in the room are filled with memories of obsessive, many of the comforting volumes glitter with narcotic disorientation. the heavy double curtains bar sharp light from staining this room. insidious dust and its harsh ennui have never touched this room. an upholstered mahogany Lincoln rocking chair sits by the window that overlooks the bay. after touching, or on the occasions when the language of sleep has no interest in me, I often sit in this room (in total darkness) in my darling little house by the bay with a pot of Darjeeling or a small neat gin and dream my little dreams (of the Laughing Light the spiritually-narrow cannot see).

waiting for L’action—fruit
and its
weather—astonished eyes (nymph-ships,
that once watched people, watched for
to be torn apart)
touching believe
(the) company (of a RED right hand in this bed)
when the rain (everywhere) stops

Earlier, before dusk sighed that sensual, lover’s sigh that gets under my skin, I was reading some of Tark’s letters from that first summer in Santiago. They were filled with birds and the moon, and envy of the simple men that sat in the embraces of their cocktails and quietly laughed at the revolutionaries. I may return to them later

(Fripp & Eno “Swastika Girls” Live in Paris 28.05.1975, Jane Birkin “In Every Dream Home A Heartache”)

Joseph Pulver SRJoseph S. Pulver, Sr. is the author of the novels, The Orphan Palace and Nightmare’s Disciple, and he has written many short stories that have appeared in magazines and anthologies, including “Weird Fiction Review”, “Crypt of Cthulhu”, and “Lovecraft eZine”, Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, S. T. Joshi’s Black Wings (I and III), Book of Cthulhu and Tales of Jack the Ripper, The Starry Wisdom Library, and The Children of Old Leech. His short story collections, Blood Will Have Its Season, SIN & ashes, and Portraits of Ruin, were published by Hippocampus Press.

He edited A Season in Carcosa and The Grimscribe’s Puppets (Miskatonic River Press), and Ann K. Schwader’s The Worms Remember.

He is at work on two new mixed-genre collections of weird fiction, Stained Translations (Hippocampus Press 2014), and The Protocols of Ugliness, both edited by Jeffrey Thomas, and the upcoming anthologies, Cassilda’s Song and The Leaves of a Necronomicon (both Chaosium 2015).

You can find him online at This Yellow Madness.

If you enjoyed this story, let Joseph know by commenting — and please use the Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus buttons below to spread the word.

Story illustration by Raven Daegmorgan.

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4 responses to “The Unmistakable Shape of Night’s River, by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.

  1. Cool story!, I’ve been wanting to read one of your books but our library doesn’t have anything by you. I see now I can even by a hard copy of the magazine which is great cause I’m still old school and prefer paper and ink of trons!


  2. Killer. As phantasmagorical as anything dreamed up by opium-eater or absinthe-drinker. The unusual delivery just adds to the atmosphere instead of standing in the way of the story, a fever-dream of a phantasm. Nothing happens, but something happens, in the Heller-ish sense, as the catch-22 is grabbed by the nipple and led to the slaughter by its Lolita.


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