Saturday, September 29, 2018

Elvis In The Temple...

Elvis In The Temple...

It was a strange dream,
Odd and disjointed,
Nothing new for the painters of night graffiti.

I was walking down an old street in the deep South,
Walking up to a seemingly abandoned ruin.

Oddly, it was a place I knew by deja vu.

An enormous concrete pyramid,
Overgrown with vines and ivy,
Shaded dark at night,
Imposing and immensely heavy.

The entrance was under the light pool of a lonely old street lamp,
The kind that resembles a gaslight.

Just as I was about to walk up to the door,
A long black limosine pulled up,
Disgorging three very unexpected spectres in the flesh.

Elvis was in the middle,
An old man in a suit first with a key,
A beautiful woman followed.

All of them were dressed in fine black clothes, looking sharp and purposeful.

Elvis glanced and me, said "Hello, Dan" in a kind but lofty and dismissive voice,
Leaving me acknowledged,
Yet neither declined nor encouraged.

I followed the trio into the temple of night,
A place oddly mixed with finely-appointed rooms and crumbling bare-concrete empty spaces.

In the empty rooms were crumbling statues,
Cheap concrete replicas from the look of it,
Chipped and barely standing in places.

There were high ledges about the perimeter of these empty places,
A black cat seemingly trapped on one high ledge,

I climbed a statue that threatened to topple at every move,
Rescued the ungrateful beast,
Which promptly dashed away into unseen corners.

Finally I made my way into a softly lit room,
And the three spirits in flesh were there lounging,
About some unearthly business I never learned of.

The place was carpeted finely,
Rich tapestries all about,
Clearly that had not been seen by human eyes in at least a decade,
Perhaps more.

Elvis glanced at me briefly,
A glimmer of momentary observance with no depth,
As if I were a distant acquaintance,
And I sat in a chair nearby,

Whatever they were conversing,
It was not audible to me,
Not for my ears clearly.

Elvis stood up as they were leaving,
Stepped over and silently handed me a lamp that no longer worked,
Having its form but robbed of its function.

I briefly elated,
Thinking the King had given me some odd gift,
For attached to the bottom was a tag,
A note with a hand-scrawled name,
Not mine.

"Servant, a service to the King,"
I thought.

I took it in stride,
A deliveryman for a musical nightshade,
And opened my eyes to yawn.


By: Daniel A. Stafford
© 09/29/2018

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Memoir: A Cigar With The Lost Sugar Queens Of Old Havana...

The night is one of quiet celebration. Appropriately, it is the evening of the Autumnal equinox.

The air is cool in the high desert of Temecula; A light jacket perfect. The stars shine above me as aircraft slowly blink their way across the sky. The palm trees are still sentinels in pooled light of amber streetlamps. It is quiet except for crickets and car tires in the distance.

I just achieved the two certifications that have saved my new job and launched my second career. I had only nine days left to spare.

I have tokens for marking the months of hard work it took me to achieve this.

I just finished a very fine cigar, the best I have had in a year. It was bought from Bob - at least that is the name he gives.

Bob is the fellow who sounds and looks as if he is from India, and runs the strip-mall smoke shop down the hill. His shop is small, but he built an excellent walk-in humidor for his shop. He is rightfully proud of that humidor. He assured me that this cigar from one of his top humidor shelves is truly excellent. He was quite truthful, and I will tell him so when I see him next.

The other token is the first novel I have read in two years. Most people who know the younger me would be slack-jawed in shock to read the sentence immediately preceding this one.

I just picked the novel out this evening, and it is different from my usual fare of science fiction and fantasy. It is a story of a woman of Cuban decent, and her sugar-industry heiress grandmother who fled Cuba as a teenager immediately after Batista fled the island.

It is written in a poetic and romantic style, and jumps smoothly from the late 1950's era of the young woman fleeing Cuba to the days of her Journalist granddaughter returning her ashes to the land she loved.

"Next Year In Havana" is the title, and I am in love with it after the first chapter.

The book is paper in my hands, a tactile joy I have missed. 

The cigar was so good that it was painful to have finished, and I was loath to put it out. It was completely synchronistic for the tone of the book I am reading, on several levels.

So is this writing poetry? What I am giving my reader in this moment?

I would argue that poetry is the art of putting heart into writing of the small poignant moments of life. It is the art of bringing those moments to life and magnifying them for the reader. 

A piece of the story is all I can give, but let it be a piece that you can look at in words with your heart's eye and maybe fall a little bit in love with.

Yes, I am living this, loving this moment, and laying it at your fingertips.

Perhaps the air here in California tonight smells faintly of the ocean after the afternoon breezes from San Diego have finished their journey up the Temecula valley, just as one of the characters in my book is scenting the warm salty air of Cuba upon her return to the land of her immediate ancestors. 

The rest of her journey awaits in the soft paper of the pages in my hands.

The rest of my journey awaits me on Monday morning.

For this weekend, however, I will have my feet in Temecula and my heart and mind in two very different times in Cuba.

All I have to do now is turn another page...


By: Daniel A. Stafford
© 09/21/2018

Compassion is the greatest sign of humanity.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Poetry of Victorian Science; Cosmic diagrams; Bon-mots; Camo fish; Laughter, and more...

The Public Domain Review
Vol.8 #14

New Essay

The Poetry of Victorian Science

In 1848, the mineralogist, pioneer of photography, and amateur poet Robert Hunt published The Poetry of Science, a hugely ambitious work that aimed to offer a survey of scientific knowledge while also communicating the metaphysical, moral, and aesthetic aspects of science to the general reader. Gregory Tate explores what the book can teach us about Victorian desires to reconcile the languages of poetry and science.

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New Collection Items


Cosmography Manuscript (12th Century)

Wonderful series of medieval cosmographic diagrams and schemas sourced from a late 12th-century English manuscript.

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Bon-Mots of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century (1897)

Compilation of some of the best conversational witticisms of the 18th and 19th centuries, including Joseph Addison, Samuel Johnson, Oscar Wilde, and Lord Byron, and many lesser known wits.

Read More »

The Laughing Song (1904)

Henry Klausen

In this novelty recording by the Norwegian actor Henry Klauser, a mournful refrain gradually gives way to laughter.

Read More »

Flatfish Camouflage Experiments (1911)

Photographs from a series of experiments in which various types of flounder through their paces as regards camouflage ability.

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From our Friends at JSTOR Daily...


How to Create a Human Being

The Book of Stones, a central alchemical text, contained formulae with the power to create living tissue from ordinary matter, supposedly.

Read More »


Beautiful prints to buy in our online shop!

Get the PDR on your walls

We've teamed up with a host of excellent print partners to offer for sale on the site hundreds of museum quality prints of an ever-expanding selection of favourites from the PDR archives. All custom made to the highest standards. All profits going back into the project.

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Our collection of recommended books

A hand-picked selection of recently published books (within the last 15 years or so), all of which in someway tap into the tastes and concerns of The Public Domain Review. There are many beautiful facsimiles and reproductions of works we've featured on the site, as well as fascinating books on a wide range of historical periods and themes, including many penned by our very own essay contributors.

Start exploring here »


The Newsletter will be taking a little break over August, but we'll be back with bells on come September!


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