Gothic Fish

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My lady swims in darkness
her skin a web of stars
the weedy lake her chamber
bulrushes her bars

She breathes the thick green waters
swallows deep their chill
brewed among black pebbles
nightly takes her fill

Her mouth an ache grown hollow
where shadows swarm to hide
lose themselves in horror
welling from inside

Her eyes like cloudy moonstones
sightless as she drifts
cold between the currents
aimlessly she sifts

Dredging out each echo
every drowning wish
tastes their bitter nature
bloodless as a fish.


I have her mirror — one square foot of glass
hung in a quiet corner of the hall
yet I avoid it every time I pass
I’m careful not to glance at it at all.

It hangs a little crooked on its chain
I notice out the corner of my eye
and there’s a cobweb clinging to the frame
I will give it my attention — by and by.

But not just now — not when such thoughts recall
the way she used to stop to check her hair
how sharp her shadow fell against the wall
the light behind ... her silhouette still there.

Maybe the mirror holds her — like a charm
as it sits and gathers dust high on its hook
although I’m sure her ghost would never cause me harm
I simply cannot bring myself to look ...

I fear I’ll see a face that isn’t mine
caught within dull mercury’s domain
and should I glimpse the merest hint or sign
more shunning and denial would be vain.

So I’ll ignore the mirror’s grimey glass
and hope thick dust will grey it into sleep
it’s seen too many faces from the past —
I wish they would rest peaceful — six foot deep.


There’s something in the water
something’s living in the lake
it hides among the rushes
deathly still but wide awake.

And some men who claim they’ve seen it
say it’s eight or ten feet long
while others judge near twenty
though their guesses could be wrong.

One man came face to face with it
and swore its eyes were green
it gnashed a double row of teeth
with weed stuck inbetween

and asked him a straight question
in a tongue he couldn’t name
so he failed to give an answer to
the creature’s favourite game.

Then it roared a note of anger
and thrashed its silver tail
spouting jets of water skywards
as impressive as a whale.

While it didn’t try to eat him
it seemed wiser not to stay
so he sang a song to calm it
while he slowly crept away.

Another sighting — years ago
reported eyes of flame
and a stench that turned the stomach
no two details were the same.

The last encounter — six months gone
described a loathsome hulk
that wallowed in its reedy bed
where moonlight glossed its bulk.

It merely rolled one marble eye
and watched the girl go by
she did not run and later swore
it gave a heartfelt sigh.

The girl — a pretty, simple child
appeared under some spell
and languished like one stupefied
as far as folk could tell.

A week went by, then two, then three
a fever flushed her skin
she muttered strange, unholy words
that reeked of shame and sin.

Then just as sudden as it came
the fever left her brain
she rose up from her bed and smiled
but never spoke again.

One afternoon she took a walk
around the placid lake
a nurse beside her felt the land
and water start to quake.

The wide-eyed girl ecstatic now
without delay jumped in
as ripples closed above her head
nurse witnessed one huge fin.

Then nothing stirred — a dreadful calm
descended on the scene
and nurse was never quite the sane
person she’d once been.

The gossip spread like forest fire
men gathered to the site
investigators led the search
no body came to light.

Whatever happened to the girl
remains a mystery
and harkens back to far-off times
in pagan history

when gods demanded sacrifice
thus monstrous creatures fed
on innocent unlucky girls
and not one protest said.

Some chronicle bizarre events
and legends grow with time —
there’s something living in the lake
unpunished for its crime.

Wild speculation mingles with
a primitive deep fear
the curious keep well away
and only fools go near.

Poor Nurse sits in her padded cell
and scribbles on the wall
symbols — pictograms and such —
that make no sense at all.

While those who read this narrative
are sobered by the threat
whatever lurks in that dark lake
is far from finished yet ...


Early, it was
in the young part of the year —
that moment Winter turns
and finds the first
blue egg of Spring

I saw the goatman in a field
barkbrown was his skin
wallowing in newgrown grass
bold as anything.

I only caught the barest glimpse
our eyes met
then I knew
I shouldn’t look at gods at play
or dryads in a ring.

Though it was cold
I felt the rush
of hot blood to my cheek
old goatman laughed to see me blush
I swear I saw
him wink
before I turned my back and walked
nervously away
while all the things I felt and thought
in truth
I dare not say...


I dreamt I by a river slept
when from the water rose a child —
a beauteous boy who shook and wept
he rained a storm-cloud, wet and wild.

“Why criest thou?” I asked, amazed.
He turned on me his tawny eyes
and had me spellbound as he gazed
his sobs now calmed to long, deep sighs.

“I weep for you,” he whispered low —
“For what the passing years have done —
it’s cruel that you’ve been cheated so.
How can you bear it, ancient one?”

I smiled, then begged him to explain
what awful fate he witnessed here
and maybe he should look again —
his vision might not be too clear!

He bowed his head and took my hand
in his pink fingers grasped my paw
so-withered, thin, age-spotted, and
beheld the length of tooth and claw.

Yet where he touched me, flesh grew warm.
It seemed his blood flowed into mine.
Reality’s dark curtain torn
and light leaked through in shades of time.

I felt the surge of life pulse through
dull nerves awoke as if on fire
each flagging cell revived anew
infused with love’s intense desire.

As I grew younger, he grew old —
the smooth skin puckered on his cheek
all fervour drained, his gaze went cold
he thinned, his body turning weak.

My turn to cry. “What trick is this?”
He struggled with an old man’s breath.
In pity, I leaned close to kiss
his lips, but all I smelled was death.

He shrank from me, ghost-pale and slid
into the river’s secret brown.
It pulled him under fast, and hid
all that remained of him to drown.

I woke — a strange name teased my mind
an ache of longing stirring deep
for something — someone — undefined —
his gift impossible to keep.


Dark is a different country
it keeps unpeopled hours
and has a government of owls
who murder from high towers.

Invisible, the field-side lanes
run soft while all are sleeping
one human footfall in the night
its wakeful rhythm keeping.

Deeper shadows part like mist
grey on grey, then greyer
through leafy coppices and woods
where paths divide each layer

a figure — flesh or phantom — goes
across the midnight border
travels through this otherworld
of strangely altered order

where silence dwells and size deceives
dimensions slide and shimmer
pale blowsy moons might disappear
so leave such prospects dimmer.

Old landmarks move about the map
immune from close detection
while fancy has the mind believe
it’s sure of home’s direction.

Then back to light — the welcome door
and foreign night receding
along with predatory eyes
denied their chance of feeding …


(Albino Song)

I want to sit out in the snow
and bask until I freeze
I long to feel the blizzard chill
me slowly by degrees

I want to watch my skin turn blue
cold pierce my very bones
as temperatures past zero drop
then sink to minus zones

I’ll holiday on glaciers
enjoy an ice-melt swim
the frozen tundra beckons me
I ache to wander in ...

A sterile spot with biting winds
where all the penguins go
stark — unspoilt — and there I’ll pitch
my deckchair in the snow.


(After a couple of nights spent re-reading H P Lovecraft)

I am lost on the mountain of madness —
the far side of the chasm of night.
I have wormed through its caverns and tunnels
and have measured both depth and sheer height.

It is cold in the bowels of that mountain —
there is meltless black ice on its peak
and a terror that sings to the planets
in the absence of all I might seek.

There is nothing so bare, nor so dreadful
where hope is the victim that fell
to a death with no chance of salvation
down some deep and unfathomed dark well.

And the rope that I cling to is rotting —
it unravels one strand at a time ...
There’s no voice in the ether to guide me —
tell which way — up or down — I should climb.

There are shadows that lean at my shoulder
and a cloying stench reeks of the tomb
while a presence lurks close, ever-watchful
like some ghost who inhabits the gloom.

Night finds me alone on the rock face
my fingers and heart matching sore
as I hang onto words — my one lifeline —
and fight for a foothold once more.


All night a string of cries, half-human
seep through the thick indifferent walls
and dim-lit corridors play host
to the long-dead’s footsteps shuffling
back and forth between, stopping
at locked doors.

The building houses madness like a storm
forever rumbling. The barometer of sanity swings wild
as pressure grows and grows ... those peaks and troughs
no chart can measure crazy. Numbers lie.

They call to one another. There’s a code
of shrieks and moans — a kind of ghastly morse
the mindless have invented. It can mean
that Armageddon’s close, or some complaint
about a thirst unquenchable. Who knows ? ...

The air hangs stale, unmoving — reeks of pain
and solitude — cells heavy with their gloom
where breathing seems a punishment or curse
when sleep evades. Thought won’t lie down but crawls
                                        inside itself.

Dawn brings no relief. Nightmare turns to daymare
and the light is crueller than the dark.
Premature, the ghosts await their turn —
imagine death’s black gate’s their one chance of release.


A lone grey wolf one night made howl
in a far wood lit by the moon
and on a tree a great horned owl
sat listening to his baleful tune.

She watched as other wolves arrived
in silence through the trees they came
then formed a circle, side by side
and howled in chorus each refrain.

The moon at first half-hid by cloud
seemed loathe to show her cold round face
but as the concert grew more loud
something rare and strange took place.

She brightened — almost like she smiled
and then descended down the sky
the howling grew intense and wild
a red glow shone in each wolf’s eye.

Down she came and touched the top
of that tree where the great horned owl
still sat. The din went on non-stop
the wolves in trance — no choice but yowl.

The moon now turned a rich blood-red
a portent of those things to come
the wind grew calm, the stars all fled
as every wolf was stricken dumb.

All bathed in an unearthly light
in his hind legs one wolf stood tall
the great horned owl took silent flight
to warn all creatures — great and small.

For as the moon shone on his back
the wolf transformed into a man
who loped off down a narrow track
and after him the wolf pack ran.

It’s said that once in fifty years
the wolfman ravages the land
and superstition has few fears
worse than the dread of his cruel hand.

He opens doors and windows wide
there is no lock can keep him out
he’ll let his brother wolves inside
and all will perish, without doubt.

Lambs and chickens in the barn
will not be safe on such a night
small children, too, may come to harm
and if not eaten, die from fright.

Those who know the legend’s true
will listen for the great horned owl
and fear there’s little they can do
when hungry wolves are on the prowl

except to hide beneath their bed
and pray the pack will pass on by
and hope that swollen moon so red
wanes quickly with the blue dawn sky.


I dream of ...
        the house at the edge of the sand
where the tide creeps up close to the fence
and the seafog wraps long arms around —
its grey layers of chill grown dense.

The narrow pier planked so darkly wet
stretches empty — thin-fingers the bay
while the gulls thus rendered too blind to fly
sit hunched as though gathered to pray.

The fog like a forlorn spirit lost
clings tenacious as any ghost.
The haunted eyes of dull windows stare
through mists suffocating wild coast.

Such silence is heavy — hangs thick in the trees
and the grass spiking tall cannot move
for the atmosphere brooding — the ache that prevails
and no change in perception can soothe...

The house so envisaged is weathered apart
standing lone by its desolate beach
and nobody lives there — location unmapped
since the road in my heart failed to reach.


Home’s the place I should feel safe
but it’s not felt safe for years
the door can’t dam emotion’s flood
the walls run wet with tears.

It won’t withstand the threatened quake
dark cracks yawn deep and wide
the north wind moans and chews the trees
tall shadows tilt and slide...

Home’s the space I should find rest
instead a chill unease
haunts me nameless in the night
with grave uncertainties.

Home means faith as strong as stone
all horrors locked outside
but some black dibbuk’s broken in —
there’s nowhere left to hide.

Note: Dibbuk or dybbuk — a Hebrew word for malevolent spirit


Tight, the box is locked
and locked it must remain
for legend knows what ghosts
it might contain.
The carvings stare
wood breathes an ancient threat
and holy types believe
what other men forget.

Pure evil waits within
imprisoned there — asleep
biding endless time
for wickedness will keep.
Dark words on the lid
a warning what’s inside
should never be let out
old rules firmly applied.

Shut, the box stays strong
a voice moans through a crack
wheedling ... then enraged
at being trapped.
Ignore its cries —
each ugly hiss and howl
they’re mouthings of a dybbuk —
non-human — demon-foul.


The wish-fish nibbles at stray thoughts
inside a dreamer’s head.
It craves the taste of strange ideas —
odd crumbs of joy or dread.

The smell of fantasy will lure
the hungry wish-fish in.
It chews on every shade of worm —
however fat or thin.

Imagination spreads its feast —
the bait hangs bitter-sweet —
the wish-fish tugs upon the line
and circles round — discreet.

Which random thought it swallows whole
and grants one wild desire
is known only to those who see
bright pictures in the fire.

Black its scales and gold its fins
the wish-fish glides beneath
seas where dreams dip in and out
oblivious of teeth.


Night peers in all the windows
cold presses at the door
long shadows shuffle forwards
gold firelight pools the floor.

Sly whispers haunt the chimney
a log moves in the grate
then footsteps tread the pathway
the latch clicks on the gate.

Rat-tat! goes the iron knocker
alerting those who sit.
But frozen still as statues
none rise to answer it.

Silence hangs uncertain
the knocker raps once more
something turns the handle
and pushes at the door.

Relief’s a sigh escaping
as ancient bolts hold good
and hinges keep their purchase
on oak’s well-weathered wood.

A groan ... a curse to heaven
before those weary feet
traipse slowly up the garden
and out into the street.

No clue — no scribbled message
explaining why they’d call
so very close to midnight
and frighten one and all.

The room stays deathly quiet
the mantel clock ticks on
they listen close with pounding hearts
and pray the caller’s gone.


Alternative final verse:

The room stays deathly quiet
strange shadows looming black
while pounding hearts beat loud as drums
and pray he won’t be back.


The room remains too quiet
the tension stretching on ...
ears cocked to catch the slightest sound
unsure the caller’s gone.


It’s a long haul up a steep hill
the road is rough with stones
and I recall the journey still
how sore it left my bones.

A narrow road from packhorse days
where weeds grow high beside
just one of those forsaken ways
that few but gypsies ride.

The ruins of a great house stand
upon the hill’s bare brow
its windows face a sweep of land
once farmed but wasted now.

The roof has let in years of rain
the door keeps nothing out
yet who would venture in again
when rumours spread about

warn casual trespassers it’s wise
to turn around and go
for something broods — the walls have eyes
it’s better not to know

the history — those gruesome tales
one strange old-timer tells
of servant girls and first-born males
and babies drowned in wells ...

A scandal like a worn cliché
repeated over time
sounds more like truth the more folk say
it was a wicked crime.

Some curse undid that family
too proud for God to save
as one by one and speedily
each found a pauper’s grave.

Some said a local witch was hired
(for none would trust the law)
and soon the eldest son expired
though only hours before

he’d been out drinking half the night
sunk countless yards of ale
got into some booze-driven fight
and come home weak and pale.

Struck down by some rare malady
he’d crawled into his bed
let go an oath — screamed horribly
rolled over stone cold dead.

His brother next to catch the germ
succumbed real quick and died.
Their sister felt the fever burn —
Hell claimed her from inside.

Mother, Father, Grandpa too
all perished in a week.
Investments failed and deals fell through
inflation reached its peak.

No money in the bank account
the debts piled up sky-high
and funerals cost a huge amount
so in a field nearby

the six were buried in a row
to save on the expense
no flowers and no tombstones — no
one left to mend the fence.

With nothing there to mark the place
the grass and weeds grew tall.
Nature soon took back the space
and no one cared at all.

The house sits on its hill so steep
a ghost in every room.
Exposed — no secrets left to keep
the air hangs thick with doom.

A shell nobody wants to buy
it steals the very breath
awaits the luckless passer-by
to trade them death for death.


At night he sings in some far tree
sweet liquid notes float soothingly
in through my open window frame
the song repeats. He calls my name.

I listen, drifting, half-asleep
and in my mind I try to keep
the memory as he sings on
but when I wake the dream is gone.

Though not a dream — a haunting. Yet
it’s one I strive to not forget.
Instead I conjure up this bird
I’ve never seen but often heard ...

He perches high in some old pine
his song unearthly, near-divine.
He’s silver-feathered, eagle-sized
with huge unblinking amber eyes.

And how his crooning voice so clear
can cross long miles and find my ear
becomes my own deep mystery.
He sings so very 'suasively

the more I hear, the more I know
there’ll be a time I have to go
to where he’s waiting in that tree
calling, calling out to me.


Somewhere on a dust-dark shelf
ranged along its narrow wormy wood
a row of small jars stoppered tight
mysterious as bottles for rare scent
or poison pots perhaps
their ingredients labelled almost blank — anonymous
if only imagination would let them be just that

But shapes loom through the cloudy liquid
the yellowed limbs and outsize heads
of miniature grotesques
that have no given name
each one a stillborn nightmare
a store of pickled horrors
deaf dumb and blind

A show of freaks that neither lived nor died
yet fear preserved them
locked in their floating silent worlds
where they lie curled and hideous
creatures caught forever contemplating
a grim eternity composed of
their own mistakes.


We’ll meet on the bridge some midnight
between this world and the next
one new penny in my pocket
heartbeat wild beneath my vest

with the moon and stars to guide us
all eternity to spend
where no harm can so divide us
and youth’s passion never end.

So, no more sorrow as you leave me —
take this promise to your death
I’ll pick flowers in Love’s forest
as I take my own last breath.

I’ll make wreaths of wind-blown petals
to cast out upon the foam
for all lovers killed in battle —
those lost souls so far from home.

You will know the way on waking —
recognise the worn old track
leading to the bridge some midnight
these the words that draw you back ...

For I’ll be waiting to cross over
to a land that’s free from pain
once the link so cruelly broken
is restored — made strong again.

I will find you gazing skywards
mapping how our comet flies —
points its arrow to the future
where a golden dawn will rise.


We are children of the golden dawn —
angels in the making
visionaries freed by love
our wordly lives forsaking.

We’ve minds that travel swift as light —
no barriers — no prison —
weightless as a passing breeze
kissed by a sun new-risen.


On a cold winter’s night, far away, long ago
a simple young novice awoke in her room
and drawn to the window’s square riot of snow
she watched the flakes tumble from out the sky’s gloom.

The wind caught and whirled them as in frenzied dance
blown round and around in the dense, dizzy air
hypnotic, it held her as though in a trance
face pressed to the glass, she remained standing there.

The blizzard grew fierce in its polar extreme
she peered to see figures blurred into the white
and feared for their safety. As though in a dream
her kind heart responded, alarmed by their plight.

She ran down the hallway, she raced down the stairs
and unbolted the abbey’s ornate wooden door
the cold rearing up stole her breath unawares
as she staggered half-blind, all direction unsure.

But drawn on by sheer impulse, insanity led
her into the wild, giddy waltz — bourne along
on the waves crashing silent as blood in her head —
that flurry of movement in time to a song

wordless yet meaningful — some revelation
the gleam in her eye and the snow in her hair
and the magical thrill — an unearthly sensation
lifted her spirit and freed her from care.

Like a dervish she spun through the curtains that parted
their billowing acres of smother and chill
and something within her pursued what she’d started
she felt herself driven — unthinking — until

a shape from the chaos resolved its lines slowly
of human proportions and fluid of limb
sculpted from snow with a skill seeming holy
she found herself lost to the power of him...

He glided across, took her arm, almost gentle
then gazed in her eyes with a piercing bright stare
and the truth wounded deep — his desire elemental —
she fell like a child and abandoned all care.

They danced through the night — an ethereal ballet
their fantasy frozen by Winter’s decree —
a swan and her mate in some frost-hidden valley
enraptured and tireless her soul floated free.


Come morning, they found her — the nuns from the abbey —
heaped small by the door, frozen through to the bone
and she tossed in a fever and wailed like a baby
her eyes clouded over, her flesh cold as stone.

The sisters were fearful — they prayed as they nursed her
and Mother Superior sat by her cot
wishing she’d die (for she’d secretly cursed her
for raising dark spectres far best left to rot.)

The novice grew calmer and smiled at the sisters —
a strange little smile — otherworldly and sad
trapped in a landscape where endless white vistas
stretch haunted — enchanted and icicle-clad.

One breath after midnight, with all the nuns sleeping
the novice again left her hard, narrow bed
and soft down dark corridors, carefully creeping
chose the stark dazzle of snowfields instead.

The crystal air rushed so her lungs ached with gasping
she plunged through the carpet, its crust crunching loud
with a mist rolling thin and its silver veil masking
the figure she searched for stood silent and proud.

She called — her voice fluting but baffled by branches
hung heavy — fresh loads bowed them close to the ground
where they smothered his name — for such magick entrances
all those who might hear its faint echo bounce round.

He stepped into view — her cool marble-skinned lover —
pale Price of the Polars — crowned Emperor of Ice.
She swore her allegiance — vowed over and over
she gave herself gladly and never thought twice.

At daylight, her sisters discovered her missing
and found her half-dead in a drift by the wall.
She lay on her cot in a coma, hands twisting
and muttering things that made no sense at all.

She spoke of a man — with such frenzy of passion
the nuns were appalled and embarrassed in turn
alarmed she should speak in such intimate fashion
on subjects too heathen for pure souls to learn.

Quite sure that the Devil had sampled her sweetness
they sent for the Bishop — his holiness would
drive out the Dark One — restore her lost meekness
back safe in the fold for her mortal soul’s good.

But the Bishop was ailing — he sent his advisor
on kinds of possession — demonic and such.
The man came and went very little the wiser —
as perplexed as the nuns. So it didn’t help much.

And the novice (named later as Sister Maria)
had moments of stillness and madness by turn
her rapture dissolving to monsterous fear
as feverish notions continued to burn...

She raved and she ranted, she prayed and she fasted
she tore at her habit and screamed for release —
her torment a storm that shook all while it lasted
her sisters her gaolers — their watch never ceased.

The calm,when it came, like an answer from Heaven —
the clearing of sky to a virginal blue
blessed a cold Sunday in sixteen - o -seven
the sun a pale candle — faint warmth burning through.

She woke from a dream with her lips and eyes smiling
though her tongue was as still as a bird frozen dead
light shone from her face so intense and beguiling
she seemed like a bride just about to be wed.

The nun in attendance was ’witched by some power
that filled the small cell — fixed the moment in thrall
and of all that went on in the subsequent hour
she’d no recollection — no memory at all.

The savage restraints that had once bound so tightly
dropped from her limbs so the novice slipped free
while most of the nuns gone to chapel sang brightly
of beauty and all God demands they should be.

She could hear them all singing — a soundtrack to leaving
this jewel of a day cut from destiny’s rock.
Her heart diamond-hard and her mind caught believing
enchantment would keep her from Death’s final shock.

In just a thin nightshirt, its cotton stitched plainly
she went to the lakeside barefooted as though
the cold didn’t touch her, still smiling inanely
she walked on its surface laced over with snow.

With a crack like a gun shot, the perfect ice ruptured
and two silver arms reached and pulled the girl down
her joy knew no bounds in the thrill of his capture
as he peeled from her body the prissy pale gown.

All trace of her vanished — no clues were discovered
explaining the whys and the wherefores of Fate —
not a hair of her head nor a bone was recovered
and the subject’s taboo. Firmly closed to debate.


The lake is still there with its secrets grown lonely.
The sisters departed, the abbey long-sold
to businessmen — practical — hard-nosed and only
thinking of profit. This history untold

and waiting for someone whose mind is less rigid —
a soul that is wise to Love’s true sacrifice.
Who will seek Winter’s grace in a landscape turned frigid
and glimpse that ghost-face staring up through the ice.


A book on her lap
and the sun slowly sinking
while a blanket of heat
lingers long on the shore
like a lover who’s loathe
to abandon the moment
and clings to day’s dying
so-wishing for more.

The sand stretching empty
far waves susserating
hypnotic their rhythms
their language like balm
soothing the ache
where the land edges lonely
to meet the dark ocean —
surrender all calm.

The pages are blurring
the words lose their meaning
a breeze is erasing
all thoughts from her head
the hour grows late
and the tide’s set for turning
its swell like an army
flagged orange and red.

A shape in the water —
some creature of legend
swims with the current
its silvery sheen
catching the light —
a bizarre illustration
created from fancy
obscurely marine.

She gasps as he stands there —
a god on the shoreline
surveying the beach
with his opal-moon eyes
freezing fast in his gaze
filled with strange pangs of hunger
for romance, she wonders
if caution applies...

He is there at her side
in a frenzy of movement
his lips on her own
in a fierce briny kiss
his length ’gainst her skin
like a sword pressing urgent
and nothing — no, nothing’s
more potent than this...

They share true abandon
while melding their bodies
his tenderness to her
near-human. Her heart
accepting his love
though the words are unspoken
that time creeping nearer
when he must depart.

Her flesh claims a keepsake —
a memory growing
already inside her
to last all her life —
the gift of his bloodline
her duty to nurture
and the knowledge forever
she’s now a sea-wife.

With their passion slow-ebbing
still warm in her body
they say their farewells
with a touch and a sigh
the swift sea draws him back
like a son to his mother
as a low-skimming seagull
cries shrill at the sky.

She awakes in the dusk
half the beach lost in shadow
a mist on the ocean
a chill rolling in
and the echo of ecstasy
whispering — wanton —
and flooding her veins
with a sweet sense of sin.

And who was her lover? —
An angel? — A demon? —
Some seawater deity
man-like but fish
resplendent in scales
with a voiceless intensity
keen to possess her
and sate his base wish

for a woman — a virgin
whose mind is unsullied
and open to dreamworlds
however surreal
youth’s bloom on her skin
and plump flesh that is willing
a slave to some stranger’s
seductive appeal.

Now she picks up her book
grains of sand in its pages
that trickle like time
what remains of the day
fading impressions as soft
as the twilight
the taste and salt-smell of him
drifting away...

She walks through the dunes
the long trek to reality
back to a house
where she harbours strange dreams
and writes in her diary
events past imagining —
a fanciful fiction
more true than it seems.

Half asleep in her bed
she recalls every detail
the sin safe inside her
sings smug in its shell —
her miraculous egg
a reward from the sandman
for giving such pleasure
and taking love well.

In through the window
the sea sends its promise —
a breeze like a lullaby
croons to her child
who’s genetically primed
as a rare elemental
with a nature designed
to be fickle and wild.

Resigned to her secret —
for who would believe her? —
a tale such as hers
surely labelled absurd
for only in myths — those
famous old chronicles —
might anything like it
have ever occurred...

She rocks her small fish
in his dark little chamber
and thinks of his family
shoaling in sleep
his father holds court
in some great coral castle
its towers and ramparts
untold fathoms deep.

And once she has birthed him
he’ll take to the water —
drawn like a turtle
makes tracks for the surf
while she, the mere vessel
a singular mother
is bonded by science
restricted to earth.

What, then, of love? —
those ties so maternal
tightening daily
as chemicals swirl
and the heart grows so fond
it is loathe to let go —
like the oyster regrets
it must give up its pearl.

An idea stuck fast
in the flood of her brooding
thrown in at the deep end
no rescue in sight
a thought tossed ashore
by a wave of sheer fancy
glittering strange
in the cold breath of night.

She plans she will bathe
in a saline solution —
encourage a change
metamorphically sound
by devolving, perchance
to some versatile creature
amphibious — freed
from this too-solid ground.

So strong her desire
for a mermaid mutation
spontaneous scales
greenly patterned her skin
her fingers grow webs
and her legs fuse together
and out from her feet
fans a flexible fin.

Her laugh’s silver bubbles
burst thin, sounding glass-like
their tinkle of victory
strung on the air
while some teleport spell
makes its magic connection —
she yearns for the shoreline
and finds herself there!

Celebrating the surf
with unconscious abandon
she gives herself up
to the ebb and the flow
for there’s no one to witness
her love-blinded madness —
the moon’s in her eyes
countless leagues still to go...


All that remains
is an ache — a faint echo —
a memory pressed
in a book she once read
on a hot afternoon
one so-long-ago summer —
since she’s gone to the sandman’s
deep undersea bed.


There are rooms I rarely visit
where the sun can barely see
through such narrow slitted windows
shadows reign eternally
in those corners cold and brooding
dark with secrets huddled deep
and the walls stand grey and silent
as the bones they’re bound to keep.

There are hallways long with echoes
from a time now veiled and dim
with the dust of years upon them
and a chill that lingers grim
for the damp of tears undrying
penetrates from floor to floor
and the wreath of love slow-dying
withers frail against the door.

Those bare chambers scarcely lived in
save a pulse that’s hard to catch
candle-warm nostalgia’s breathing
scented by a striking match
of some memory ignited
burning thin affection’s flame
sending nervous ghosts a-running
even as I call each name.

In the dungeons dreams lie rotting
guilty of romantic crimes
foolish thoughts and idle plotting
relics from more simple times
when the castle gleamed in sunlight
from its turrets flags streamed bold
straight and strong its white stone ramparts
nothing worn or tired or old...

Now the heart is bruised and broken
now the mind is torn and scarred
and the ache that’s never spoken
haunts the ruins locked and barred
but for spirits caught in cobwebs
those the yawning years invite
tread the stairs forever upwards
into attic realms of night.


His skull is now your home
you roll in the hollow of his eye
where I used to live
when my image filled his thoughts
I was the one who took up the pulsing space
beneath that perfect dome.

Deep in the earth you have usurped me
for he feels nothing now
all nerve has gone
with flesh long-eaten
his mental hallways empty — clean
no living trace.

I wonder — when you scurry through
those thin white walls
if you ever sense an echo —
a memory still trapped inside —
some obscure graffiti cut into the bone
that has outlasted death.

But what can any insect know
of human thoughts?
You are a beetle programmed from a grub
and have no soul —
no concept of love
or the hereafter.

You thrive on our decay — absorbing
but giving nothing away.


There is a werewolf crouching on my bed —
his muzzle harsh against my shivering flesh
teeth pressing sharp and desperate to be fed —
he wants my grief to bleed itself to sleep —
free its layers — peel back love’s raw skin
reveal the thigh bone he’s so keen to gnaw —
splinter wide and lick the marrow clean —
I know his mind — his appetite — his lust —
his eyes consume me — yellow — in the dark
of our private forest growing more intense —
full of scents and echoing with threats —
worrying the air alive with dreams.

I feel him breathe — a swell that stirs and chills —
impatient from his hunger his flanks heave —
he’s soiled the sheets with markers — lupine musk —
shed hair and gritty skeletons of leaves...
he needs me to forgive his fabled kind
and let him be my moon-crazed fantasy...

He growls at rolling thunder — nerves on fire
he claws the wooden bedpost — wrecks the room —
his voice half-threat half-plea for understanding
lightening shows my cloak torn on the floor —
a scarlet pool — symbolic savagery —
(with granma dead a dozen years or more)
I stroke his head — he nuzzles — drooling warm
while we hide together — creatures of a storm
we can’t control — his bite will kill or cure
this unbeliever strayed from safer paths.


No body speaks about him —
no one will say his name —
ill-fortune dogs the fool who does
and madness fogs the brain.

That fear no one will utter
is legend hereabouts —
a shimmer on the water
a silhouette that melts —

a figure etched in moonlight —
a shade aslant the wall —
a menace half-imagined
if he exists at all.

Through winter frosts at midnight
should footprints cross the lawn
’tis best to never mention
nor track the route they’ve gone

into the silent forest —
the ancient trees in thrall
and practised with such secrets
they hide them — one and all.

He lurks in thorny thickets
peering through dark leaves
the silver of his eyeballs
like mercury beads...

His look can chill a brave man —
freeze him to the spot —
strip away all reason
and leave the mind to rot.

Nobody speaks about it —
no one dares offend
the glimmer man — the myth survives
despite what we pretend.


Here, kitty — come let me lay my hand on your black fur
let me feel its sleekness moulded tight
to sinews — how you peel yourself from night
then blend back into shadow like a creature
fashioned out of thickened darkness — green eyes lit
from energies divined long-stolen from the stars — the feline wit
and wisdom of the ancients fills your soul — those deities who’ve
                                                changed their form
a thousand times across the rise and fall
of countless empires — yours the shape, the symbol
outliving all the rank and file of gods —
surviving when their temples were abandoned to the tide
you slunk away — sinuous through the grasses
biding time — knowing those mysteries of the wild.

And now I call you to me — summon up
by spell of words and instinct deathless laws
that govern form — their shifting fluid art
you’ve long excelled in — recognised — reviled
by superstition and religious minds
who fear your power — shrink back from your gaze —
are ignorant of magick and its revealing ways
where flesh dissolves — the bones, the skin, the teeth
recompose — disguise the witch beneath
whose name, when uttered, draws down charge. I stroke
the fur electric — tap your dark-fuelled coat
experience the surge and tingling shock
that prickles along the arching length
of your thin spine — let it jump the gap
like lightning — sizzle deep and find
the ceremony is the same as ever.

We use dark forces, kitty
trade back and forth our shady
multiples of seven — those unmeasured spans
that link us all ways fated through
our reincarnated lives.


In every shade of grey they loom
sudden through a door ajar in mist
hooves smothered into silence wrapped
nostrils flared and flanks sweat-darkened
heavy, heaving still
as though they’ve run a mile or two
to reach this weathered hill.

In single file quite close they pass
eyes rolling, manes strung knotted-black
twitching nervous ears laid back
they have that wild nightmare-ish look
beloved of artists gothic with their oils —
keen on gloom’s intensity — its chill —
                                its awful seeping ache...

Restless, they move on — depart
this phantom herd of eight or ten
                                lumberers slow-journeying
back through low cloud that sucks them in
denies they ever came this way
no single print but fear’s harsh-scented trail
betrays them while it lingers —
smell unwinds its echoey unease
and spooks the mind.


I almost see them
where they hover — waiting
on the very edge of perception
lingering as though anticipating
a reaction. I know they’re there
I can nearly hear
them breathing.

And there will come a time
not so very far off now
when I will turn and catch
someone watching.
Just a glimpse before they fade
from view
and they will probably smile, too
knowing well the game
we all end up playing.

This hide and seek dimension
spliced with life’s long hall of mirrors
becomes a trick of light
a shadow thrown upon
a moving curtain.
Breath mists the narrow glass.
Time slides so quietly past
the air shivers.


I dream about a man once met — long ago
who touched me with his eyes and stole my breath
his gaze knew all my body — seeming loathe to let me go
he held me in that space 'twixt life and death.

That moment stretched forever — linking dream to dream
and down the years of countless restless nights
he haunts me from the other side of time’s dark stream
and makes me moan — play host to strange delights.

It is as though my burning flesh remembers him
my singing blood recalls its passion well
the image in my head infects my fevered skin
I hunger more than simple words can tell.

He’s claimed me for a lover and I have no choice
my limbs obey the magick that he cast
not a vestige of resistance — no protest in my voice
need welcomes him like each time is the last.

I am the rare elusive moth pinned through — resigned
to being trapped within his shifting frame
his breath the night wind stirs my hair and whispers low
repeats the incantation of my name.

I know that death will marry us in some bare grave
unmarked except for flowers that survive
all the frosts of heaven and the fires of hell
fed warm on bones that dream themselves alive.


Forever on the edge of dark you stand
sinister beneath the night’s broad wings
and threatening to fasten on my hand —
the idea chills — sends shivers — warning sings
its one-note clamour instinct’s shrill alarm
insisting your intent’s to do me harm.

I shy away — won’t parley — push you back
and keep you at safe distance — shut you out
stay resolute — avoid all thought-contact
but somehow fail to rid myself of doubt —
maybe I bought you here... the veil grows thin
and once it tears you’ll bully your way in.

Some nights I feel you scan my drifting mind
and test its walls for frailty — one weak spot
to gain you entry — stealthily unwind
my nest so tightly woven where I’ve got
a clutch of eggs — their blueness speckled with
a trace of code that tells where passions live.

I’ve worn the nun-ish cowl of sanctity
and thought I heard you ridicule my prayers
and mocking such naïve hypocrisy
your rancour caught my spirit unawares
defences down and straightway on you came
to steal some small advantage — take the game.

A close-run thing — this battle head to head
its strategies played out on shifting ground
and sly the propaganda that you spread
your voice invades — its threats fly all around
my sanity’s high tower leans and sways —
your shadow looms — unsettles my last days.


Battered, bulky, left like luggage
waiting to be claimed,
half-buried now by desert sand,
its out-of-placeness drew attention.

It had the look of antique leather
but the tactile shock of something
almost familiar evoked shudders —
instinct fought with logic for recognition
and sudden fear unsettled reason —
raw sensation lingered, crawled upon the skin.

Inside, the pages held a cold dead smell
of empty dust-dry worlds and burned-out stars,
and writing, three-dimensional, that blurred
revealing patterns in the multi-layered text,
subliminal suggestions rising
in tides of half-caught memory.

Dense with its own strangeness,
its weight of secrets pressed
like extinct flowers, forgotton,
it told eveything and nothing.


The city streets are quiet tonight
the wind is multi-voiced and finds
each whistling crack to penetrate.

The moon’s a restless blur of light
that dips behind a skyline sharp with roofs.
The shredded clouds migrate —

unravel where dark wings beat slow
home in upon a gothic spire
above a graveyard where a drunkard snores

sprawled on a stone — the dead below
him an indifferent couple gone to bones —
all are blind and deaf to swooping teeth and claws...

Who cares about a ‘down and out’? —
the victim has no name — no claim — no place
on anybody’s Christmas list.

There is no fight — no scream or final shout
swift and clean the brutish kill —
a homeless Joe unlikely to be missed.

Another murder unresolved — a stubborn few might doubt
what clues there are... remain convinced — insist
that vampires don’t (and never did) exist.


Silence — except for the tedious ticking of the clock
and yet I know that he has come
for the heavy curtain moves — the vacant pillow dents
a rush of terror holds me still and dumb.

He makes no sound — not one soft sigh or rustle heard
and yet I’m sure I feel him lying there
beside me as the darkness presses close as cold cold limbs
I smell him — sense the hardness of his stare.

It is as though he has me caught —enraptured by some spell
perverse in my desire — base instinct led
my wants in frantic chaos — how it hurts to even breathe
my mouth is dry and oh such thoughts invade my spinning head!

Who is this dark invader with such power to excite
and terrify — evoke the wildest need
against all reason? — logic fails to grasp what quickly slips away
those arguments I will not even hear — much less heed.

Instead I offer myself up to whatever demon lover’s come to call
and imagine him as handsome — virile — strong
knowing I’ll be more than willing to obey each whim and fancy
shrug off all moral chains — come right or wrong.

A sense of liberation floods right through me ’til it overflows
and I let out a low involuntary moan
as though expressing a divine anticipation
of some pleasure that I cannot wait to own.

His weight is full upon me — in that second I let go
and lose myself — a torrent takes me down
and in those depths I glory — out of sight and out of mind
deep in lust’s depravity I drown.

Fathoms — countless fathoms — lost in nightmare realms below
exploring fantasies I now acknowledge as my own
I face the beast I’ve conjured out of darkness — this private world
evolving — a strangely erotic pleasure zone.


It was a balmy summer night
the moon was up — the tide far out
and I was strolling on the shore
the view was clear — the breeze was light
and there was no one else about —
no footprints in the sand I saw.

The sea so calm it barely sighed
as waves rolled lazy with their foam
I sat and watched them from a rock
the smooth horizon stretching wide
it seemed the beach was mine alone
the time approaching twelve o’ clock.

I’d sunk so deep in wistful thought
I didn’t notice right away
the sudden turning of the tide
and worried that I might get caught —
cut off in that secluded bay —
and time no longer on my side.

We raced — but those swift waters won
the currents dragged me as I swam
and prayed some miracle might save
me. Then — when hope was nearly done
a creature rose — half fish — half man
and bore me shorewards on a wave.

My arms around his sinewed neck
he ploughed the water — sure and strong
we reached the land — he put me down
I gave his salt-rough cheek a peck
in gratitude — the moment long
I gazed — entranced — and wished to drown

in ocean eyes so deep and wise
his face like marble tinged with green
his breath so cold upon my skin
I felt strange passion wake and rise
so pressed my body — lost in dream
against the solid chill of him.

We lay like statues — toppled — still
and drank each other — pooled desire
in a cold furnace iced with bliss
as though we’d never get our fill
of this intoxicating fire —
full-length our wordless body-kiss...

What passed between us can’t be told —
emotion flooded thrill on thrill
while we stayed drugged in this pure state
then Dawn’s horizon streaked its gold
and it took every ounce of will
to part — acknowledge our love’s fate.

The sea — his mother — called him home
he left without a backward glance
my tears were on him like a claim
denied by the possessive foam.
I watched him go in a dull trance
and ached with loss that has no name.

Now fifty empty years are done —
night after night I trawl the shore
and sing my song like one insane
who mourns the lover dead or gone
and craving darkness more and more
relives the passion and the pain.


Through the partly-open window by the couch whereon I rest
a strangely-scented night wind softly blows
and it teases at my body while I slumber — thinly-dressed
and — although I shiver — some base instinct knows
that somewhere in the shadows — like a whisper taking shape
a creature born of passion breathes my name
along with a chill warning that there can be no escape
repeated — like a mantra — his refrain.

And I dream him standing waiting for the moon to find his face
and silver him with romance — lend him fire
while imagination weaves itself a tale of time and place —
twin mysteries of terror and desire...
For even while I tremble helpless — the blood within me burns
and I hear myself call out in restless sleep
inviting my dark haunter who so constantly returns
and hovers — letting expectations keep.

Thus anticipation stretches through the hours aching grey
with hunger groaning for the promised feast
still beyond all calculation — I am searching for a way
to quench this longing — satisfy the beast —
and accept his crooked nature — as an ancient mirror crazed
reflects a flaw trapped deep within the glass
like an aspect of his being that can never be erased
however many times the runes are cast.

Destiny has set our meeting in the labyrinth that runs
twisting corridors between the realms of sleep
and those purple plains unconscious of the brooding cloud that comes
slow-drifting where emotion’s hills rise steep...
And tonight I sense he’s close enough to match him pulse for pulse —
each heartbeat sounding loud inside my head
and the echoes pound a rhythm so I’m hearing little else
but the blood-call with its message hot and red.

Is that his touch upon me — his jagged claw that rakes my skin?
The air has parted cold inside the room —
disturbed — the silence shuffles back — defers to broad-spanned wing
that covers — brings a suffocating gloom.
If I’m lost to demon-kind — infected by this dream made real —
then something in me welcomes such a fate —
darkness seeks another darkness as old arteries congeal —
May he drink before the hour turns too late!


Strangely intimate, these halls
that throb with fear’s discordant thoughts
unwinding from a hidden spool
of film inside the brain.

Down corridors its camera pans
the blank expanse of doorless stone,
following the treadmill’s rut
worn deep by plodding pain.

Back and forth, the shadows swing,
dim in the unfocused eye,
and sleep’s a stranger to these rooms —
resists the shutter’s click.

While terror glides, soft-shod and grey,
where fever shivers, lost in gloom,
projects upon a private wall
a wide-screen horror flick.

No censor snipped or edited —
this footage rolls entirely raw
and savage as the vision snags
the jagged edge of fear.

The script, imagination penned —
bizarrely peopled, demon-starred,
and Death, in his seductive mask,
leans perilously near.

The movie plays the whole night long,
its captive audience of one
riveted as credits roll.
The hours come and go

while Art reflects the living dream,
and pain distorts the silvered glass,
Death directs a grim release —
the final picture show.


Oh, come away —
don’t heed the door —
it’s wind that’s knocking
nothing more
or rain that’s tapping
like a claw —
so come away
and leave the door.

Don’t turn the handle
or unlock
leave fast the bolt
ignore the knock —
the wood will stand
each thump and shock
the door is strong
and stout the lock.

Don’t open it
the merest crack —
it isn’t him —
he can’t come back
from where he’s gone
night’s narrow track
runs past the hour’s
empty black...

Block up your ears
draw down the blind
shut out the dark
and leave behind
macabre dreams —
the gate’s dull grind
upon the path
is in your mind.

That’s not his laughter
nor his cry
where echoes rise
from roof to sky —
it’s not his voice
his tone or sigh
it’s just the wind
careering by

upon the door —
thin drafts across
the bare stone floor
the wail that lingers
whatever haunts
the night-barred door.

So, come away —
stay by the fire
while downpours lash
high winds get higher —
do not believe
its off-key choir —
those notes are cruel
each one a liar.


I saw it first at dusk — the creature came
half bird, half child — a vision with no name
that hovered at my window — pressed its face
against the glass and gazed at me — I traced
its silhouette — a shadow on the sky
heart pounding, hesitating, eye to eye.

The look upon its face filled me with dread —
I feared it was a phantom — something dead
that visited with purpose —warning me —
a portent of impending tragedy.
And yet there was a wistfulness — an air
of longing in that look — near-sweet despair.

The room was still, the moment felt insane —
I put my hand up to the window pane
touched the coldness thin between its cheek
and my warm fingers — felt myself go weak
as though it sucked my energy away
while darkness fell that January day.

Strange — I’m almost sure the creature spoke
before it melted — atoms gone to smoke
left me peering out into that gloom
of coming night besieging my small room.
I drew the curtains, increasingly afraid
some other-world connection had been made.

The oddness of it faded like a dream
and I reasoned things are seldom what they seem
but there persisted an uneasy doubt
that would not go — too stubborn to rub out
with logic — so it lingered like a stain —
the knowledge I would see that face again.

I found I watched the sky as evening fell —
my eyes strayed to the window of the cell
my single life had furnished warm with wood
old books and pictures comforting — I stood
and witnessed day depart — my breath held tight
anxious in the dwindling grey light.

Long weeks went by — whole months of waiting passed —
an owl, a bat or two and then, at last
that haunting face peered in. I sent a prayer
and crossed myself for fear of evil where
I hoped for something else — a clue or sign
confirming that its nature was benign.

It fixed me with its stare and hypnotised
I answered to its wild, entreating cries
slipped the catch and threw the window wide
welcomed it to enter — watched it glide
pale as mist and chill, with bitter breath —
it smelt of earth and leaves — the scent of death.

I shuddered as its feathers brushed my arm
barely managing to hide my deep alarm
when from those bloodless lips came just one word
that shocked me more — I prayed I had misheard
but ‘Mother’ it repeated, edging near
its voice a child’s, its motivation clear.

Emotion filled me, rocked me like a boat
and a response rose choking in my throat —
the face that looked up solemnly to mine
might be a demon or a soul divine —
the air around us crackled like a storm
and conjured me a half-child never born.

I cradled her to soothe that fearful shake
as any mother would for comfort’s sake
this misbegotten being — eyes grown wide —
who’d somehow bridged that shadow-filled divide
between reality and lands unknown
unmapped in some eternal twilight zone.

I sang to her a lullaby — strange words
slipped from my tongue — a language I’d not heard
or learnt from books —a memory displaced
from distant, ancient worlds time had erased
and all the while I crooned a sharp-edged moon
carved cold pictures — hollowed-out my room.

How long we sat I cannot guess or say —
dawn came and yet she lingered while the day
stripped the shadows — peeled the skin of night
and she grew paler — greyer — pierced with light
unravelling, unpicking that frail form
until, like fog, she drifted and was gone.

I mourned her loss — grief floated like a veil
before my eyes — I never told the tale
to anyone, but kept all to myself
an all-consuming languor stole my health
my energy — my last few dregs of youth
dried to dust. One scrap of lasting proof

she left behind — I found beneath my chair
a feather — downy-soft and curling there
I have it pinned close to my wasting heart
and feel it flutter when night breezes start —
the dreams come back — they wheel about the sky
and I remember how it felt to fly.


Today I am a brown moth on a board —
skewered by thin random points of pain
my wings are spread — their patterns a dark stain —
their dust a trail — once through soft starlight soared...
I landed on night’s flower — drunk — a net
descended — then the jar — then I forget...

I still recall the scent — that dizzy swoon
that claimed me — a poor insect in a trance
and was it love — the power of the moon
or insanity ? Drugged into a mad dance
my senses feared cruel science from the start —
sick perfume overcame and stopped my heart.

Thin silver runes gleam subtle — read my scales
they tell of all the magick in the world —
decipher these — watch how brown mottle pales
with glamour — vision altered — life left curled
around a pin that kills — a final spell
etched on fleeting love’s too-brittle shell.


Perched high on some bleak haunted hill
the Devil sits alone
his ruby eyes grown dull as rust
his heart a splintered stone
rain falls as guilty drops of blood
no cleansing can atone.

His brutish horns are filed to stumps
he bites his curling nails
and kicks his hooves against the rock
but misery prevails
strange voices echo in the night —
a host of screams and wails.

He feels he’s just an old cliché
the wicked joke’s worn thin
life’s not the fun it used to be
his days choked up with sin
it’s surely time to mend his ways —
escape the rut he’s in.

The fires of Hell have burned so low
he’s come down with a chill
so sad and sorry for himself
has taken to this hill
to nurse his cold and ponder on
the state of being ill.

He can hardly bear to think about
the dreadful things he’s done
there’s fat chance of redemption
such a crooked race he’s run
since rowing with Our Father
he’s been tagged ‘The Fallen One’...

Thrown from his place in Heaven
what’s a bad boy s’posed to do?
The world of men seemed pretty dull —
depressing through and through
all those holier-than-thou types
much too pious to ring true.

And so he tempted men of God —
corrupted those he could
undermined what faith they had
and ruined them for good.
He got the blame for every sin
his point misunderstood.

By now he’s hung around so long
known by that many names
like Satan, Lucifer, Old Nick
the Bogeyman of games
he feels he’s kind of lost the plot —
an emptiness remains...

The puzzle that now plagues his mind
is how to make amends —
there’s few he even dares to ask
he hasn’t any friends
for all believe he cares not who
he pleases or offends.

He phoned those good Samaritans
he even called the Pope
explaining his predicament
his one remaining hope
dwindling — for when he said
who he was the line went dead.

Thus he broods his crimes unheard
condemned to stay unshriven
alone in all the universe
too bad to be forgiven.
His agony obscene of course —
the irony of true remorse.


Sly fate is my stalker ceaselessly creeping
I have no defences.
He skulks shy of sunlight — seeks moonlight or shadow —
he’s ancient and faceless.
I hear a twig snap in sleep’s bramble thicket
imagine him breathing
and freeze in the moment — his scythe worries under
dry layers of dreaming.

Years fan comet tails in a fall of dark dust
drifting achingly slow
fear his cold mantle — the cloak that he hides in —
he rides incognito
close on my trail with my name on his lips — mouths
a sly incantation.
Words hiss and fly dumb at the cowering stars — they
deny intervention.

Age fashions the snare — its invisible wiring
the planets’ alignment.
I’m trapped by an ankle that twists useless angles
enraged by confinement.
While sanity shrinks to a pinpoint of light
in reality’s fancy
Life’s vision is flawed — the corruption floods in —
admits necromancy.

Crazed scalp all a-tingle — a numberless trophy
at odds with its culling
I gnaw bloody tethers — the mind’s knowledge shredded
its wreckage appalling.
Death steals behind me — a skull gawping ghastly
a phantom — a devil —
his game never-ending — he loiters intently
that playground unlevel.

Odd chance rolls a dice among wilderness grasses
luck’s weed rarely blooming.
On a black stump a vulture hunches — dread passes
and settles for gloomy...
The outcome predicted — how flesh seldom escapes
to keep its precious skin
when camouflage fails and keen eyes spot true shapes
deceit’s veil stretched too thin.


Mousehole-small in scale to her hunched shape
the room was crammed — packed tight from wall to wall
and floor to ceiling — so little space at all
for her to move far from the feeble lamp
its light so thin the shadows had no fear
and crowded round — leaned ominously near.

I watched her squinting low above her task
that focus so intent she failed to see
I stood there — broke her quiet privacy
by opening the door. My stifled gasp
unheeded in that claustrophobic space
so dim I only barely glimpsed her face.

The air was stale but chill — no natural light
no window square or narrow chink of sky
just one faint glow for her to struggle by —
her world always the same unending night
a prisoner trapped long by some cruel spell
to spend her years crushed in that dismal cell.

It was a dream and yet it seemed more real —
the dread stayed with me — haunted through the day
yet who she was there is no clue to say
or what empathy between us made me feel
the loss of hope past all imagining
and growing fear as darkness closed her in.


The night before heart surgery I heard
wolves howling from the carpark’s wooded edge —
prowling like they could already smell
blood upon the air — as though my fear
seeped through slow-pulsing walls and greeted them
with promises — the gory feast to come

a natural invitation — so they’d run
with hunger in their bellies all the while
that I made ready — bathed to calm each nerve
ticking with the clock against the dark
gathering of voices — whispers — sighs —
soft moans among the crowding trees outside.

The midnight owl called once — a warning low
as sleep surrounded — blotted anxious thought
with random consolations — odd ideas
melded sense to images surreal
and lost me in a maze of horrors — trapped
in fiction’s world of old style black and white.

Shadows flitted — shapes suggested form
the glint of eyes showed yellow by the moon
relentless in pursuit they tracked me down
their panting growing louder in my ear
and terror like a knot too tight to bear
had me cornered — feeding off despair.

I dreamed I was the sacrifice laid out
helpless while their metal teeth bore down
to split me open — share the spills and spoils
of hunting for beginners ending thus
in ritual slaughter — civilized with drugs
to pacify the victim — please the gods.

The chorus followed — Greek as tragedy
long-ruined temples raised their altar stones
men run as wolves — their appetites the same
desiring flesh they squabble over bones
and lurk on boundaries — kept for now at bay
until I’m rescued — facing Judgement Day.


She’s proven guilty of so much —
fills our nights with unquiet dreams
her shallow silver cold to touch
her promise nothing like it seems...

False, her pale romantic face
her image calculated guile —
she loiters, coolly claims her space
displays an egocentric smile.

She leads us on — ensnares, deceives
with whole mythologies of lies
flirts brazenly with tops of trees
and fascinates adoring skies.

Some she holds in desperate thrall —
they languish, cursed within her sight
whole companies of werewolves call
and wakened vampires stalk the night.

Her power drugs the helpless tides
invades the heart and turns the mind
where lurking superstition hides
and darkness has us running blind.

Her light is stolen from the sun —
she has no life to call her own —
the fantasy is all undone —
the goddess is unfeeling stone.

We won’t allow a last appeal
but hang her justly in the shed
forget the way she made us feel —
the cheating moon’s already dead.


I am a tree of blood and skin
my wormwood world is dark within
another cold dimension where
fate’s engine pumps its crazed despair.

If I was ash I’d chose my white
by leafy evening’s purple light
or churchyard yew with poisoned beads
dropped sly amongst the stones and weeds.

If I was willow for my sins
I’d dip to touch the fantail fins
of sleepy carp below my shade
their bubbled dreams my passing trade.

Should I be oak or elm or beech
my height — my girth — my full sky-reach
the measure of forgotten years
my anchored life’s unquiet frontiers

the shape of every breeze-led song
that wends its lisping chant along
and mocks me cruel with freedom’s notes.
I seize — entwine — each taunt that floats

among my branches — finds the core
of flexing pine and sycamore —
I’m bound in trees — my greenman soul
in every brooding stump and bole.

I’m rooted ancient — deep my sap
that rises — earth both crib and trap.
My heart bleeds amber while I wait
through rot and rain beside death’s gate.


There are gravestones in the orchard
close beneath the gnarled old trees
whose apples wither sour on the stalk
and tucked between long grasses
five small plots quite peaceful lie
except for nights when unquiet spirits talk.

Then voices in the branches drift —
those whispers haunt the leaves
as though a gang of children are at play
while shadows move at random
down a moonlit winding path
that’s vanished in the harsher light of day.

The orchard seems a different place
as creeping dusk makes claim
and time undoes its changes like a spell
the air hangs vaguely honeyed with
the promise of ripe fruit —
no hint of what dark tragedies befell...

Faint choruses of laughter ring —
far-off glad shouts and cries —
the ghosts of children skipping in the sun
that prematurely set upon
their short and unknown lives
and closed their eyes before the race was run.

The stones are rain-washed free of names
anonymous they rest
tilting under coverlets of moss —
not one small clue or letter left —
blank-faced and unconcerned
how each frail hold on history is lost.

A hundred years — most likely two —
has freed them of all ties
to memory — the links to kith and kin —
for no one leaves a flower where
the weeds have blanketed
and hidden what is past remembering...

Their bones are scattered — nudged by roots —
so they’ve become the trees
and rise with sap — are wakened weather-wise
to do those things it’s natural
for children’s souls to do —
swing from branches — reach for starry skies.

The orchard still their playground where
thin shades slide greyly through —
repeating games — their childhood never done
while moonlight silvers apples —
hints the future’s shining bright
’til dawn reveals the canker in each one.


Vespa Fleming has no past
no memory of who she was —
the rôle that Destiny had cast
mislaid somehow — a total loss.

She’s scared that she will never find
the key to this cruel mystery —
unlock the doors inside her mind
retrieve her personal history —

discover who she was before
a switch was flicked — some screen turned off
Fate changed the costume she once wore...
Now cryptic dreams lend clues enough

to keep her searching — clutching straws
ad-libbing in surreal play
so passionate about her cause
she acts her heart out every day.


Vespa Fleming’s History — is she/was she once a vampire?

She has come here seeking answers
followed a cold trail through a long black night
braved the ice-arrows of the rain
and the blank stares of disinterested strangers
with no name to offer her
not one morsel of kindness tossed — no dregs of pity.

Instead she has found other mysteries
in the rambling maze of the city
the madness that lurks where its streets have narrowed
whispers haunting doorways where gangs of
shadows melt edgy — where the wind carries knives
in its teeth and bricks are scarred
                                from old wars never settled.

Behind the rows and rows and rows of walls
boxed in their lumpy beds the sleepless pray
for a way out — and some of them sense her tuning in —
scanning worry’s wavelengths — sifting fractured echoes
like panning for gold in an unmapped stream
peering through the shallows hoping for
some glint that might yield up a clue
                                make real the dream.

For someone somewhere must recognise her face
each denial has the sickly sour taste
of stale conspiracy
as though the burying of history —
erasure by consensus somehow alters things —
might drain her of all her latent power.

But she discovers memories half-hidden
by their failure to disguise
fear — instinctive — triggered by a bell
sent wildly ringing down the centuries
the city all aflame
she knows they know her
even as they shake their heads and shrink away because
she’s seen that look so many times before.


Turned midnight
and the mind’s gate swings slow
on its invisible hinge.

Shadows walk the curving path
kick against old familiar stones
smoothed winter-white —

touched by lunar light
scribbled runes predict for me
a listless destiny.

Ovals grainy out of darkness
faces loom their pressing crowd
of owlish eyes

track some mousey memory —
grey-furred and nameless
creeping by the hedge.

Who lurks there? The wrought iron squeeks —
the catch unoiled


Is it by charm of moon, or quirk of sight
how strangely altered landscapes seem at night?

By day, the lawn was just a patch of weeds
run wild with lanky buttercups and dock
tall thistles armed with thorns, crowned grey with seeds
plus dandelions’ bold flowers turned to clocks.

The orchard, too, showed symptoms of neglect —
its ancient trees were stunted, gnarled and bare
diseased and rotting branches lichen-flecked
and skeletons of leaves lay everywhere.

From dawn to dusk it was a sorry sight
the narrow path completely overgrown
but magick happened with the fall of night —
gave life to wood and resurrected stone

the moment that the moon revealed her face
the garden filled with blossoms rich and rare —
exotic lilies twined around the place
and clouds of silver moths whirled through the air.

The barren trees burst suddenly in bloom
the lawn transformed to plump and tender turf
and waxen petals crafted by the moon
drew succour from the dark-enchanted earth.

Old statues, cruelly weathered, stood like new
their features marbled clear by lunar light
proud godly limbs pearled subtly with dew
they glowed from out the shadows — ghostly-white.

And if they moved or whispered now and then
no witnesses could ever make sure claim
for such are dreams — they fade the moment when
the daylight breaks and sun comes up again.

So — mere trick or magick — who can truly say?
the power of the moon to rule the mind —
encourage fancy — tease or strip away
all logic — seems intrinsically designed

to fool poor mortals eager to believe
and so the moon plays to their hopes and fears —
she conjures visions solely to deceive
the credulous...
                                and then she disappears.


Woken by the dawn light —
morning’s steel knife slicing the hour
for they have come —
come to fetch me — unwrap
me from the night’s too-shallow comfort
plunge me deep in water — purify
by ritual cleansing that already deemed pure
by accident of being.

Their awful sanctity is chilling —
murmurs from stone would sound
more human by comparison
as they bathe my body unable to ignore
the shudders running fever-like I fail
to hide from repeated soft admonishments —
Be still now! Be still child! While
blood’s already frozen.

They want virgin skin — pale tender meat
to feed their black-faced god —
the leader of some breed of prehistoric sheep
unseen — imagined in their garbled testimonies
part-animal — the ever-hungry goat
they pander to on feast days — raise a drunken toast
above carved bones and choose the perfect feathers
as they slit a throat.

The cup is waiting with its numbing draft
of opiate — compliance blended sweet
with apathy — rocks will bruise and cut my
unshod feet but I’ll feel nothing
of the path or fear that hammers loud
until the last grey cell gives up its light
I’ll play angel versus devil — none will guess
what poisoned barb waits holy in my breast.


I do not know how much has
already spilled out of me
nor how much is still to come —
how much I can afford to lose —
let tumble outwards through the gap —
the open wound I plunder
like a cupboard where I hide
and hoard the long gelatinous coils —
all those secrets from another life
that snake inside of me.

Each time I move its mouth
gapes a little wider — lets slip
another uncut yard or two of pink
and pulsing rope — I marvel how
easily it slides away — almost painless
both brain and body numb with shock
witness to a slick departure — noiseless
and no fuss.

I watch the serpent memory squeeze out
and note its pattern — viperish with wit-
releasing poison — glad to exile it
even as the darkness closes in
I’m emptying myself — confessing
ancient terrors. I let them go
sin by slithering sin.


I know the night has windows and looks in at me
he finds his way round curtains — under doors
with peacock eyes he peers at all he wants to see
observes the shadows — highlights cracks and flaws.

I am the marble creature in a nest of dreams
he breathes on as he ponders his slow way
the moon hangs on his arm — she tosses torch-like beams
they whisper — but I can’t hear what they say.

The stars — cold children trailing — stay far-off and mute
their father’s wrapped them in his purple cloak
there’s too many to imagine — mere fancy can’t compute
all those faces — or the vision they evoke.

The night’s a petty burglar who steals nothing but one thought
left anxious on a table by my head
he has a key to everywhere and thus is never caught
by the living or the all-forgiving dead.


There are a host of no-go areas —
dark and nameless on the rambling map
marked ‘HERE BE DRAGONS’ in perverse italics
that so invite the curious adventurer
to take a short diversion from their journey —
explore the region’s odd seductive gap.

Thought wanders off the path — gives way to whimsy
and all the madness that imagination lends
to landscapes veiled in mystery and lonely
for footsteps in their vast untrodden tracts —
no sign of habitation — just an echo
and a breeze that chills the body through and through...

And from a ridge above a hidden valley
the view unrolls — a wasteland white as bone
with stunted trees, some shattered rock detritus
and nothing else for eyes to rest upon
except the thin bright line of the horizon
mocking with its shifting angled light.

What seems far-distance keeps that distance still —
maintains the unattainable reserve
of secret places — forbidden to disturb
the dust of sacred graves and buried loves
and yet the urge to visit and exhume
braves the barren desert — finds the deepest tomb

despite the risk — the peril threatening —
sly creatures drawn from every myth and dream
who lurk and roar their monstrous fantasy —
spread fear upon the air so every breath
is tainted and hangs heavy as a stone
inside the chest — aching — sensing more

than sight or sound can bring or nerve translate.
This journey is a strange unravelling
of shadows and bizarre vague patterning —
abstract — sudden detail carved — designed
by wayward gods who send truth-seekers through
the inner landscapes of uncharted minds —

to wander those grey netherworlds until
enlightenment drops grainy subtle dusk
across the hills to mollify — placate —
the ghosts of legend gathered in their caves
to whisper names and etch them ages deep
in memory — the oft-flooded labyrinths of sleep.


There are gods that walk the earth along with men —
I see them in the high street — catch the eye
of beings who aren’t mortal — recognise
their energy — the vapour trail that leaves
a heightened sense of living — sharpens air.

Who they are — or why they come — I do not know
except they single me out from the crowd
and fix me with a certain stare as I pass by
as though it is significant — a sign
I should interpret while I have the time.

They all have faces — perfect marble brows
uncreased and ageless — x-ray vision that sees through
the masks of humans hiding their inherent perfidy —
to where bones keep quiet an aching hollowness —
the skull’s dank cage for every dangerous ideal.

It seems I swim forever in their slipstream
of elusive power — drawing a deep breath each time I almost touch
some floating hem. I search the wayside for a footprint
in the dust but they are mist — air and drops of water —
there is no earthbound proof of them.

All is random — it can be any day’s glad mirage —
this glimpse of deities coupled arm in arm along the strand
who taunt me with their ‘come and join us’ silent gaze —
had I the nerve to dare I would accept the invitation —
stroll the world with gods and know their changing names.


Beware the sea-witch — she has charms
To turn the strongest weak —
A stolen body her disguise,
A mouth that doesn’t speak.
So, Look away! Oh, look away!
And do not meet her eye,
And never kiss her salty lips
Or earthly dreams will die.

She’ll find you in the dawning light
And stage a touching scene
’Til pity brings you to your knees
And sense can’t intervene —
But, look away! Just look away!
Recall the warning’s true —
Pray for faith and strength of will
To see this madness through.

The sea-witch dwells in darker realms —
But she is drawn by need
Up through the waves on stormy nights
To hunt for souls and feed.
So, steal yourself, and look away! —
Save yourself instead —
She doesn’t live, she doesn’t breathe —
A ghost invades your head.

Heed the legend — know the witch
Behind sweet flesh and bone —
She wears a mask to tempt and trick
That flesh is not her own —
Best look away! Oh, look away!
Resist her mute appeal,
Banish beauty from each thought —
This vision is not real.

The sea-witch has a magic strong
To mermerize the mind —
Her victim caged — a tiny bird
In darkness — lost and blind.
Oh, look away now! Look away!
Before it is too late,
Avert your gaze, defy her strength
And leave her to her fate.

It’s told she has unmeasured lives —
Far more than tales might tell,
Her evil can take many forms
All spawned in some black hell.
So, look away! Oh, look away!
She may appear a child,
But show no mercy, turn your back
Or risk your heart beguiled.

To kill the sea-witch, break her spell
With purifying fire —
Burn the creature while she sleeps —
Heap driftwood for her pyre.
But look away! Oh, look away!
Don’t watch her cold moon eyes
That glow so baleful, cursing all
Who crave her swift demise.

Be vigilant! The sea’s old witch
Can turn the purest heart
Away from love and all that’s true.
She’ll rip the soul apart.
So look away! Oh, look away!
From her hypnotic glare —
She’s ugly underneath that veil —
Her loveliness a snare —

So, look away! Turn right away!
Don’t hesitate or doubt
The wisest man is on his guard
For fear she’ll catch him out.


Blown in from some flesh-garden dream
spores settle on uncovered skin
and find a hold — an old scar’s thin
fissure — moist — to bury in.

They worm and worry down — slow-thrust
their needle roots through my warm dust
spreading wide — they anchor — suck
unfold new baby leaves and grasp
with plump and shiny blood-rich hands
that ripple — wave to every sigh
as I give succour — let them thrive —
allow them all their needs.

I look for flowerheads to pluck
as they grow wilder — hungrier
for light and space — I must prune back
and discipline unruly shoots
that drain me even as I cut —
before they choke me — use me up —
my body’s water table dropped —
whole layers lost — eroded — gone —
my contours changing — peeling sand
I’ve fast become a desert land.

A trace of nurture lingers still —
that instinct to protect the young —
propagate unlikely spawn —
but evolution’s lost its way
this time. The deep maternal urge
is overturned — I rip and tear
these parasites who swarm like hair
across my body’s boundaries —
invade me like I do not own
the country of my birth.

This horticulture’s suicide
so I commit infanticide —
I slash and burn them free —
recycle every limb-like stem
while guilt wants to remember them
as more than rampant weeds.


I dreamt one night I sat and ate
when sudden by the dim-lit door
a shadow lurked — stood faint and grey
where certain there was none before.

It wavered like a candle flame
and as I stared incredulously
a face familiar as my own
but old and tired looked back at me.

I felt no fear but shared its pain
and when at last it spoke to me
the taste of food upon my tongue
corrupted — sickened bitterly.

I traced the wrinkles on its face —
this crone — my likeness — as she lisped
a cryptic warning from beyond
some temporal obscure abyss.

I woke — cold sweat upon my brow
and troubled by an unsure state
of wondering what all this meant —
this preview of my haunted fate.

All the next day my thoughts returned
as that same question nagged my brain —
I felt detached — apart from life —
and worry drove me half-insane.

Night came — the same dream in reverse —
I was the ghost — a younger me
sat selfish — gorging warm and snug
while I observed her hungrily.

I felt strange words rise to my lips
like poison — spat them into air —
they burned to smoke and left the tongue
seared and blistered with despair.

Again I woke in fevered mood
frantic for unconscious peace
and praying dreamless sleep might come
and such disturbing visions cease.

They would not leave me — thick and fast
the nights that followed crowded in —
a host of shades — all figures known —
a pageantry of kith and kin.

Like some macabre and tragic play
the scenes unfolded — held me fast —
the leading actor trapped in time
and overshadowed by her past.

And so I travelled — went abroad
convinced a change would do the trick —
out-distance demons of the mind
and thus their senseless schemes outwit.

They chased me — silent — mile on mile
their voices chiding at my ear —
a constant chorus indistinct —
their language harsh and never clear.

I journeyed further — into lands
my worn imagination found
soothing for their simple ways —
a calm pervaded — wrapped around

and lifted doubts that had weighed long
on sanity — my sleep was blessed
with kinder dreams — their flavours sweet
and there — at last — I found some rest.

The room I have is white and plain —
no rug upon its wooden floor —
and medication is my friend —
no shadows now beside the door.

The mirror tells me time goes by —
I seek its silver and recall
a younger face a brighter eye
of someone lost — not me at all.

For change within and change without
has brought contentment — I’m resigned
to years ahead — meanwhile I’ll take
what drops of comfort faith can find.


A stranger in the city and the surging crowd
indifferent — I was drowning in that sea
grown rough — a human tide that flowed so purposeless
                                and loud
it didn’t feel or hear anxiety
rising through the squirming crush —
the choppy waves of shove — the parting push...

thus I was torn away — borne off — and cast adrift
currents swept me helpless with their rush
of random pulsing energies — the separation swift
and night on the horizon — a fluttering of dusk.
I felt around — seeking some sense or direction but
                                finding none
amidst an archipelago of unfamiliar stone.

The buildings morphed from modern — losing height
they straggled — poorly planned — a maze of archways
and half-abandoned dwellings unconscious of their semi-
                                ruined plight
where children — thin unhealthy creatures — played
as though this was their reality — not mine —
and I’d wandered like some vague unwitting ghost
                                into their time.

Fearful of reaction — and unsure I could be seen
I approached a young girl of maybe ten or so —
she gave me a grave look — so serious — her perception
— as though some unspoken communication let her know
I was a stranger — lost — somehow misguided through
                                a gap
needing directions — a kind word pointing the way back...

If she was an angel she was a grubby one
and the clue she offered was cryptic and offhand —
                                then she was gone.

Beyond there was a field of tents — roofs of coloured canvass
stretched and sprawled — mushroomed gaudy — sprung
                                from weary browned-off green —
the earth a trampled dust under guy ropes — what remained of
wove a narrow canyon inbetween
the rides — the stalls — those novelties on show —
a penny just to spot the freak in some dark space where lights
                                where turned low...

An odyssey through landscapes alien — where monster shadows
                                loomed —
a dream of obstacles — symbolic — a new variety of fear
that froze me like a runner on the spot — a gibbous moon
trailed along — recording every phantom that appeared
noted in quicksilver faces — sketched rough among clouds
as the city square fell back in place — bigger now and emptied
                                of its crowds.

A familiar strangeness or — more accurately — strangely familiar
the trick would melt on waking for such dreams deceive...
the everyday a blend of the peculiar —
illogical — far-fetched — too wild to be believed...
the brain measuring as the moment of consciousness neared
how high the journey scored on the scale
                                of weird.


She had a feyness spun about her —
more than just the wildness in her eyes —
their blue-grey shift hid under lashes dropped wingdark
to shield a mock-shy cunning — her disguise.

Slender-armed, long-fingered
flesh as fresh as springtime stems
that curled around him — possessive
she ensnared him with illusions — love-magick spells

danced him dizzy in the full moon’s glow
and lured him to the fields —
those long-grass uneven acres never ploughed
for fear of waking those best left asleep.

She wore a ribbon threaded through her hair —
green silk gleamed in that nest of thick red-brown
she picked a spray of nightshade’s purple stars
with yellow centres — pinned it to her tattered bridal gown

and on Midsummer’s Eve she led him down
beside the brooding river’s edge
where willow curtained them from view
and she showed him her true face.

From that day on he was a man in thrall —
emptied of all spirit — hollowed out —
thin and pale — an echo of himself
addicted — trailing her — ceaselessly — about.

His farm fell into ruin and decay —
crops withered and the animals took sick
it seemed he hardly noticed when they died —
his thoughts on her — distracted — untouched by loss.

The legend says he disappeared — or maybe drowned
she’s found a new love since — some unsuspecting youth
who caught her eye and lacked the strength of will
to turn away temptation — send her back — wailing —
                                to her mound of earth.

She’ll live off him until he, too, gives up his life —
trading promises for myths
while she gives nothing of herself except
an echo that believes in this world — or the next —
                                every dream exists.


Unannounced — and always after dark
you find my door — defy both bolt and lock
I smell that subtle blend of woodland musk —
your breath upon my skin provokes a shock.

You move about my room — a shifting cloud
of particles like dust caught in a draft
then settle in your chair — the quietness loud
and waiting to be broken — minutes pass...

What makes you come? — What draws your presence here?
What can you want from me? — A soul alone
in every sense — none other living near —
this refuge is the only space I own.

Yet uninvited — like some restless tide
no walls of stone can keep from rolling in —
you bother me — take up your place inside
my thoughts — these overwrought imaginings...

I feel your eyes invade my private dreams
your sympathy is suspect — I’m afraid
I’m falling for your supernatural schemes
for madness lurks when sanity’s mislaid.

This slow seduction when the moon is high
and bats are streaming nightwards from the eaves
there’s no one more susceptible than I
to spirits redolent of earth and leaves...

I dread your kiss — and yet the heart of me
perverse and tuned to matters strange and fey
would welcome that embrace — atomically
merge form with form — then weightless float away...

I long to trust you with my fragile fate
but life has robbed me of all true belief
in anything — and thus I hesitate
to shed this flesh along with all its grief

and dwell in a dimension rarely seen
peripheral to vision’s forward view —
the ghost of someone who I may have been —
a thin amorphous shimmer sliding through...

If you are phantom charged to tempt me home —
back to some realm that’s virtual — free from pain —
this last existence deemed a time on loan —
my days unsure — the future less than sane —

then touch me now — infect me with desire
to leave this life and join with you in yours
the hour’s late — I feel resistance tire —
I’m flinging wide those timid mental doors

that locked me in. My soul takes on new shape —
such transmigration dreamed and dreaming on
while crafting wings to ease the mind’s escape —
and knowing — come the dawn — we’ll both be gone.


They are undemanding company —
sympathetic to my tales of woe —
I sense their quiet empathy —
silence indicating that they know
exactly how I’m feeling — bowed by grief
shared sorrow merging — rising from beneath.

This dusty air hangs comfortable —
I’m easy with its shadows closing round
death’s perfume faintly hovering
where marble leans on consecrated ground
and names erode — all things will fade and rot
yet dreams persist that love alone will not.

Romantic ghosts are gathering
crowding me for comfort like a fire —
they warm themselves in memory
nostalgia our sole theme — they never tire
of listening — absorbing every word —
the hush intense — confirming that they’ve heard.


Oh I was unholy when I lay myself beside him —
a novice — penitent — I hoped that he would fill
my hollow reed with wine I’d never tasted —
swamp my spirit — drown whatever evil
                                he might find...

I am a child of flesh — first and foremost
a vessel tainted by the things of earth
and I dreamed that he would cleanse me as he took me
and peeled away black layers in the dark
                                and touched my mind.

He chanted over me with sour breath and did not heed my cry
of fear when he found my sorry skin and pressed
his body down and in — forcing me to give
my unworthy self — he stifled my distress
                                with a rough hand.

Pain is the blessing he insisted — hissing in my ear
as he punished me with bruises and with blood
and I suffered long afterward and kept
our secret in the way he said I should —
                                it was God’s plan.

And now he’s gone — I’ve come to pay respects
and witness how a bishop’s bier is strewn
with the whitest flowers sacrificed — those buds
barely opened — petals pure in that stale gloom
                                given up to death.

And although my sisters mourn I cannot weep
or find any scrap of pity — my heart’s as cold
as he is now — for goodness — true compassion — he had none
in all his life — resigned as he grew frail and old
                                to Hell I guess.

Hard vows of silence cover more than Mother knows —
she keeps her questions to herself — her beads are worn
from fingering — her eyes are moist these days
with secrets and suspicions so long-borne
                                they weigh her down.

I watched her place one flower on his stately tomb —
one lily when she thought we were at prayer
but I had followed when I saw her slip away
and witnessed how she trembled — lingering there —
                                crying without sound.

Her guilt is safe — I hoard it with my own
and wonder — just we two? — or maybe more
in this house of women he once plundered as his due —
did he take a virgin every time he blessed the poor
                                the sick and dying?

I have glimpsed it in my sisters as they kneel
so intent in their devotions — meek and other-worldly-mild —
many young as I was — naive — for wisdom comes too late —
he stole my innocence — killed that too-trusting inner-child —
                                I hope he’s frying!


From deep inside the realm of dreams
a bubble rises up and gleams
reflecting like a window pressed with faces
and soft as lullabies among
the coral drifts the mermite’s song
in echoes from a thousand far-off places.

The sea’s both cradle and the grave
and down in its forgotten caves
the mermites live — their legends blue with longing
for mothers who without regret
abandoned them — their babies fret
existing in a world of not belonging

to anyone or anything
so comforting themselves they sing
their voices haunt the very edge of sleeping
with lyrics rippling through our dreams
and touching on those childhood themes
we recognise our own hearts quietly weeping

and all those secret sorrows we’ve been keeping...


Oh, those men who look as though they want to eat you! —
Taste you like some vintage rare and warm —
the wine that bubbles through the skin’s rose tissue
a lure to which the hungry beast is drawn.

It’s in their eyes — their appetite shines chilling
in contrast to the heat that drives them on
to search for victims — feast upon the willing
once mesmerized all reservations gone.

So dangerous and dark — so charismatic
their brand of sinful loosens every bow —
buttons give — right down to prim elastic —
it’s Hammer time — film’s old scenario

shot horribly exciting and explicit —
that awful need erupts from every pore
as love and loathing curdle to exquisite
and nothing seems forbidden any more.

There’s no censoring for souls who fail to fathom
how fascinating vampire men can be —
for who wants to contemplate the fiery chasm
when swaying on the edge of ecstasy?

So, come bite me in my dreams you dashing demon! —
I’m ready to surrender my rich blood —
I know your type — you barely pass as human
while smiling like some bold seducer would.

And I swear that I won’t scream — such pain is passing
or so I’ve heard — there’s nothing like your kiss —
it’s fair exchange for life that’s everlasting
all hunger sated in one moment’s bliss...

So, bite me — go on — bite me — I implore you! —
I’m frozen in the searchlight of your stare —
across the room I let my heartbeat draw you
pulsing its quick drumbeat like a prayer.

If hooves you have — and horns — they will not fright me —
I quite expect a wicked show of teeth —
so take a bite and thoroughly delight me
or sling your hook and leave a girl in peace!


She somehow knows she has wings — they are without true
shape or form — intangible in every normal sense
except for instinct’s simple eye.

They bud at night — break out from mental skin
slit like a sheath — unfold and start their beat
grown keen to part the air.

As sunset cuts the river’s bright umbilical
fresh blood streaks a dying sky
and she’s left flying blind.

Thrown from the earth — an offspring with no name
evolved from recent congress — an anomaly —
some Lolita angel with a holy man.

Now one foot’s planted in each world —
she skims the edge so close to an idea of heaven
she feels her mortal spirit burn.

The human half of her pulls back — afraid of pain
while seeking immortality’s ice-glow — her off-
white feathers mute a host of questionings.

Limbo offers what it can — a haunted ruined halfway house
for every being judged impure — souls tainted
by cross-birth. She flutters blameless — spurned.


There are those nights when — wistful — a faint sigh
almost-heard — disturbing — flutters by
and curtains move a fraction like a draught
has caught their hem as something brushes past

air trembles in its wake — invisible —
but some slight sense perceives the room is full
of fine vibrations — notes too high to hear —
they gather — hum — infest the atmosphere

with vapour-streams above a quiet lagoon
that glimmers — shards reflected — pale as moon
shapes swim through ether — rise like pensive souls
of lonely creatures — shadows unconsoled —

now visiting — drawn close by empathy —
a layered calm — thought’s grey geology
receptive to whatever forms that come
to press themselves for comfort — find a crumb

of human understanding — one whose mind
accepts world-weary spirits — every kind
of guest who seeks a corner of the night
to rest awhile and share the candle’s light.


They say the dead are all around us —
some nights I would agree —
I feel them close —
the sighs, the soothing whispers
hover — crowding me —
they seem a friendly host
and keen to share my worldly cares —
they gather in to hear
my thoughts — as though I draw them near —
a sympathetic audience.

If ghosts they are — they are benign
not fretful beings sent to warn
or frighten — but visit from time to time
to reassure I am not forgotten
now that they’ve moved on to higher things
yet stay in touch on some tangential plane
communication subtle — voices soft —
the far-off hiss of steady rain
that lulls the senses — takes the mind way back
down nostalgia’s never-changing track.


Night gallops wild
a foam-flecked horse
eyes staring wide
a crazy course
of obstacles
piled deep and high
the shadows loom
on every side
each sneering face
with awful grin
stick fingers poke
breath wheezes thin
the rider kicks
tall treetops whip
the moon a prize
her lamp unlit
the clouds have thunder
in their bowels
ghosts are hunting
white as owls
across the meadow
rolls the mist
every blade
and bush is kissed
hangs their silence
like a veil
the toss of mane
the swish of tail
the drum of hooves
a blood-shot eye
the sweat-soaked mare
goes pounding by.


There is a lock — the key is lost —
and those strange things half-seen — half-dreamed
stay protected — kept in a deep vault
unmeasured and unmeasurable — the mind
unable to imagine so much space
for hoarding what may — or may not — exist.

The lock is old — impossible to pick —
its mechanism triggered by an exact
combination — tone and words — that work
the elements — a psychic smelting not
of this world but ancient-born
from realms ruled by magick.

The ones who made it knew no other way
of separating out the impossible —
the illusions that haunt and shadow — bridge
gaps in conscious thought — melt — distort
the edge of twilight — shapes in smoke
conjured out of superstition’s fear.

All these are secreted safe in there — shielded
from exposure to the sun — all mystery
herded — unnamed monsters caged primitive
in concept — demons — dragons breathe an unquiet air
that presses a dark storm against the door — denied
all the while the lock holds — the key words left unuttered
                                best forgotten.


I dreamed I loved a woodland prince
deep in his brambled bower
bedded soft in silk-webbed sheets
kissed thrice on midnight’s hour
while starlight dressed the lacy ferns
quicksilvered oaks and beeches
and stranger trees — rare-berried — hung
with fruits like frosted peaches.

Among the shifting shades I glimpsed
a host of faeries winging
while every mortal creature froze
enchanted by their singing...
such sweetness held me like a drug
it claimed both heart and soul
and every memory I had
their magick quietly stole.

The prince beside me charmed my eye
his skin so pale and glowing
his tender look upon me fell
and I was lost — not knowing
the ways of faeries and their spells —
their trickery and guile —
he did not need to tie or chain
but bound me with his smile.

A full moon in the branches sailed
its witchery beamed down
drew night’s sly creatures from the dark
to gather all around
with faces fay from myth and yarn —
tradition’s folk tales told
to every child on mother’s knee
brought shivers — turned flesh cold.

A fancy fluttered through my head
a whisper chilled my ear
and settled soft as scattered dust —
a feathering of fear...
then as I watched my handsome prince
transformed before my eyes
without one word of warning shrugged
and peeled off his disguise

recalling some old picture book
whose illustrations show
a likeness truly hideous —
the shock unnerved me so
to think I’d nestled in those arms
kissed lips now sneering cruel —
a willing slave to love proved false
and me the witless fool.

The singing turned to laughter harsh
that stung me through and through
I struggled from the bramble’s nest
all scratched and drenched with dew.
Moon hid herself behind a cloud —
made black as pitch the night
I fled between dense-crowding trees —
took blind and frantic flight.

I stumbled — fell — got up again
in fear of swift pursuit
their laughter followed — mocking me —
I tripped on every root
as though the whole of Elfland was
in league — had cruel intent
I found no exit — no escape
whichever way I went.

At last — exhausted by the run
I crouched and caught my breath
fearing sense and sanity
were failing fast — and Death
waited in that haunted wood
to snare me — trap my mind
in some deluded half-wit state
condemned by humankind.

I prayed and felt the draft from wings
beat fierce as they flew past
and eerie lights streamed ghostly-green
their long thin shadows cast
nightmare shapes — eyes everywhere
and still the laughter came
echoing while one voice called
repeatedly — my name.

I held my breath until my lungs
near-burst and terror filled
my heart — which pounded painfully
despite how hard I willed
myself to calm — it thumped as loud
as any warning drum
and hope gave way to crushing dread —
prayers died upon my tongue.

A prickle travelled head to toe
hairs stood up on my skin
I felt his power charge the air —
it tainted everything
with malice — like a curse called down —
a spell done out of spite
with no concern — no thought at all
for moral wrong or right.

I felt his bite — his rodent teeth
his skin now cool with scales
his bony limbs as strong as steel
his hands grew claw-like nails
he cackled in a language old
I could not understand —
I swooned in horror — dreading what
his wickedness had planned.

Darkness dragged me down and down
I lost all sense of time
I floated in a netherworld —
no reason and no rhyme —
then from that dream I came awake
one morning found me cold
and curled upon a mossy bank
my body thin and old.

And none believed the truth of it
they ridiculed my claim
that faeries stole my precious youth —
my sorry plight became
a joke at first — and then I found
my listeners ignored
the tale repeated — blow by blow
they rolled their eyes — looked bored...

For weeks I searched the woodland paths —
sought long that brambled spot
where once I’d lingered so enrapt
all jeopardy forgot —
and sometimes when the day grew dim
I fancied that I caught
the echo of that laughter shrill —
cruel creatures at their sport —

imagined some poor innocent
and unsuspecting child
had been waylaid — enticed away
and callously beguiled...
In realms of sleep I see his face
since love and hate seem one
I wane a little with the moon
and hide before the sun...

Something in my nature’s changed —
I wash my hair in dew
and sing strange songs with stranger words
I never dreamed I knew
while scented breeze is blowing soft
to lift my hem and sleeve
stitched with cobwebs — a fine gown
to wear Midsummer’s Eve.

I have no way of sifting out
the happy thoughts from sad
nor judging things as others might
or choosing good from bad —
the blood that trickles through my veins
is tainted with a hex —
I’ve one foot in this mortal land
and one foot in the next.

His shadow falls across my life —
Hear how he chants my name!
He’s waiting for me in the wood
and memory’s a flame
that flickers dim — Fate has me cursed
and spellbound — doomed to cross
that dark divide to claim back youth
but stay forever lost.


Wordfall — odd cryptic warnings pitter-pat
tones icy as cold showers punishing
blown in from some far foreign part
annexed on the tired mind’s map.

A plague of doubt consumes fresh-budded thought
devouring sleep with buzz-talk — worry rasps
grinds sanity to crumbs and still hums on
gathers — moths to light bulb — strings along
a bumbling logic nagging up a storm.

The dark grows thick — the whisperers crowd in
crushing silence in a seat right at the back
the room a box of groans and shuffled sighs
insisting air should echo — savour sound.

Shallow dreams of language — rumours swarm
against the ear half-cocked in dread
and not wanting to hear anything except
one distant voice that ushers in
expiring night’s last breath.


‘Imagine a room,’ they instructed,
‘people it — give it some life.’
And I pictured a young woman playing
a piano by soft candlelight.

Her face was a study in sorrow
and the music was painfully sad —
the tune chilled me through like a river
in flood and the feeling I had

told of loss — I was swamped with sensations,
dragged down by the weight of her grief,
as I struggled to keep myself focused
and clutched mental straws for relief.

Then she stopped with a sigh and a shudder
that echoed the ache in her soul,
and it flew like an arrow to pierce me,
left a deep and unpluggable hole.

And, turning, it seemed that she sensed me,
somehow knew that somebody was there,
watching and sharing the moment —
a presence that shadowed the air.

Her low voice broke the gathering tension,
‘Is it you?’ And I longed to reply —
send word from another dimension
that might meet the faint hope in her cry.

She stood close — I could smell English roses,
her sweet, subtle eau de cologne
wafting its false scent of summer
that mourning had claimed for its own.

And I fancied I heard the silk rustle
of the widowhood skirts that she wore,
making marble-pale skin look the paler
against the black badge that she bore.

Once again she addressed the strained silence —
‘Are you there?’ And I felt something break
like a heartstring within me had parted,
snapping clean for sheer pity’s own sake.

And I answered in thought waves transmitted
on a frequency tuned long and low
and the ghost of a smile lit her features
like a winter sun’s rays touching snow.

Was compassion misguided or foolish
to reach out across Death’s abyss
and offer a sign to console her,
albeit a counterfeit kiss ?

For it seemed then her spirit was lifted,
she returned to the keyboard and played
a melody tranquil and mystic,
her fear’s raging turmoil allayed.

Moments later, and contact was broken,
I returned to the present alone
with the knowledge that what passed between us
had escaped on the ether and flown.

‘And what did you see ?’ came the question,
I searched the far distance and sighed,
evasive, I nurtured my secret
and, when pressed for an answer, I lied.

She lives on in my thoughts, playing Chopin —
her music a landscape of themes,
and I follow her notes as they echo
through the paper-thin walls of my dreams.


Like a lake disturbed by one rogue ripple
the air in this room dithers — swirls
light patches tremble
colour dissolves as the moment’s tautened surface —
gauze-flimsy — is broken
greyed by some vague cloud.

Nothing shows — no shape
or shadow looms —
presents itself as cause
while walls exhale a silence that feels close
to a low utterance.

The door — tight-lipped and wooden —
stands past expressing
what might be a dim-light fantasy —
a presence passing through —
stray atoms balanced on the edge of mirage
so nearly seen
but sight and sense not keen enough —
the pattern too elusive and oblique.


There are reasons beyond reasons
the mind is loathe to tell —
the crazy stuff pushed deep and shadowy
too nightmare-ish to confess
it seethes its own dark logic —
bubbles quiet as a buried well.

The sun has a bloody tinge — an ancient stain
that will not lift despite
the morning smile — the brightness of the day —
it broods a memory —
a scar upon the skin
no clever mental trick can quite erase.

Thoughts run to liquid — seep
up through the rock and bone
despite the voice that quells —
whispers to undo the spell of bitterness
its acid trace
like bile from some dead belly.

Sometimes the madness spills a drop
of its slow poison and corrupts
the view — a black sun sets
behind Death’s mountain
and the moon’s cloud-blinded eye
can’t find the stars.


A lisping voice unnerves the breeze
A bubble pocks the lake
A hare’s transfixed where grasses freeze
A cloud drops one white flake

A dozen more then follow down
A rook flies arrow-straight
A clock chimes in the distant town
A stranger climbs the gate

A silence spreads across the land
A rumour haunts the sky
A lantern flickers close at hand
A shadow shivers by

A tension broods deep in the wood
A phantom stalks the track
A figure goes where no one should
A wiser man turns back

A howling starts as snow falls fast
A blizzard’s setting in
A spell upon the evening’s cast
A chill knifes sharp and thin

A winter’s scene in black and white
A sketch in cold and fear
A hint of what is out of sight
A clue to what lurks near

A hut whose chimney wheezes smoke
A window gleams with flame
A legend told by local folk
A creature with no name

A picture in a children’s book
A clump of spindly trees
A reader half-afraid to look
A tingle of unease

A story born so long ago
A yarn to match the age
A mystery no mind can know
A riddle on each page

A rhythm dogs the ghostly tale
A heartbeat measures time
A tooth bites anxious on a nail
A sigh forbids a rhyme

A volume bound with brittle spine
A cover scuffed and torn
A flight of fancy near-divine
A parody of form

A view of life the author brings
A fiction through and through
A pause while reason weighs such things
A chance they could be true.


Black ants are rolling round tiny skulls the size of sugar grains
expressions of surprise frozen on those white once-human faces
as the insects, pitiless and methodical according to their nature
pass them down the line like it is some age-old game

strict in its rules — their clockwork team streams confident
all precision kick-along played on some narrow unmarked field
where goals and goalmouths are imagined and the count
is kept a secret — numbers swarm and fade in drifting fog.

A skull makes a last bid for freedom — slides down a slope
                                grown slick from blood’s slow soak
the ants too regimented to break formation and retrieve
one frantic escapee — their waving conveyor belt of legs
programmed — no room for innovation.

Alone and camouflaged in a thin covering of mould, the skull sings
bitter of its fate, mourning unknown others — all the races ever lost
to that dark nest where monsters gather in remains —
stack high their staring pyramids of skulls — gloat over worthless


I had such dreams last night —
the wind like Satan’s dog
howling in the trees —
the beast came back for you
found you once again
and dragged you off.

The forest’s full of rain —
the paths a maze of blood
I heard the nightbird’s call
and knew it was no good
to follow — try to find
the tracks your killer left.

I know you fought him well —
the light was very dim
eyes were all around
watching you with him
waiting for a sign
that it was done.

In faith you had a sword
but strength had bled away
wounded as a lamb
in thorny thicket lay
you gave in to the night
let death begin.

Dawn, untroubled, came
saw you fallen where
two hidden paths had crossed
fixed your final stare
past leaves and broken cloud
to glimpse the moon.


It had a smell so succulent and sweet
squealing on her nerves — all piglet-pink
it nuzzled, grizzled, wouldn’t let her sleep
denied her any space to dream or think.

A monster held her in its dimpled hand
demanded that she feed it, give her time
it wasn’t the scenario she’d planned
her powers drained, she contemplated crime

convinced herself she’d given birth to one
who was a demon formed in chubby guise —
this being was unnatural — not her son
she saw deception glinting in his eyes.

She felt unwell — her hormones gave her hell
her mood and temper fluctuating wild
she lashed out with a plague, and drought as well
and blamed it on the fat and greedy child.

Her worshippers grew nervous, in their fear
prepared a more than generous sacrifice...
erratic now, her logic far from clear
she vent more spleen and cruelly cursed them thrice.

They sent a wise man, humble, to her shrine
he chanted verses endlessly that rose
and caught her ear, tapped in to the divine
his soothing voice acknowledging her woes.

She drooled a little — hunger made her ache
grown desperate for some feasible excuse
to feed on her own flesh and coolly break
that old taboo — the ultimate abuse.

Maternal feelings (had there ever been
a bond to sever) melted like spring snow
the boy was irksome — noisy and obscene
and there were plenty more like him below.

He tasted much like all the others had
she gave a subtle burp, a gentle cough
an accident — the tale she’d tell his dad
consoling — since they’d both be better off.


Welcome to the wilderness — the growing church of the outdoors —
hear the hallelujah chorus of the river’s throaty roar
as it celebrates each season with exuberant display
and tumbles over boulders strewn along its narrow way.

See where water fashions limestone into shelves of living rock
and a host of hanging lichens spread their patchwork altar cloth,
and nature carves dark shadows in a pagan bas-relief
with untempered blades of sunlight thrust through canopies of beech

whose columns soar, cathedral-sheer, above their crooked aisles
and mossy hassocks, scattered round, leave visitors beguiled,
believing that a spirit moves and lends a mystic sense of grace
to all who meditate and feel at peace within this hallowed place.

Like incense, woodland smells arise, from underfoot the ancient mast
pressed to a carpet soft and damp, gives pungent hints of summers past
and mist descends, wrapping trees in lilac-greys and smoky-blues —
a breath of mystery that veils their timeless beauty. Glowing through

the black-laced intertwine of twigs, vivid scraps of stained glass sky —
moving multi-coloured clouds float their miracles on high —
remaindered glories, distant red and burning gold, as day allows
its revelation to unfold — a glimpse of heaven through dark boughs...

The river sings old, sacred songs — its organ music thunders out
where gorge and gully squeeze the flow of passion through its
                                green-lipped mouth
in praise of this wet wilderness... echoes sweep the forest floors
inviting all who hear its voice — come join the church of the outdoors.


Cocooned, wombed
in the belly of the tent,
gathered in hot, near-darkness,
rocks steam, release the ripeness of
scattered herbs and damp skin.

Sounds of breathing,
heavy, laboured,
in the intervals between chanting,
while souls float and freed minds
go wandering in the heat

as trance takes over —
fast and dehydration strip
the senses raw and hunger leaps
to those images of faith
tradition carved.

Gods are present,
pressing through heavy air,
touching the blind with visions,
answering prayers,
space fills with the sensation

as spirits join them,
mingle with the scent that rises,
the tang of sweat like incense
from a dozen panting bodies
locked in ceremony.

Shadows move, parted by
a beating eagle’s wing;
ground trembles under hooves
of phantom buffalo herds;
a lone wolf howls —

and so the totem speaks,
its ancient snake-tongued wisdom
falls from fevered lips,
shapes change, dissolve, disguise
their human frailty,

as in their swaying midst
great brother bear rears up,
red-eyed, all-powerful —
a sign in tribal lore
their lands are safe.


Her whimpers passive now,
still danger broods in that black sweep
of sleep-glued lashes,
a soft cheek covering
claims pardon for her crime,
each grub-curled finger fisted smug —
a deception hiding claws
that clamp on contact.

The sweetness of her smell
a sickly poison seeping through the skin
sweating sundew sugar to ensnare,
beguile the buzzing hormones.

Her victim-mother chained to duty’s rock,
waits listless in her cracking flesh that bleeds —
can’t avoid her urgent questing mouth
when midnight feeds
this vampire child, hard-gummed
with nascent fangs and frantic for some goodness,
drains her dry, four-hourly by the clock —
shows no remorse.


No cold earth bed for me
but tree-top high,
cradled in thick branches
like a lullaby
rocking in the wind
and warmed by sun,
open to the rain,
my bones undone
and every atom freed —
all I ever was
dissolving in thin air
as vapour does.

No sombre sepulchre
or expensive stone
where, uniformly boxed,
corpses rot alone.
Instead, the brush of leaves,
the pat of rain,
the stabbing beaks of birds
without the pain,
the clear uncluttered view
of sky and space —
a disassembling,
going back to base.


I have this skin
I’m buckled in
which masks another —
a stranger self
an unreal pelt —
no earthbound mother

conceived of me
evolving free
of Darwin’s science
and thought cells spawn
a spirit worn
in pure defiance.

The trick begins —
I am two skins —
an inner layer
none can see
while outwardly
the grey gets greyer.

The mould is thin —
sense floats within
emotion surges
in blind attack
as through a crack
truth emerges.


I met a ghost one midnight
she passed me on the stair
I felt her breath upon my cheek
her lips upon my hair.

I knew not why she kissed me
what drew her soul to mine
her face glowed like a candle flame
her presence near-divine.

She paused but for a moment
though time — it seemed — stood still
I couldn’t help but tremble as
my blood began to chill.

Nor could I speak for shaking
the words caught in my throat
blind panic took a-hold of me
I feared that I might choke.

Like she’d read my thoughts, she smiled
as though to soothe and calm
help reassure my racing heart
she really meant no harm.

Then a strange peace descended
and held me in its thrall
my mind detached and floated free
I felt no fear at all.

The air was ice around me
it wrapped me tight with cold
sensation drained right out of me
I watched my skin grow old.

Each layer thinned and wrinkled
brown age spots bloomed and spread
dark whiskers sprouted like some crone’s
my nails all cracked and bled

while she grew ever-younger
more luminous and fair.
Significant it happened as
I reached the thirteenth stair...

Fate picked me as her victim
I never knew her name
my youth was what her soul desired —
the reason why she came.

She sucked out my energy
left my poor body dry —
now I’m a shell of who I was —
an echo passing by

who haunts the stairs at midnight
just one thing on my mind —
to steal the precious lifeblood from
the first young throat I find.


The whisper comes from some far place —
it lisps through chink and crack —
telling secrets dark and old —
strange chilling thoughts seep back.

It hisses — stretches ancient vowels
it threatens — spreading fear
to those who listen — ill at ease —
its voice drawn thin but clear

and piercing through the night wind’s wail
to find one soul awake
who understands its taunting words
that cause weak minds to break.

Each utterance a curse — a spell
from long-dead lips flows free —
a whisper travelling through time
for all eternity.

No guard can block pure wickedness —
such magick’s much too strong —
transmitted by the blackest heart
those waves roll on and on...

I hear it in the quiet hours
it haunts my shallow breath
slyly twists inside my dreams
’til sleep’s a taste of death.

That whisper plagues my senile years
while peace is all I crave —
not earth nor stone can shut it out —
it waits to share my grave.


From nowhere it springs — this pang of desire,
this need that no reason can quell
as it grows to a frenzy of ravenous lust
like a beast that’s been raised by a spell.

Once I loitered in alleys and lingered in crypts
to feed on the quick and the dead,
gnawing on fresh or dark coffin-baked flesh,
all-consumed by a passion part-fed.

But whatever I gorged, my strange appetites grew,
though I swallowed the bones and the skins,
every tooth, every nail, not a hair went to waste,
yet my own body withers and thins.

There’s a worm in my gut and it chews on my heart,
on my liver, my lungs and my brain,
every corpse that I eat it devours in turn
and its greed drives my taste buds insane.

I’m the fantasy ogre — the monster of myth,
the blood-sucking demon from hell
that lurks in the shadows of fear’s lonely pit,
the lunatic loosed from his cell.

And this jacket’s so tight and my thirst’s so intense —
I crave that red syrup, salt-sweet,
that pulses so plainly beneath crisp, white coats
and the smell of their warm, tender meat.

They question me close but I’m muted by pain
and a rumble of hunger unsung,
for the serpent inside me has plans to break free
and has cannibalised my split tongue.

So I crunch on a cockroach and suck bitter soup —
an hors d’oeuvre of live earwigs and flies,
sip a twitching concoction with soft peppered moths
while observers attempt to disguise

the vomit reaction. I grin like the ghoul
they imagine, and slobber and drool,
for I’m biding my time as the menu looks on
while I whip up a silverfish fool.

There’s a doctor I fancy, whose portions are plump,
and his sweat has the stink of decay.
Like a lamb to the slaughter, unknowing, he’s down
as my ultimate dish of the day.


I thought I glimpsed his shadow cross the moon —
imagined I had seen a perfect myth —
a dream conjured from a story I half-knew
was fantasy — unlikely as a faerie wish...

Through sleep’s grey veil his face would sometimes stare
bug-eyed yet human — and his scent
rolled like a clover cloud — spread over me
its cloying sweetness — made my senses sing
and want him to come closer — let me see
how dark-winged he was — all creature of the night
and strange with voiceless longing — a raw need
that drew him to me
like an insect to a solitary flower
open to the rain — I let him feed.

I knew his weight — his body firm and furred
his face against my flesh as hunger bit
and gladly I gave up my fearfulness
to share our moment’s agony and bliss.

His shade remains — an echo grey with musk —
a memory of wings that whirred above
churning damp night air and thoughts unsure
of what was real — or maybe less than true.
I’d wanted love — a taste — a lasting touch
he gave me that — the feeling is ingrained —
a stain indelible — that never-fading bruise
an imprint of delirium’s glad pain
like passion’s ghost it lingers cobweb-thin —
an ecstasy that has no spoken name.

On nights the moon is empty — hollowed out
by eyes of wakeful watchers — just like me
still yearning for a promise and obsessed...
I have visions of him fluttering — far off
drawn to some fragrant nectar tree —
my mothman dream-invented monstrous soft
in the realms of his nocturnal territory
and born unfaithful — sipping where he can.

Addiction has me lulled — a gothic mix
of love and loathing drugs me to pretend
there’s hope for romance. My arms like petals bend
open in their welcome offering
desire without conditions — a full-bodied wine
fermented — corked inside me all this time.

I suspect he is a demon fiction-based
with elements of tenderness — a rare
contradiction in my heightened state —
the frenzy he instills — the fever and the chills —
as I watch the moon for shadows — wish on stars
and cradle every fear — as lovers do.


On these three nights I dream of you —
the crescent, half and full —
on other nights when skies are bare
I seldom dream at all.

I feel your face, your steady eye
that watches me in sleep
and through that cloudland gauziness
the wonder takes me deep.

And should your heart be black and cold
there’s space enough for me —
you hold me lightly in a cell
the child of fantasy.

I wear your charm around my neck —
its silver spirit sings
fills valleys inbetween the stars
I hear the sweep of wings

And through the snowshine brightness fly —
my feathers angel-spun
where life unfolds in many forms
and death exists in none.


See how the moon adores me —
strokes me with her silver where I lie
in the frost-tipped grass
my fur grown crisp under her touch.

I am dazzled by her stare —
her light, my light —
the long shaft of energy we share
a pulse magnetic.

My blood sings a wild chorus
as she fills me with her vision —
her white heart welding fields — the river glows
like solder running thin down dark’s cold edge.

Am I her god or is she mine?
Her face an altar, my form a place of worship
I dream she needs me for her focus
since we are locked in some carved legend
                                for this and other nights to come.


It is a beach I go to in the moonlight
of my own imagining
where the sand stretches a long trail of silver
that glitters wetly
as the waves shush over it
soothing as a lullabye
and water inches its way
to wipe a single line of footprints
from a lone enchanted shore.

It is always night among these rocks —
the pools between are private mirrors where the stars
swim down to rest
and count themselves among the fishes
drowsing in the dark
cushioned by broad fronds of seaweed
and tucked deep in folded fathoms —
layered salty dreams.

The ruin of a lighthouse in the distance
islanded by the incoming tide
is a legendary place where mermaids gather —
I hear their voices singing
a thin descant to
the brine-heavy breathing breeze —
their lure is shrill — insistent —
wind-chilled bodies gleam upon the rough-hewn thrones
of sea-resistant granite
and I am drawn half-willing through the surf
to kneel in wonder — stare perplexed
at the impossible.

One princess of that ocean wears a human face
as though stolen — borrowed from some memory
for this illusion’s purpose
she has for eyes
grey-blue polished pebbles with old secrets kept
and holding me in thrall.

The moon is full of hollow promises —
complicit in a strangely sweet deception
and the souls of all the lovers drowned
struck dumb — remembering
a time and place
where dreams for that one moment seemed
entirely possible...

Lingering — gazing out towards
an unmeasurable horizon
conjured by a romantic need for exploration —
this fantasy location where
the mind’s a solitary traveller
back and forth through time —
the journey never done.


One summer dawn, the tide at ebb, a west wind from the sea,
A young man toils to mend his nets, no soul abroad save he,
The early sun upon his skin, the singing surf calls wild,
And draws his gaze to where she floats — a naked woman-child.

He pulls her from the lapping waves and wraps her body round,
Her limbs are cold, her eyes like glass, she utters not one sound,
He scoops her frailness in his arms, unsure she is alive,
Implores the gods of sea and sky, prays hard she might survive.

He struggles up the steep cliff path, her dead weight like a stone,
Kicks wide the creaking cottage door and thinks he hears her moan,
A sigh — one faintly salted breath escapes her bloodless lips,
And in his heart a wonder grows as sheer obsession grips...


The days pass idle, time stands still — he falls beneath her spell,
And rapture drugs him to a state too deep and dark to tell —
He knows not if it’s day or night, what season rules the sun,
He shuns both family and friends — his sanity undone...

His childhood sweetheart, Annie-May, beats frantic at his door,
He cannot hear her sobs and cries, he thinks of her no more.
A new love claims his witless soul — binds him in its thrall —
The world outside no more to him than shadows on the wall.

Such sorrow crushes Annie-May the shock affects her brain,
She strips the blue-black berries from the hedgerows in the lane,
Their poison stings upon her tongue, brings agony, then sleep,
Her eighteen summers destined for an unmarked grave, dug deep.

Grief gathers in the village as the sorry tale is spread,
And anger rises, quelling fear, as rousing words are said,
And questions burn in every throat, suspicion leaps like flame —
The creature taken from the sea must surely be to blame.

Churchgoing men, and women, too, shrug off their Christian shells,
As superstition rears its head, and rings unholy bells,
That vengeful mob, with torches lit, outside Gull Cottage came,
And, shouting loud in fury, call Charles Tyler out by name...

A silence answers all their threats, an echo trembles round,
Then nothing stirs — the air hangs still — no sight — no smell — no sound —
The door unlocked and no one there — the cottage bare and cold,
As though abandoned years before, its ruin long-foretold.

No sign along the empty strand — the shoreline stretches bare,
His boat, ‘The Seahorse,’ missing from its usual sandbank where
Two sets of footprints trawl a line down to the sea’s pale foam...
And, thwarted thus, the mob disband — in ones and twos, drift home.


The years go by... One winter’s storm — the worst in memory,
Leaves driftwood tossed upon the beach — a painted name floats free,
‘The Seahorse,’ wrecked — its shattered planks like matchwood strewn along
The cove where Tyler and his boat were said to vanish from.

What fate befell him, none now care — all legends dim with time,
Ten generations heed the tale committed here to rhyme,
The bay’s since known as Tyler’s Cove, his cottage broods its stone,
Unvisited, for few would want to dally long alone.

A shadow stretches, cold and dark, across the centuries,
Imagination plays with all the possibilities...
While superstition dreads the dawn that follows a bad storm,
Fearing, out there, fathoms deep, the sea-witch is re-born.


The daylight dims and thickens
quickens shades of night
clawing with cool fingers
along its grey-edged sight.

The dark grows mouths to swallow
hollow shape and sense
all is disappearing
the grainy landscape dense

with sounds — the night wind keening
dreaming of the sun
the season’s clock is ticking —
a sickly moon hangs on

her beams so quickly covered
smothered by sly cloud
her sallow face well-hidden
enveloped in a shroud.

Earth’s pungent scents go drifting
sifting through the trees
a clinging mist that slickens
chills by slow degrees

sends morbid fancy reeling —
peeling shadows press
down upon the rooftops
a broody wakefulness...

The pitch of dark unending
sending waves of dread —
fear’s unfathomed ripples
floating free the dead —

lost flickers in some corner —
forlorner souls who fret —
each pasty-grey gauze glimmer
a half-drawn silhouette...

At last, when dawnlight breaking
aching, births the sun
and demons are sent packing
we keep our inmost one.


The inventive idle mind swims best by night
and launches one enormous and unlikely fish —
a whale of a thought cast spontaneously adrift
and caught by a sudden urgent current —
pulled out into the great dark depths —
almost getting lost in its own limitlessness.

No way to measure weight or time
in this untamed and changeless — floating nameless
place where nothing touches nothing — edgeless
unreality of every sort — while
small and average varieties
of notion shoal and eat each other.

One giant of an idea that rules at least
for now the unimaginable ocean
glides on through and sullen waters part —
give way to bulk — the outsize dream
that threatens to become some monstrous and
too altogether strange obsession.


Evening — late — and the great grey fog rolls in
                off the mumbling sea.
It wraps the beach — it winds its wet embrace
round everything and blinds the distance — muffles
every voice the banished breeze once had — and waves
wheeze in like old men rationing each breath.

Its kiss is cold, its tongue a salty sea dog’s
                furred thick with legend —
superstition has strange creatures swarm when reason
                is subdued
by forms that swirl and fade — dissolve before
their shape is ever fully realised.

Such myths are ancient — laughed at in the sun — but
a winter night combines the elements in such a way
and so suspends them — invokes some binding spell
that locks air and water with a vague unease — then
stories are perceived quite differently.

Something conjured looms — formed in — and out — of fog —
a tumbling mass of fears — while screams are deadened —
lost — absorbed — the stretching land and sea transformed —
merged in all its rock and liquid mysteries —
the birthing chemistry
of monsters.


The boy was born a dreamer —
strange visions filled his days —
imagination schooled him
and led him mystic ways...

Thus he grew to be a loner —
an introspective child
immersed in his own silence —
inscrutable — near-wild.

His thoughts translated wonder —
a poet he became —
his spirit fired by moonglow —
a prophet with no claim

to pictures in the sunset —
the colours that he saw
in new-found worlds of beauty
drawn desolate and raw.

His youthful years behind him
he loved like any man —
unwisely — beyond reason —
as Time’s cruel river ran

and dragged his body under —
drowned him in Death’s flood —
a brother for the angels —
their passion in his blood.

Dark waters smooth an altar
where fish adore his bones
and belief finds understanding
in the memory of stones.


An entire existence on the edge of motion —
the trembling expectancy of launching
into what never actually materializes
but remains imminent — always close
to possibility.

He is the repressed/suppressed embodiment —
the distillation of shadows ever-changing —
of every rawness ever felt or thought
his nerves stretch semi-naked — shivering — each twitch
indicates an idea rumbling through the machinery
but fails ultimately to fire the engine.

A locked-in state where energy’s potential
ripples its long snake inside the skin
and no one knows what he knows of his plight —
his constant juddering the only clue
there’s something he would say —
has plans to do —
if only he k-k-k-k —
                                k-k-k-k —


His coldness makes me shiver with desire —
his ice slow-burns with strange, inverted fire
that drags my latent heat from deep within
to sizzle as it freezes on my skin.

This contradiction fascinates, excites,
the chill’s divine — I plummet from such heights
to ecstasies unknown before the fall,
that sinking, writhing joy exceeding all

I ever felt before — old passions pale;
sensations I thought ultimate, whose scale
so suddenly surpassed, seem feeble since
he touched me, and now I drift, convinced

this transfer is the saving of my soul —
my spirit dreamed, half-fish, and now I’m whole
and swimming wild, tugged free by arctic tides
that wash me, flush the doubt from my insides

and purify with brine. Waves roll to soothe
old scars, internal rhythms rock and move
the silt that choked me, glued me to the land;
I’m floating now, my atoms salt and sand.

And he, who knew the secrets that I kept,
watched over me, unblinking, as I slept
my human life away; infused his kiss
with oceanfuls of icy, burning bliss.

Thus, I’m transformed — quick-silvered alchemy,
love feeds a chilled, transmuted chemistry
that simmers, boils as blue-green bubbles rise
and I’m reborn — seaworthy, in his eyes.


How it began...

Dusk — and through my window I gazed long
into the creeping shadows for a sign
of those faint figures glimpsed — too quickly gone
for me to judge as human or divine.

Flesh or spirit? Phantoms strolled the lawn
glowing soft ’til evening folded round
so melted them in twilight — I’d have sworn
I saw them kiss — just briefly — as the sound

of the church clock chimed out its lonely note
and from the eaves a string of bats took flight.
I shivered — ghostly fingers gripped my throat —
a gibbous moon slow-climbed the hill of night.

Sleep came fitfully — I heard a cry —
an owl in the old oak beside the lane
called his mate from hunting fields or sky
then later the soft hiss of steady rain.

I tossed and turned, drew back the sombre drape
of heavy curtains shielding the wet glass
and squinted through the darkness at a shape
uncertain — at some distance — drifting past.

As daylight broke I dressed and stole outside —
a set of footprints tracked the dew-soaked lawn —
they led towards the summer house — I tried
the handle — locked — so onwards through the dawn

between the pines, along a less-used path
where brambles leaned in close to scratch and tear
I found the ruins of a gauzy scarf
caught on thorns ... and one long raven hair.

Intrigued, I took the evidence and kept
my theories to myself — I’ve never told
another living soul as I suspect
they’d label me half-witted — senile — old.

But age has instincts that the youthful lack —
experience unravels truth from dreams —
thus mysteries are solved by looking back
and knowing nothing’s quite the way it seems...

So it’s become a comfort to believe
I don’t live here alone but share my space
with others — and that time has ways to weave
a nest of lives — each given their set place.

I watch them from my window — him and her —
their assignations scripted — known by heart —
they have no need of clock or calendar —
I witness how, on cue, they kiss and part.

And if they sense my presence, they’re resigned
or simply too removed from earthly cares —
perhaps when love’s exclusive — almost blind —
all else seems pale — bliss captured unawares...

I speculate I’ll never know their names
and yet I feel connected to their fate —
I walk with them in dreams — on other plains —
explore an out-of-body timeless state

that empathy allows and finds its match
in being mortal — merely blood and bones —
our histories close parallels — abstract
qualities pure rationale disowns...

I sometimes sense her in this very room —
a perfume hangs — her scarf has the same smell
of flowers — meadow-fresh — each fragrant bloom
blended to a signature known well.

I accept I am obsessed — I could be mad —
my addled brain misled by tricks of light —
delusions may explain the thoughts I’ve had —
hallucinations — fancy taking flight...

I see her in the garden, near the gate
my window faces west and gets the sun
which sets behind the trees — and there she’ll wait
anxious for her secret beau to come.

I fear it won’t end well — this furtive tryst —
for intuition reads it’s surely doomed
while she transmits a clearly loving wish
the vibe from him’s less ardently attuned.

Thus tragedy is set — he will betray
her hopes and dreams and drive her to despair
yet I can’t intervene nor guess the day —
the anticipation’s agony to bear...

As Time goes on...

The tranquilizers help — the nurse is kind —
they’ve upped the medication so I sink
deep into a placid frame of mind
though generally more lucid than they’d think.

It’s years now since it started, maybe more...
my diary long-abandoned as a friend.
There is a pattern — one I’ve known before —
I’m in a loop still searching for the end.

The riddle and the answer once supposed
quite logical, too seldom ever fit —
all questions on the subject likewise closed
and no one really bent on solving it.

So I stare out of my window and stay calm
knowing no one else sees what I see
and sad that I can’t keep her from self-harm —
I’m haunted by some girl I used to be.


He’s feeling odd this morning — overhung
and kind of queasy from that wanton feast
where he’d indulged — kept drinking — soused among
those beauties who, expiring, whispered “Beast!”

They’d tasted good — full-bodied, purple wine
dispensed so freely — gushing to excess
from generous necks seductively designed
to arch above each off-the-shoulder dress.

A dozen — maybe more — he did not count
the luscious creatures as he drank his fill
but certainly a liberal amount
or he’d not feel so stomach-churning ill.

He staggers off — afraid he might yet faint
while desperate to escape the rising sun
wishing now he’d sinned with more restraint —
and passed when he was offered the Blue Nun!


The trees are wringing from the sky
the first few drops of rain,
black branches twist, squeeze harder yet,
the night wind squeals with pain,
devils goad the rising gale —
a beast who stamps and squalls,
snorts its rage through every crack
and kicks at doors and walls.

Rising from the forest’s depths,
a ragged choir of howls
joins the chorus echoing
from earth’s primeval bowels
and shivers run across the skin
as waves disturb the lake,
like some dread monster turns in sleep
when called to come awake.

Who knows what demons are abroad,
what horrors haunt the hills,
when shadows move and myths take shape
and trepidation fills
the heart with something half-believed
that tricks our eyes and ears,
as superstition pricks the spine
we smell and taste old fears.


She’s a real night owl
and sleeps until late
she dresses gothic
when out on a date
she can’t remember
the people she ate —
that’s why the lady is a vamp.

She thinks it’s playful
to toy wih her food
she’s kind of scary
when she’s in a mood
her jokes are wicked
and really quite rude —
that’s why the lady is a vamp.

She likes fresh grave dirt under her nails
black widow veils —
some bloke’s
just croaked...
She hates the sunshine
adores the gas lamp —
that’s why the lady is a vamp.

She’s always hungry
and keen for a feast
she’s never bothered
or freaked in the least
what’s on the menu —
if it’s man, babe or beast —
that’s why the lady is a vamp.

She likes the chill night wind in her hair
a lonely crypt where
as dawn creeps
she sleeps —
she loves old churchyards
they’re cold and they’re damp —
that’s why the lady is a vamp.


Contained in a dark square
what little light there is a shifting stain
soaking through thick air.

The angles of the walls, the floor, the ceiling are
a tight geometry of smoothness —
featureless and straight —
too clinical to comtemplate —
this cold precision alien —
no flaw to interrupt the lines
or stimulate.

The square she paces — measures with her eyes
the base of a grey cell
constructed in the deep recess
of someone else’s memory —
they keep her here — ignore her cries...

She’s suffocating in a cube of gloom
where imagination has no room
to stretch itself or breathe.


Maybe I’m afraid of you —
maybe I’m not —
I feel the sharp edge of your teeth
against my neck
the cold rasp of your tongue
and yet no breath escapes
between lips drawn back revealing rows
of smooth uncorrupted ivory —
your perfect weapons
unsheathed and testing the tension
of my skin.

This close I smell the musk of you —
the scent of leaves and earth
that lingers — a faint dusting
of decay — dry wood and bone —
nothing that still lives —
and knowing that you are undead
should send a chill — a warning clear
to keep a distance — never let
you near enough to mesmerize
with that deep look — your stare
might stop my heart.

Yet I am calm — and wait
curious to see if you will bite
and how it could feel — that pain
so intimate and ancient in its origins
that old exchange — blood for blood —
all life boiled down to this —
a throbbing vein — desire
rising in the flash-flood threat —
our ice meets fire contradiction —
needs that burn and melt.

Anticipation goads me —
lures me with danger’s fierce attraction —
will you, won’t you
give in to the animal inside?
Does my white living flesh seduce you?
Are you torn by appetites too extreme
to mention?

All this while
your matchless fangs graze
my naked throat —
hover just by the pulse —
I am almost impatient for the chance
I recognise as madness —
to die then live again a shadow-life
in trade for one transfusion —
kiss for kiss.


I anticipate his lips will press a bruise of spreading cold
that numbs me with an ache too deep to bear —
his breath a blast of arctic breeze that blues my trembling cheek
and scatters snowflake crystals in my hair.

His touch will wither — burn me — freeze the bloodflow in these veins —
my heart turns to a glacier inside —
the valley of my body with thought’s mountains veiled in mist
as nerveless as a sacrificial bride.

The sheets on which we’ll lie will be vast snowfields that he brings —
my dowry is the heat he’ll steal from me —
he’ll leave my flesh unfeeling as the Tundra’s frigid North —
a barren world — too bare for modesty.

Though pale as death, he’s handsome — but it’s best to look away
for to try to hold his gaze is far from wise —
he can dazzle in an instant — bring a woman to her knees —
there is ice-melt in his nature and his eyes.

I met him on a pathway, near a village drowned in white
where an avalanche had claimed a brother dear.
I knew him from a legend and he vowed he would return
and take me to his palace leagues from here.

I have waited many winters — traced the rime upon the glass
and dreamed the blizzard brings him in its wake —
sudden hail foretells his coming in the stories I have read
where his shadow looms and haunts the frozen lake.

The icicles drip slowly — grow long teeth from the roof’s edge
and glint with cruel promise like his smile.
Those jewels he sends before him as a gift meant to entrance
a soul already chilled and so beguiled.

The bitter air hangs empty — early dusk draws in the day —
its filtered light slants strange across the floor —
a shiver runs right through me like a dagger to the bone
when at last I hear his knuckles rap my door.


The olden giants have come
moving — invisible — through the winter city
breathing on high windows
their hair dragging grim clouds
of gritty pollution in their wake
mouths sucking dawn’s pale blood-streaked sun.

They are silent on tarmac
fingers plucking at exhaust-choked trees
their eyes searching out uneasy sleepers
tumbled awkward in downy cots
while the great church clocks
chime against the creeping cold.

These ogres of denied mythology
have at last left their mountain hideaways
abandoned distant unmapped valleys
where the caves of night began
now they walk tall as houses through
modern streets rumoured to be paved with gold.

They too seek fame and fortune
in amongst the hubbub and the roar
but find themselves lost —
drowned in its too-frantic rush —
out-numbered by the human herd
their protesting unnoticed in the workday mêlée.

Darkness muffles in a host of sound disguises —
each howling soothed and scattered
where they lump lonely by the river
their disillusion shadowy
ambition shattered — crushed to echoes
they scavenge desperate for any dregs of ancient fear
sniff around for credibility in their gloom
while neon shines right through their monstrous bones —
man’s dread already faded over centuries
the giant threat is losing ground.

True to their traditions some eat each other —
brother swallows brother whole — live on as dreams —
the city breeds new nightmares by the dozen
clones fables for the anxious dweller
needing time-worn images to hate —
ghosts and gargoyles huddle
on jutting rooves to share thin-voiced bitter histories
weave horror with a mocking strand of truth
that chills even the hardened sceptic’s ear
where doubt lodges — unsettled by ideas
and instinct argues fiercely in defence
of the unbelievable.


Death sang a song to me last night
I heard his words quite plain
His voice an arrow, strong in flight
Each note a sweet, sharp pain.

His lyric told a world of woes
Pure sorrow filled the air
While something deep within me froze
The weight of sheer despair.

Midnight struck and still he sang
The tune went reeling round
While I half-feared each aching pang
Might find me under ground.

I blocked my ears and said a prayer
For silence — restful sleep
Unhaunted by such blues sung rare
To make a stone heart weep.

Quietness fell — like balm it soothed
Then with the dawn thin rain
Its gentle rhythmic chorus proved
To echo Death’s refrain.

And melancholy drugged me with
Its ear cupped full of dreams
Old visions lost that cannot live
Except in Death’s dark schemes.

Those echoes lingered through the day
Like webs from corners hung
Strands that caught me — wound their grey
Invisible among

The drifting minutes of the clock
That marked its own frail time
I listened for that tick to stop
Aware it counted mine.

And faint — far-off — the silence rang
With noise — the tread of feet
Souls who danced while Death still sang
And kept the same chill beat.

As dusk approached the song drew near
Until it filled the room
Suffocating — soft to hear
It cradled me in gloom.

Rocked me to a trance-like state
Locked me in its spell
It seemed I had no will to break
Its power, thus I fell

Deeper and still deeper yet
At length I sang along
Careless of his mood’s sly threat
In tune with Death’s sad song.

Then in the very midst of thrall
Another tone cut in
I heard the voice of reason call
Pitched high and questioning.

It shocked me from my frozen state
It chided me for shame
That I could dally so with Fate
Indulge in Death’s grim game.

I may be aging — weak and slow
But reason rescued self
Death’s morbid balladeer can go
Dispirit someone else.


Released from those dark
cold regions beyond dream’s
sea divides itself
to let go through
a nameless body
rising slow
through grades of pitch —
the black diluting
as fathoms grey
give up their pigment
to the wash

the salted light’s thin
woven strands a net —
ragged — wide —
reaching down to gather
in what heads to meet it —
bask in weightless change
the switch between
blind and seeing...
thought bobs clear
freed from a maze
of coral-formed caves
grown thick with night

and gasps at brighter shadows
feels along the unsure edge
where elements touch
nerves that brush against
each other
tugging loose the molecules
in a rough bartering —
exchange liquid for air...

the spirit breathes
cloud-shredded harsh
the ether reassigns
each rôle and reason

mist hangs its layered limbo
vague as legend
where the twinned moon floats
her listless soul
quivering and drained —
watching a ghost


Something ate my soul last night —
I felt each bite — the cut and gnaw of teeth —
each loss as feeling left me
disjointed — old naïvetés chewed off
and swallowed by the dark.

The numbness, on the whole, seemed sharp relief —
the sticky sauce of every sorry year
licked clean by some strange tongue
the white bone bowl held salty echoes
of all the blood that ran.

Mine were chosen from that well-thumbed menu
of uncounted sleepless thoughts
wafted juicy in a simmering of grief —
to be relished for their agony
prey to sweet-and-sour-crusted lips.

Today, I’m spent — the sudden feast all done —
every clinging crumb of it
and memory’s a faint dried-on stain
from last night’s skinless supper —
no greasy scraps of hurt
or cooled-off dregs of gamey love


From far-off lands of snow and ice they came —
thinned by cold they stole the forms of men
wore flesh unchanging — time could make no claim
on shapes that shift — long years were lost on them...

Strange beauty cloaked them — flawless — hid the mark
that picked them out — this tribe of ancient ones
escaped from caves — those regions of near-dark
abandoned for a sliver of weak sun.

They walk by day — not tied to any tomb —
that legendary bed of freezing earth —
their eyes a mirror to the frigid moon —
untouched by love or pain — bereft of mirth

they have an air of superficial charm —
a smile that can persuade and bend the will
of those in thrall and ignorant what harm
they risk — so fail to heed the warning chill

that closes round when Cold Ones gather near —
a bitter tang that prickles fear awake
electrifies the quiet atmosphere
with particles to make the senses shake...

They have that power in them — true to type
these dangerous — romantic — figures blend —
close-mingle in the crowd — select a ripe
victim — quench desires that have no end.

Each murderous seduction callous theft
of youth — the sacrifice of living blood —
soft bodies like frail empty vessels left
floating — unattended on the flood.

Old horror stories whispered mouth to ear —
some local legend saved for winter nights
though most deny such things could happen here
yet others dream the sting of vampyre bites...

Few know the truth — have peeled away the myth —
revealed the creature shambling beneath
the fiction — see him clear for what he is —
a butcher’s stare — a rotless set of teeth.

And cold within that ultimate embrace
too late the lover sees through his disguise
and looks upon the demon’s awful face
frozen by the hunger in those eyes.

They feel the ache that penetrates the vein
and know his nature and his undead curse
how cold lust burns within his vicious brain
where passion rules — relentless and perverse.


One window — a rough square of distant blue —
faint drafts — along with smells — come drifting through
and far-off sounds that filter... voices too...
the world out there a landscape I once knew

reduced to this one patch of shifting light
that changes hour by hour — day to night
the focus of my waking — my first sight
a box of sun that spills its liquid white.

Winter shrinks it — turns it grey and small —
high up upon the grim dark-shadowed wall
daylight barely finds the gap at all
moon visits now and then — a fleeting call —

her passing magic’s kind — her saddened face
looks in on me confined in this dire place
her slanting beams like fingers touch and trace
the contours of my cell — but can’t erase

the horrors of the fever — and the chill
despite the outside warmth its air hangs still
and thick with dread — no ray of hope can fill
these endless hours — all this time to kill...

I listen to the rain — its soothing drip
gathering in pools that slowly tip
and run in rivulets I catch and sip
sweet as wine upon my dry cracked lip.

Some days I pace — most nights I lie awake
I hear the moans and cries the spirits make
and pray out loud that a bright dawn will break
and quieten them — bring peace for pity’s sake.

I used to mark the days — scratch through black mould
that climbs the wall — peel off its crusty hold
on stones — a totting-up of time untold
now meaningless as I — resigned and old —

forget the years — how long I’ve waited here
for rescue — sure some hero would appear —
’til disillusion swamped me with the fear
I have no future — death is drawing near...

I feel dread’s weight — it settles dense as doom —
this dungeon is a nightmare ante room
and madness stalks me — gibbers through the gloom —
one foot already planted in the tomb.


I hear you through my dreams —
your voice stretching its long vowels into the night —
it tears my soul — rips my peace apart
with longing that consumes me
the ache inside my heart
answers with its drumbeat loud and strong
and somewhere out there in the darkness
our spirits meet — and melt into your song.

That howl would find me even in the grave —
it seeks me out
my ear cannot evade its piercing
ever-cool and constant wave of sound
burrowing through air from where you wait
patient at my mind’s nocturnal gate
for me to come to you — abandon all
this world’s too mundane ways and listen to your call.

And I’m so tempted — half of me in thrall
bewitched and drawn to wildness — night and moon’s
slow drug that lures a primitive desire
to wander — let you take me to your lair
and know your fierceness — taste it — drink it down
experience your freedoms — passion’s fire —
the blood upon your breath — the sky is clear
the scent of you — your shadow looming near.

I yearn yet hesitate — my lone and lovesick wolf
although your yellow eyes invade my room
like lamps they shine to penetrate my deep subconscious gloom —
those netherlands you haunt are barred to me —
I fear to shake my weak but human nature free
and be as you are — animal all through —
no romance — no emotion runs in you —
I dare not change my skin and so become
a creature cursed in fame’s mythology.

Such thoughts are dangerous — I force them roughly back
to a safer distance — the perimeter drawn swift —
the absolute divide that sanity insists
will stave off this dark hunger that exists —
growls within me — claws — grows reckless when
night’s deep forest shivers and your shadow lopes again —
twigs snap along the paths — your phantom pack
approaches — I can hear them pant and paw
the frozen earth — impatient I should at last give in
and throw the dregs of caution to the howling wind.


Every night she goes there in her dreams,
sucked deep inside dark subterranean halls
where demons lurk, the air churns wild with screams
and madness hangs fresh spectres on high walls.

The Grey Ones follow her, she feels their breath
blow hot upon her shoulder as she flees,
hears loud the rattle of approaching Death
and falls, brought crashing to arthritic knees.

They hold her down, the needle arcs and sinks,
blackness gathers close to fold her in —
there’s no escape — the fight within her shrinks
to one small nerve that jumps beneath her skin.

She’s trapped inside herself — her fear’s a bird
frantic in its withered, creaking cage,
she has no voice — dementia steals each word,
her rheumy eyes pour out their senile rage.

At night, some nameless horror claims her mind
and hauls her through a narrow shifting crack
to wander, terrified she may not find
a reason to attempt the journey back.


They won’t stay down — old secrets shift and rise
claw their way from subterranean lairs
to catch guilt-ridden dreamers unawares —
dark energies grown crazy with thin cries.

Fear and grief are partners for the dance —
they twirl to music seeping through the walls —
the drumming heart — the shrilling doubt that calls —
the whirling choreography of chance

resurrects emotions that were dead
and buried deep — yet now they stand and sway
to pain’s old tune — a dirge that eats away
at memory — love’s anguish freshly fed.

Grief, exhausted, staggers — arms flung wide —
a zombie — blind and dumb caught in the spell
loss has woven — too obsessed to tell
word from word where explanations hide.

The keeper of truth’s grave might do their best
to tend it — let the soothing grass grow green
but secrets buried — ugly and obscene —
will surface — for their bones are not at rest.


The dank earth yields beneath my spade
which slices cleanly, turns the soil
and severs sadness with its blade,
subdues my heart with humble toil

where roots lay naked, white as bone, -
anaemic limbs exposed to light -
their longings wither and disown
unlikely flowers plucked by night.

Tight-budded need tossed in a heap
with wilful weeds and barbed desire,
and stinging doubt as nettles creep
beneath the brazen skirts of briar.

One patch is clear - the carved clods gleam -,
my body aches, exhaustion pours
a draught to purge love-fevered dreams:
the incubus frail flesh adores.

But gentle through the dark you glide,
to settle like a homesick ghost
safe and tenderly astride
the brooding nightmare of your host.

I shiver, grateful for the twitch
of subtle reins; respond to hands
that urge me gallop, half-bewitched,
through night's quixotic hinterlands.

Then watch the pink-eyed face of dawn
squinting, bleary, through grey cloud.
and pace this threadbare winter lawn,
deny my fantasy aloud.

I lift my spade to break your spell
by digging - feel the muscles strain -
as steel unearths the loam-rich smell
of compost steaming after rain.

I bury Summer, dig it deep
into the plot my heart believes
is therapeutic, but I keep
two perfect skeletons of leaves.


I slept with death last night —
he was considerate and kind —
his passion quiet — carnal needs subdued —
he held me — stroked fear away with murmurs
and old promises, half-heard.

And I felt light and empty — safer
than I’d ever felt before —
untouchable, untouched
by all those things the moment held away —
consigned to distance.

Relaxed in leaden arms
his face bled shadow coverings
I didn’t call his name
but gave myself quite willingly —
allowed him sole possession.

Eyes already closed, my mind
crept over him — feeling for
a space to stay in —
his body a museum of my life
and shapeless loss.

And so we rocked each other —
he and I — like forever was a phase
for going through, enduring while it lasts —
I woke alone and dizzy in the sun
of all my gathered years.


I smell her scent upon him — she steals into his dreams —
a succubus — a demon — her undermining schemes
rob me and my children — he’s distant to me now —
untouchable with longing — in thrall to her — somehow
she’s mesmerized — bewitched him — turned his mind away
from fatherhood and marriage. I have no heart to pray

but turn instead to magic — a counter-spell — I curse
the effigy I’ve fashioned — which squirms at the reverse —
I damn her eyes for lusting — pierce them through with pins
stitch her lips together and skewer fabric limbs.
I feel my hate surge through me — twisting like the knife
she wielded with no conscience when ruining my life.

Thus I’ll reclaim his passion and turn its tide again —
she’ll taste to him like poison — his appetite will wane...
This spell I cast is ancient — its origins belong
to those who know the old ways — and such beliefs stay strong —
the book — the bell — the candle — fresh blood signs on the floor
will rid me of my rival — she’ll plague me nevermore.


She bends above the pool and gazes deep
into sun-dappled water’s idle brown
where diving beetles, nymphs and minnows keep
quiet company with those cast in to drown —
and in that silence where the spirits sleep
her eyes peer through the weeds — look down and down
searching for some clue — a hint or trace
of what lies hidden in that lonely place.

The afternoon is warm — no breeze or chill
disturbs the water — ruffles its calm air
and every leaf remains unmoved until
a sudden nameless shiver passes where
she stoops intent and absolutely still
imagining what deeds have happened there —
as though a voice has whispered in her ear
and generated a small stab of fear.

She squints at what she thinks could be a bone
resting in the silt — so small and frail
it surely is an infant’s — barely grown
to fit with local legend’s gruesome tale —
she stares again — perceives it‘s just a stone
that’s curiously shaped and gleaming pale —
her expectations keen, her eyes misled
believing she had found the long-lost dead.


Here the river boils and froths —
spewing from the dark earth’s maw
it heaves and bubbles, spits and coughs
a dirt-brown soup of root and claw.

The Devil’s Kitchen claims the pits
in every fiendish gourmet guide —
a home from home — the décor fits
the foulest menu ever tried.

The rising smells hang thick and rank —
decay and bone — that clinging air
unwholesome cooking — sickly-dank
to taint pure palates with despair.

Wave-flattened boulders ranged like seats —
what diners come as dark draws in
to savour rotting, unnamed meats —
chow down on gristle, suck on skin?

The shadows gather up their guests
as hunger drives them through the gloom
where daemons puff their napkined chests —
throw orders at the waiting moon.

Such appetites are sated by
obscene soufflés of slime and mud
consumed beneath a storm-whipped sky
that drizzles cold rare-vintage blood.


The velvet night for cover
he smelled her skin, her hair
then lost himself forever
with neither thought nor care.

He drowned inside her kisses
drank her down like wine
her sighs defining bliss is
an agony divine.

She moaned and gladly welcomed
each furious caress
abandoned inhibitions —
blazé with nakedness.

He poured such frenzied passion —
unleashed it in a flood —
she writhed and bid him drain her —
all ecstasy and blood.

They fed on love together —
consumed with breathless hearts
each bite another promise
’til deathless life do part.

But dawn’s pale coat surprised them
caught unawares their lust
and covered them for pity —
dark hunger turned to dust.


There is no fight —
the night has won —
the victim sleeps unknowing as a lamb
with limbs flung wide
her throat exposed
the nightmare shadows champing at her side.

A demon shifts
his awkwardness
and presses his foul weight down on her breast
his talons rip
the cloth of dreams
to penetrate imagination’s flesh.

She writhes and moans
but does not wake
while evil settles, hungry to invade
like all his kind
who violate
the deepest, darkest corners of the mind.

He plants his seed
he leaves behind
a sense of terror that she cannot name...
Dreams will haunt her
dread will stalk her
a voice suggests all nights will end the same...

The candle burns
the hour comes
her eyelids close — she fails to stay awake.
Despite her hate
she welcomes him —
insanity accepts him as a mate.


The thunder roared, the lightning struck
a tall and lonely tree —
it seared the trunk and lit a corpse
that hung there, spectrally.

The man who swung in that queer light
dripped blood upon the ground —
the stain so dark had killed the grass
no other leaves grew round.

Along a track, a couple came —
the maid, her face afire
the youth, whose hand she clasped in hers
in thrall to her desire.

The maid, she fell upon her knees
uttered some strange name
and scrabbled at the blood-rich earth
like one who was insane.

The clods of earth flew as she dug
intent upon her toil
clawing through the steaming trench
that thickly came to boil.

At last she pulled from that foul stew
a poisonous, rare shoot —
a mystic plant that screamed in pain —
the fabled mandrake root

that only grows, so legend tells
where hanged men spill their seed
and evil brews its magick ways
to fashion dragon weed.

Was she a witch? Was she a ghoul
to feast on such a find?
She gobbled like some rabid dog —
as though she’d lost her mind.

And all the while, the youth stood fixed
his gaze a vacant stare
his pallor like the moon’s white face
he seemed quite unaware

of how she danced, her eyes like lamps
that glowed a sickly green
nor did he feel her press some root
his parted lips between...

The transformation, in a flash
of blinding light and smoke
rocked the hill — the hanged man fell
as did the towering oak.

The Devil vanished, with his mate
as howling filled the sky
above that cursed and blackened hill
he winked a bloodshot eye.

And since that night, no living soul
can bear to linger long
for superstition sparks more fear
and broods a sense of wrong.

The narrow track is overgrown
as wiser feet won’t tread
a path where swelling mandrakes drink
the waters of the dead.

The oak has rotted to a stump
while sun has bleached old bones
and swinging shadows flicker, slide
among the weathered stones.

Each twilight finds its purple hush
hangs heavy — taints the breeze —
a shudder runs the hill’s dark length
and registers unease...

The mandrake flowers, spreads strong roots
the legend infiltrates —
more potent with the passing years
it bides its time and waits...


Born of molten rock and blood-red flame,
The Balrog through the choking tunnels poured
Its flood of evil — monstrous by name,
And fearsome-natured, thunderously it roared

Advancing on them, towering, its maw
A furnace puffing clouds of scorching breath,
And with each gnashing fang and ghastly claw,
Promised a most cruel, unholy death.

Eyes blazing as it tossed its hornéd head,
And lashing with a whip that streaked pure fire,
It raged and postured, filling them with dread —
Their peril great — their situation dire.

Onto the bridge it came — the stonework shook
And shuddered underneath the Balrog’s weight,
The wizard stood his ground and dared to look
Upon the Dark Lord’s emissary of hate.

He smote the stone — the Wizard’s voice rang clear,
Challenging the demon — held it back
With Magick, and the narrow bridge so sheer
Felt his power and began to crack...

The ancient arch was broken, and the might
Of Balrog seemed defeated as he fell,
Tumbled into darkness — endless night —
The hollow mountain’s deep and freezing well.

But as he dropped, he’d one last trick to play
And flicked his whip around his mortal foe,
So toppled him, and evened up the fray —
Thus each was cast into the depths below...

His eight companions feared he must be dead
Though wizards claim they’ve more lives than a cat —
And somewhere on the dangerous road ahead
He’d find them — and so prove it for a fact.


High up above the city
on the old cathedral roof
we watch over the living
ready nail and tooth
to fight whatever demons
might desecrate or foul
the stones that need protecting
with gruesome leer and scowl.

The artisans who carved us
believed our staring eyes
would spot the Devil coming
riding through the skies
so covered every corner
every point of view
with faces from their nightmares
a wild and monstrous zoo.

So here we squat forever
resisting midnight’s storm
thwarting evil spirits
from city dusk ’til dawn
some think us ornamental
our fish lips spouting rain
they call us quaint or ugly
no one mentions pain.


I hear the door creak softly
feel the sun dip low
sense them shuffle closer
footsteps dragging slow

their sighs mingle above me
shuddering and sad
awkward whispers echo
rising fear smells bad

they shouldn’t come to visit
when their dread’s so clear
wishing they were someplace
anywhere but here

it’s no place for the living
comfortless this room
air grown thick unmoving
in a dust-trap tomb

dull duty pulls them down here
clutching at their grief
lingering uncertain
’til with some relief

I’m back in soothing darkness
thankful to the bone
they’re gone oh someone tell them
to leave the dead alone


I take my troubles to the sea
we sit and suck on stones
read portents in each seventh wave
uncurl small knots of foam
pile up driftwood, add a flame
and warm our sorrows through
wait for answers on the wind
and dream some lies are true.

The sunset dance of fire and air
grows edges in the smoke
the salty incense hangs in veils
the tide-fresh converts soak
and something speaks — a thin sea-voice
strange bubble-words that sift
ring their knowledge round the moon
impart a fabled gift.

I comb the starlit sands along
where patterns beckon me —
white bones of fish are scattered wide
lie glowing spectrally
while fathoms deep the great whale sleeps
allows his wisdom rise
pebbles roll their spotless dice
the scales fall from my eyes.


Slumbering, hammocked high in beanpole trees
where full moon finds their thinned-out shapes
light silver-streaks splaying limbs —
dangled arms, legs, lolling heads
held in suspension
rapt in cool night air.

Branches creak
chilled bones crack softly
darkness muffles groans and the odd snore
drifting earthwards...

Roofs far below oblivious —
nobody curious
and peering up to marvel at the size
or human-ness of shadows —
there are no sleeping giants —
those monster silhouettes
are surely clouds blowing past the stars...
the moon is dreaming.


The sky is clear, the waxing moon
shines full upon the mountain’s peak
and gives each ridge a silvered bloom
that shimmers coldly, rising bleak
above the pines where shadows flit
a creature stares into the night
his yellow eyes like lanterns lit
reflecting eerie, restless light.

Silence hangs, invisible
as nervous breath caught in a throat —
the spell that holds the land in thrall
will shatter with one loathsome note —
so listen, every ear cocked sharp
for the first sound — the low-pitched growl
rumbling through the purple dark
and rising to a piercing howl.

Four-footed Death, moon-eyed and grim
from out the forest’s fringes deep
comes loping, single-minded, thin
with longing for some hapless sheep
his need on fire, his soul hell-bent
incited by the lunar glow
the werewolf tracks a fresh-laid scent —
small human footsteps in the snow.


I shut my eyes, but still I feel your focus,
your telling look that sees the world as thin,
hollowed-out, turned brittle at the edges
where sadness haunts, vignettes the space you’re in.

Small shadows spread — lay claim to slender temples,
while darker lashes arc beneath pale bone,
your hair a fallen forest that remembers
a warmer light that fell on you alone.

You sing your silent song, I strain to listen
and search your face for any clue to why
your loveliness is tinged with such delusion —
the echo frozen, weary as a sigh.


Against a shadowed bank of flesh,
the fish-eyed bubble clings,
safe beside the pulsing wall
through which a blood-voice sings

its soothing repertoire of beats,
subliminal and slow,
inherent with race memories,
imprinted undertow

of tribal rhythms echoing
around the fluid dark,
throbbing their mythology -
the finger-touching spark

that fired imagination's clay,
released a dynasty
mapped in multiplying cells -
the bubble breaking free.


Out of the dawn my need created her
cool as a goddess, fragile as a shell
pearling echoes, licked by a salt wind
her pale limbs curled in shadow
brushed alive by light.

The sea-blood in her pulsed — its ebb and flow
flickering in recognition
the tide a history of all her kind
she haunts the shoreline empty —
sleeps on pillowed rock and sand.

Her eyes their own deep ocean
brimming with the wrecks of all the years
she finds the perfect calm within the storm
and binds it to her
wraps its weathered cloak around.

Her silhouette curves gentle —
an horizon touched by cloud
where mist trails, barely touching
and the filtered sun drips down
to gild the morning’s edge.

She is both child and mother — nurturing
and needful — all subcutaneous desire
laid wide open to be read
her landscape speaks an old, old language
of sea and rock and sky.


Earth and water colours her so pale —
cold skintones where the moon illuminates
and silvers folds — the thinness of her robe
the feathered headdress flowing smooth as hair.

A legend watching all the shades of night
she knows the stars above the quaking marsh
and waits for omens — dreaming gods might race
in chariots that blaze across the sky.

She has no suitors — none have chanced to look
upon her bloodless beauty — face unseen
by mortals — only long-necked birds grown proud
beside her, sense her nature, cry her name.