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Vampire Sestina

Neil Gaiman is this awesome writer I fell in love with once upon a time….he was one of the guys who made comics part of the literary mainstream, with the epic Sandman series…went on to hunt out other Gaiman works, his novels “American Gods”, “Stardust” and “Neverwhere” among others, articles and idiosyncratic collaborations ( note to 2fargon and psasidhar and everybody else into H2G2, Gaiman wrote the unofficial guide to the series, called Don’t Panic.
This little gem was something I discovered in “The Mammoth book of Vampires”….a fitting end to the collection.

Vampire Sestina

I wait here at the boundaries of dream,
all shadow-wrapped. The dark air tastes of night,
so cold and crisp, and I wait for my love.
The moon has bleached the color from her stone.
She’ll come, and then we’ll stalk this pretty world
alive to darkness and the tang of blood.

It is a lonely game, the quest for blood,
but still, a body’s got the right to dream
and I’d not give it up for all the world.
The moon has leeched the darkness from the night.
I stand in shadows, staring at her stone:
Undead, my lover . . . O, undead my love?

I dreamt you while I slept today and love
meant more to me than life — meant more than blood.
The sunlight sought me, deep beneath my stone,
more dead than any corpse but still a-dream
until I woke as vapor into night
and sunset forced me out into the world.

For many centuries I’ve walked the world
dispensing something that resembled love —
a stolen kiss, then back into the night
contented by the life and by the blood.
And come the morning I was just a dream,
cold body chilling underneath a stone.

I said I would not hurt you. Am I stone
to leave you prey to time and to the world?
I offered you a truth beyond your dreams
while all you had to offer was your love.
I told you not to worry and that blood
tastes sweeter on the wing and late at night.

Sometimes my lovers rise to walk the night . . .
Sometimes they lie, cold corpse beneath a stone,
and never know the joys of bed and blood,
of walking through the shadows of the world;
instead they rot to maggots. O my love
they whispered you had risen, in my dream.

I’ve waited by your stone for half the night
but you won’t leave your dream to hunt for blood.
Good night, my love. I offered you the world.

Umm, yeah, lest I forget….this one is dedicated to YOU. :-)

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13 thoughts on “Vampire Sestina

  1. That was the COOLEST poem ever…..loved it…I am gonna save it :)))

    Thanks sooooo much Beatzo…u made the day (!) of this vampire :D

    Now can I have some more blood please? ;)

    • Neil Gaiman rocks, like I said….:-D

      Umm, i already donated a large share of blood to the Midnight Squadron….some other day…ummm…night, milady???

  2. Count on me to do the nitpicking…
    but this one really glares so loud. i mean the poet talks of a dead soul ( a vampire buried underground, i presume) and then goes on to talk about the soul/thing loving its life !!


    The sunlight sought me, deep beneath my stone,
    more dead than any corpse but still a-dream.

    and then

    For many centuries I’ve walked the world
    dispensing something that resembled love —
    a stolen kiss, then back into the night
    contented by the life and by the blood.

    lack of consistency and adherence to logic(symbolic, or consistent), something unpardonable even in a writer of fantasy, where beleif can be suspended, but not logic, or semantics.
    Poetic Liberty? well, i wouldnt say that a poet who says something dead enjoys “life” (existence, perhaps, but not life, life is too biological a term) is not exactly making creative and permissible use of his liberty.

    of course, you could add the cliched IMHO at the very beginning of this post, but its just my opinion, “humble opinion” if you like humble opinions better than plain simple opinions.

    And Pray, who is “YOU”? are you in love with me, and all others who read your journal ;) ?

    • Hmm, this is what happpens when someone tries to nitpick for the sake of nitpicking….and jumping to conclusions without knowing FACTS.

      The mistake you oh-so-cleverly found was :
      contented by the life and by the blood.

      Umm, I dunno whether you have read Bram Stoker’s Dracula thoroughly or not, but I do know you have watched Coppola’s version of the book…..there is this quote in both, which i believe explains your point….
      “For the blood is the life….”
      Note the use of “the life” in both the quote and the poem. If it were normal human life Gaiman was referring to, it would just have been “life”, non, mon ami?
      And trust me, this poem has been used on too many publications for an editor to let such a glaring mistake go by….
      It’s ok, you don’t have to apologise.

      • NON. its not an editing mistake.
        I wouldnt know the context of the “For the blood is the life..” (matter of fact, this makes sense since there can be no life sans blood) and that doesnt vindicate Gaiman in any case, since he is not paraphrasing/quoting Stoker.

        and pray, what are the FACTS.

        The life refers to the particular instance of life(just like any other, yours, mine) that the THING was supposed leading. Which brings us to the old question, how can a dead thing have a life?

        When in doubt, refer…
        the
        1
        def.art.
        Used before singular or plural nouns and noun phrases that denote particular, specified persons or things: the baby; the dress I wore.

        So i think he is indeed referring the particular instance of “normal” life that is the vampire’s.

        Dont be silly, now, does the blood mean something different from the blood we all have flowing through our veins?

        (example) – Jesus Christ saying “i am the way , the truth , the life”(John 14:6) I am pretty sure he is talking about normal “way” “truth” and pretty much normal life.

        You seem to have missed this totally the last time around, so here i go again – “you could add the cliched IMHO at the very beginning of this post, but its just my opinion, “humble opinion” if you like humble opinions better than plain simple opinions.”

        So add it to the very beginning and re read the reply, r should i just say “reread reply”? (omitting the “the”)

        Come come, now, where the ‘umble ness?, and why the sarcasm?…

        • The life refers to the particular instance of life(just like any other, yours, mine) that the THING was supposed leading. Which brings us to the old question, how can a dead thing have a life?

          if THAT’s what your line of defence of your opinion is (‘umble or not), allow me to point out the glaring errors.
          First things first, the poem is a “love” poem. You could write volumes about how a “thing” cannot love, or fall in love because hey, it’s dead,and so the poem, the countless vampire books, the innumerable vampire movies get thrown out of the back-door. By calling a vampire a “thing”, you automatically negate 80% of all vampire fiction throughout literary history.
          Technical glitch: Vampires are not “dead”. They are “Undead”. That has been defined as – again – the definition varies from writer to writer – anything from a disease to a mutation to a stage where a foreign presence in one’s body negates the effect of “death” – in other words, the human body becomes a container, the contents of which are definitely non-human.
          Second, my reasoning – or rather, my “humble” opinion about what Gaiman is trying to say in that particular line. Look at the lines again – “For many centuries I’ve walked the world, dispensing something that resembled love –a stolen kiss, then back into the night contented by the life and by the blood.”, so going by your line of thought, he says “i am contented with MY life and MY blood.”
          well, it’s not. The “blood” here refers to that of his victims. I can go into technicalities of how different writers have handled the connection between a vampire and his/her living victims, but that would be too far-fetched….Anne Rice says that the life of a victim, all of his/her experiences, memories get assimilated into the vampire’s consciousness as s/he drinks…and that in itself is a bond that contributes to “love”…..ditto Laurell Hamilton and King . (I seriously have no idea how the new-wave…Barker, gaiman et al have treated this in their works, and i can just hypothesise. )

          So the point here MIGHT be this. The Undead creature refers to the blood AND the life around him…you can either equate blood WITH life or, life and blood as two seperate entities altogether….my interpretation, based on the quote that i gave, says that he just used a repetitive expression ( it IS a poem by a vampire, after all ) to convey how important blood was in his life.
          As for the sarcasm…..blame it on the hungry soul who comes to the office and sees a vampire newbie nitpicking on things beyond his ken. :-D
          Apologies anyway.
          Humbleness be damned! I am humble about things beyond MY scope of knowledge, not about things I “specialise” in. Have I ever commented about you-know-which-band except for the odd noises now and then? :-)
          Don’t burn my comics, please! :-P

          • LJ said :
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            Sorry, but your comment of 7210 characters exceeds the maximum character length of 4300. Please go back, shorten it, and try posting it again.

            so Here’s the reply

            • I tried writing a response, turned out it was of size 7888 characters, and I lost it all! :-((
              Have to type it all again, but don’t have the time right now…..

    • He also says he’s “_More_ dead than any corpse” which is impossible. So there’s a lot of exaggeration here. Also, I agree that the use of THE as opposed to MY does make a huge difference in meaning.

    • Re: thank you

      My pleasure! I transcribed the whole thing just so I could read it whenever I wanted to. My books ( the one which had this, at least) are back at my parents’.

      • Anonymous says:

        Smoke and Mirrors

        First of all, thanks baetzo!

        Second, I first read this poem in the collection “Smoke and Mirrors” by said Gaiman, and can highly recommend it if you haven’t already read it. “Snow, glass, apples” is lovely… :)

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