Exploring gender expectation using H.P. Lovecraft’s
novella, “The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath.”


three times dreamed
golden and lovely it blazed
bridges of veined marble
supernal trumpets as clouds swept
up to him he knew its meaning
vaguely it called
but each night as he stood
he felt the bondage of dreams
those flights still undescended
in the cold waste where no man treads
no man had gone before
he descended the seventy steps to
incalculable local dangers
amorphous blight of nethermost confusion
pounding and piping slowly
awkwardly mindless other
whose soul and messenger is crawling


in the tunnels
strange fungi dwell
he was an old dreamer
a man by another name in life
returned free from madness
the low phosphorescent aisles between
a clearing of older more terrible dwellers
thicker fungi revealed
he was closer to
an impression of many eyes
some wilder ones
dropt down by someone on the moon
to be seen on high mountain peaks
by the others
behind him they wished
for a certain spot where they would
be heard in the frightened fluttered


he saw the smoke of cottage chimneys
all the dogs barked affrightedly
he asked questions about the gods
the farmer and his wife tell him the way
he walked through the high street
and he came to the great stone
bridge the masons sealed a living human sacrifice
to an ancient law no man may kill a cat
climbing to their onyx stronghold
drawn screaming into the sky
gods set their seal
stopping dreams
his guileless host
hinting that it may be a likeness
they danced by moonlight on that mountain
to see the stone face
little memories very useful to a seeker


child of a god as hostage
disguised and dwelling amongst men
drowsy on a couch of inlaid ebony
complacent cats licking their chops with unusual gusto
absorbed in the old priest’s conversation
a small black kitten
would escort him no further
he went out on the balcony
all mellow and magical in the slanted light
then twilight fell
and sweet bells pealed in the temple tower
and sweetness in the voices of many cats
heavy and silent from strange feasting
oddly robed men found that they knew gods
they mostly preferred to whisper
to the grocers and butchers
those unpleasantly featured merchants unseen

Eric Machan Howd’s (Ithaca, NY) poems have appeared in “Nimrod,” “River City,” “Caesura,” and “Stone Canoe.” He was a recent guest poet at a Slovenian/American poetry conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where he shared an excerpt of his essay “A Non-Binary Approach to the Arts: the Continuum of Word and Song.”