A small symbolic light above the planar world,
the curveless planetary horizon
and yapping dogs on the wind,
run I walk I queue I
grow tired, eyes close and flicker,
yet every photon tells a tale
of a restless luminous voyage.

After midnight I wander under
sodium doublet illumination
to the very end of the street.


Your visa, sir. Do you have a visa?

A visa. What visa?

A visa for Nocturnia, the Land of Night.

And where might I apply?

She points beyond the checkpoint,
to the lands I may not visit.


Day by day I think about Nocturnia,
make discrete inquiries
in shrouded alleyways,
on the darker net,
until I meet a mercenary stranger
who offers me a one-night pass
in exchange
for my collection
of treasured Venus flytraps.

The pass is almost genuine,
I overstamped the date.
But I must warn you, we humans …

He pauses to cough repeatedly;
a swarm of biting insects leaves his mouth.

We humans … cannot linger
in the Land of Night.
The denizens of darkness
are not like us:
they swim in deeper seas,
emit their own peculiar brightness.

You must not overstay your visit.

I don’t ask why.
His lips are tightly pressed together,
as if the unexpected might emerge.


Like a god from long ago,
she looks to the east and looks to the west.

Gaia’s thinking of another day.
She’ll make her mind up soon.

Ghostly pale, luminescent, almost human,
my Nocturnian night with her
has passed too quickly,
a movie rated G.

I don’t want to leave her,
I will stay.

She points to
a flight of fireflies
trailing afterimages,
tiny earth stars
endlessly circling.

He was human once, he stayed too long.

I run and stumble, fall and run again,
reach the gateway with the swell of rising dawn.

The smiling immigration officer stops me.

Tell me sir, do you have a visa
for Diurnia, the Land of Light?

A line borrowed from Jack Vance’s 1950 classic, The Dying Earth. He borrowed the line from Homer, so it’s third hand; the beautiful Paraty in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

the last days of the moon, detail above.

25 thoughts on “nocturnia

  1. I think i went here somehow, we all did. A playful variation on the ancient duality that never seems to let up, i think man will always be exploring it & trying to understand its effects.

    • Thanks, Daniel. I have to admit it still fascinates me, in itself and all the allegory, especially life/death. Since I’m environmentally conscious 😜 , I recycle and that includes Nocturnia/Notúrnia for fictional afterlife, with fictional purgatory a slightly nippy autumn evening. You know, being optimistic. 😀

    • It is fascinating. Have you read much Jung? He really tackles the duality of us.
      Glad to hear you’re a fellow eco person, i recycle fastidiously & have a huge compost heap. From Autumn i am going to start growing vegetables too.

    • Only a little. I fear there may be a trio of me at least. 🙂 Very impressive, but I’m afraid I’m not very green. I have a moderate compost heap so I suppose that’s something. 🌱

  2. Now this is a very big poem, Steve. Love the idea of a visa to the land of, and then another to get back. It’s all a trap to create once-were-humans, I suspect. Great scope of ideas in the piece. well done.

    • Thank you Frank, glad you noticed that. I wanted to be a bit daring with the narrative, jump scenes and compress the story.

      Part of it relates to late nightlife in big cities, where I’ve visited but never felt I belonged. It really is a different world to me, and I’m afraid it does create once-were-humans. Thanks again. 😃

    • Thanks. 😃 I’m always pleased when a publisher of one of my short stories organises an illustration, and I’m fond of graphic novels. Never thought about them in relation to my own work though. I can see that the narrative and visuals could suit … Mind you, I have no idea whether there are graphic artists out there looking for such stories. 🤔

    • You’re a great illustrator. 🙂 If you’d like to see how it goes with a graphic page (or whatever), I’d love to write something new. I know time is always an issue for everyone. I can contact you by email if you think it’s worth trying, please let me know … 🙂

  3. I loved it! And shivered a little, esp the bugs flying out! Yapping dogs on the wind… So many images it blows me away. There’s so much more to it than fantasy but I don’t try to unravel it all. Just satisfy myself with the glimpses of things I understand w/o understanding. “They swim in deeper seas…emit their own peculiar brightness.” Thanks, Steve!

    • My pleasure BG. 🙂 I was happy with the deep sea lines. I did have concrete images in mind but I wanted to move Nocturnia away from horror to somewhere … in between.

      I don’t think back on my writing, but I have to admit the insects have recurring roles. I don’t recall any relevant childhood trauma, so I’m hoping they’re metaphorical hahaha.

    • I know that overloaded feeling 🙂 . These days whenever I’m doing A I’m thinking about B, not to mention C, D, E … I become so careless, my mind is never where it’s supposed to be. Glad you enjoyed your journey into the night 🌗 😃

    • Ha ha, the twist. It came about because I do think that in the non-fantasy world there are night and day people, and you can mutate. I’m afraid I was a night person for a while. 🌗

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