Sacrificial Nights: By Bruce Boston and Alessandro Manzetti: Kipple Officina Libraria, 2016, 127 pages.
I always know I’m reading good work when I find myself both challenged and inspired. This is how I felt immediately upon opening Sacrificial Nights, a novella in poetry form, and an outstanding piece of work. The challenge came both intellectually and emotionally. Sacrificial Nights deals with tough subject matter, a city full of the wounded, the wondrous and the strange. It introduces us to several fascinating characters, a man in a coma who dreams of moths, a woman who believes only the rain can save her, a serial killer who senses that he will soon be caught, and a driven detective who is hunting that killer. There are others. Their paths cross and recross. Wounds, and worse, are left behind. Sometimes there is black and white, sometimes only the multi-colored sheen of oil on rain slicked streets. The challenge is to see if you can love these people, understand them. Or will you bury your own raw bones so deeply that the stories merely pass over your head and leave you untouched. I could not remain untouched.
The inspiration in the work came from the beautiful and intricate word play within the pieces. I’ve often felt this way before while reading Bruce Boston’s work, but I found that Boston’s lines and Alessandro Manzetti’s lines melded almost seamlessly and were as sharp as a shiv. Here are some phrases:
“The python twists her thick / diamond-backed hide / down the dingy third floor / of a decrepit brownstone.
“The moths multiply, / continue to fly in a circle / around the head of the thief, / as if he were the only lighthouse / in thousands of miles of darkness.”
“She doesn’t like to be out this late, but nothing matters as long as it keeps raining. Her nightmare will be caged in the deep furrows of her minds as long as it keeps raining. The rain is her shield. Just the sound of it can wash her mind clean. He will not come for her as long as it keeps raining.”
“She is the ghost of the city’s / corruption made manifest, / a perverse little demon / with sharp young teeth.”
There is much more, and the use of language for effect makes me want to sit at my keyboard and hammer until something nearly as cool forms. I’m not sure it will ever happen but I’m inspired to keep trying.
Both Bruce Boston and Alessandro Manzetti are past Bram Stoker Award winners, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this work up for 2016’s award. There are also some wonderful illustrations by Ben Baldwin, whose work I was not familiar with but who I will keeping an eye out for in the future. Overall, the book works as both art and as psychological study. I highly recommend it.