Long before I became a volunteer here, many years ago when my East Coast publishing career was still alive, and at an (even more) addled time when I actually believed I had the potential to become an adequate writer (perhaps), I submitted a work for consideration to The Bloomsbury Review. Enough previous publications of other like writings elsewhere made me brazen, I suppose—and publication, although in lesser venues than Blooms, blew up my confidence as well as my head—so when my piece actually made the cut, I’m sure I was unbearable to be around for far longer than decency should have allowed. Rest assured that at my current age and station, having eaten enormous servings of humble pie, I’m much more pleasant to be around.
Be all that as it may, as I was sorting through various files here and found the published work, I was surprised to discover that, hey, it wasn’t that bad after all. Not that good, either—but we won’t go there. The other thing I discovered, bringing back yet more memory from the incident, was that there was an inadvertent typo in the piece. When I brought that to the attention of the ever-scrupulous Tom Auer, he was horrified and offered to rerun it with the correction. That’s just the kind of guy he was, even though that re-use of space would have been expensive. His genuine horror and sincere apology (and perhaps knowing in the back of my mind that in the scheme of American literary history, it wasn’t worth a single bean, much less a hill of them to reprint it), made me realize that to go to that trouble really wasn’t worth anyone’s expense or effort. And, as it turned out, a few months later, When the Bluebird Sings: An Oscar Wilde Journal (now defunct) asked to reprint it (with the correction) and so it did see the light of day as originally intended. And all’s well that ended well.
But in a selfish indulgence on my part—and in the surety that the good heart of Tom wouldn’t mind—I’m going to reprint it here just to have it associated with this wonderful magazine in its corrected form. More fool I, I’m aware, but it does bring me back to a time when I was younger and had the hubris to believe that the possibility of talent actually flowered once in my deluded bones. I hope you might find some enjoyment in it for what small insight into Oscar Wilde might be found lurking there.
The Last Days of Sebastian Melmoth
down this narrow Paris street creeps
and squares a small field of large
magenta blooms on the wall
in this room.
These blossoms do not green
or grow, but fade in the daily path
under the golden steps the sun takes
travelling the wall
to finally fall on this table
where no writing but begging will be done.
Even the friendship my pen once held for me
has flown and the afternoon
rises on dust in the shaft of sun
that shines and illuminates the fading blooms
where I, alone, room—
waiting for the last slipper of sun
to flee the last petal,
desert the plain table
and disappear into the dusk, ah,
where absinthe and lust
waits for me
down the narrow Paris streets
in the arms and eyes
of warm brown boys
whose arrows of love
© David M. Perkins
[Sebastion Melmoth was the name Oscar Wilde
assumed in exile after being released from prison.]
From the 12th Anniversary Issue of The Bloomsbury Review, Volume 12/Issue 1, January/February 1992.
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