Tag Archives: poetry

Why Do I Paint Monsters?

 

They say I am veiled as the paintings in my attic

that I keep my life concealed like skeletons beneath white sheets

that only hair pins hold me together and a spinster’s habits

that I am pale because only tentacles touch my heart.

How little they know what goes on in my secret place,

my haven, where I keep my paintbox, my paints, my easel,

which always tells the truth whoever steps from behind the curtain

into the frame and by the steady brush of my hand coalesces.

Why do I paint them? You ask. Why do I keep their faces

emptied out with a candle above as a nod to their puttering souls

lit without a single match by flames that grow ever brighter

as this island gets more hopeless and I grow wiser?

My life has not been easy. Read this in my downturned lips –

this would not have been my first choice, but now they want me

to oversee the rules of a new game I am hiding my damp brushes

and paints away and smiling a small smile like a masquerade.

 

Words by Lorna Smithers, who we welcome to the island with this piece. I have had the honor and pleasure of doing the art for two of her book covers- The Broken Cauldron and Gatherer of Souls. It is beautiful writing of the sort that will change your internal landscape.  Please visit Lorna here.

 

Art- Tom Brown

Advertisements

The Jester

 

Riddle me this, riddle me that
What am I sowing under my hat?”

Gifting hallucinatory dead flowers
at the Bridge of Bottles underpass
The Jester bites his teeth
and swirls his swanky walnut hourglass
Jabbing japes and swastika shapes
he slinks the serried lanes
and covets nocturnal landscapes
with those knotty sweat-soaked veins
residents pass scornfully dumb
he amuses dogs and orphans
laughing and trustingly they come
as lambs to the terrible slaughter

“Riddle in laughter, riddle in tears
What am I knowing between my ears?”

Playing imaginary dead reality
at the cold and broken children’s home
The Jester tastes his tongue
and masks his manic antique metronome
Flaunting flouts and swiping clouts
he sinks the barley wine
and communes with gnarly snouts
with motives of ill design
naked and torn willingly shoved
the dispossessed son and daughter
hurting like they’ve never been loved
as fish out of turbulent water

“Riddle your heart, riddle your brain
Where are you going in Hopeless, Maine?

Here we welcome, bus driver, poet, artist, photographer, ponderer of the imponderable, worker of miracles- Derek Dohren to the island. We very much hope to hear from him again soon, as this is a brilliant addition to the lore of Hopeless, Maine.

 

Art-Tom Brown

Hopeless Tourist Officer

Thank you, dear people Now let me explain

That if on Hopeless
You wish to remain

I am the chap
With whom to converse

The truth you will hear
For better or worse.

You have probably formed An impression so far

Of darkness and fog
Of the world left ajar

And while it is true
That things can look drear

There are many joys
To be found living here.

Uummm!
Ah!
The landscape is stunning

When viewed through the murk Which lends it a grandeur

And hides things that lurk On the edge of your vision

That watch as you pass That rustle the bushes

And slither through grass Behind you

Speaking of which
If you’re into your plants

The flora is…nice
Though some of it chants

In dialects dead
The language of dust

It whispers to both
The true and unjust

Constantly

Errr!

The animal life
Is completely unique

And whether it has
Toothsome grin or sharp beak

Tentacular grip
Or glowing green eyes

There are certainly habits To keep, it is wise

Lock your damn spoons away

We have many graveyards Really – a lot

So we know where our dead are As often as not

It’s not just the fact
That the corpse can up sticks

But the graveyards themselves
Are not geographically fixed

And the dead wander

The truth is, dear friends
To survive here you’ll need

A guidebook, a reference Something to read

That will tell you the rules Of this Island so odd

And give you some help
On the paths you have trod

And so we have made THIS…

A game, it is true
That will guide you

Prepare you,
And give you a clue

How best to endure
On this island of mist

To visit this land
And put up a fist

That cries NO to the demons Which infest our dreams

And wards off the vampires Who suck at our seams

To give us some hope
That out of despair

Something less Hopeless Can take to the air.

Written by the rather brillaint Keith Healing (Creator of Travels in Hopeless-the impending Hopeless, Maine RPG and all around lovely chap) Illustrated by Jacinta Haden-Newman who was our work experience student for a week. I see a bright future ahead of her! (DO look closely at the detail of the lighthouse)

The Blue Emperor

A patchwork of bricks undulate in smog

the houses and inns connected by arteries of alleys

Walls sag like tired frogs sat in grime and bulge from years of swallowing

In between the amphibious buildings that eat people whole is a man a cobalt dragonfly

his hood up a hole and no face sleeves connected at a chest no outline of legs when he glides

A rag child said two claret dots inhabit the dragonfly’s shroud

This the only statement that was said aloud but whispers chatter in cupped palms and over drinks

since shutters sealed when patrons leave as a weary bird calls and light wheezes through sky

In the darkest blue speckled with stars streets are glossed black and cherry

as human-flies pop no fists connected or intoxicated braying just echoes of thick snoring

In the grey when fish fill noses port stains dry on the road tasting like rusted pig salt

Investigators finger the outlines squatting in corners writing a profile on bleached yellow paper

Children push at thighs to spot guts but there are no gizzards no sliced hands or spoiling innards

just a spattering of puddles saturated in stonework crannies that insects stick to like seeds in jam

No victims just a switch of people to pools on mouldy cobbles

The Blue Emperor flutters on a headline before being washed down gutters

Handymen scrub watching every seagull shadow stains not cleaned just passed to skin

The thin and sick vagabonds that don’t know tricks chant and pray in warped corners

Ankles poised to kick a bolted hatch when the dragonfly hovers and silk flows

On a pub door fingernails dig and oak is scratched and split

Watch at two for a dragonfly

If it stops in front say goodbye

To loved ones embrace and sound a bell

The Blue Emperor is where you dwell

Pray Pray Pray

For a light to mark the day

and a good sea wind to take his wings away

The Blue Emperor by performance poet Ziggy Dicks (welcome to the island, Ziggy!)

Art by Tom Brown

The Blind Poet continued

In anticipation with the misty aura precipitation falling on the wet cobbled streets,
footsteps echo, echo.
The blind poet’s back straightens; shoulders awkwardly flex, fingers and fist clench with intense momentary anxiety around the long black cane. Will it ever be the same?
Ten years is a long time to wait, sit, think and debate with fading colours of her midnight black hair.
From the homeland he remembers too painfully a saying –
No man is an island
Except for the Isle of Man.
Will he know how to talk to her?
Can smiles run together?
A grin starts to fill his wet stubble skin, and then within seconds the echoes vanish.
No trace, no return, no smiles.
Silence
Damp, cold, empty, nothing.
She could light up a room on arrival,
turn a glance to a gaze, thousand yards of staring bearing all beauty can behold
with confidence many never possess.
He was hooked, drawn in and now many full moons later gutted,
sitting alone in the mist and rain on the harbour side of Hopeless Maine.

 

 

Words by Gary Death

Art by Tom and Nimue Brown.

The Blind Poet

The Blind Poet
Hopeless, Maine
If only you could see it.
Through the mist bursts forth the ferry’s bow.
No flicker of a smile, without hesitation or concern he steps confidently ashore.
The Blind Poet has arrived.
Carving visual thoughts through orange glowing streets he pauses to reflect on heady days of old.
The gambling, the addiction all now conflicting into each stride taken in this new location.
The black cane, the stick a weapon or an aid to defend or project for safety or status.
All of these are debatable.
He trusts no-one.

Once well-read ‘til his eyes swelled and bled, those secrets kept deep within his head – tilts to listen for footsteps on the wet cobbled stones….he waits for news.
Memory holds many chambers of hope, love, regrets and pain.
He knows that her beauty will never be seen again.
But maybe…
The voice a touch can rekindle a flame on this misty evening in Hopeless, Maine.

Galleries of oil paintings, landscapes of old forest trees.
Sitting viewing, holding hands.
All spin through his ageing head.
The good days the easy times.
Thoughts of warmth wrap themselves around him tonight in the lampposts’ glow.
A seagull cry breaks the silence and thoughts of the past.
Echoes of steps drawing nearer and nearer fill the quay side street.

Words by Gary Death

Art by Tom and Nimue Brown.

To be continued.

 

Do spoonwalkers write poetry?

It washed up in a bottle on the beach here at ‘Morrigan’s Bay’ and was not easy to decipher, being sloppily scrawled with many ink blots. Reminiscent of Vogon Poetry, it alludes to both Hopkins and Leer in a most amateur and offensive way, showing little grasp of the works it clumsily references. It is almost as if some spoon obsessed creature with tentacles has stumbled across the tatters of a beach-washed poetry book and this is its sad attempt at mimicry. I am not sure whether to feel pity or repulsion…

The Runcible’s Lament

The Demitasse and Bouillon set to sea

In a vessel of pea green glass

The runcilble sighed to be left behind

And he called it a terrible farce

No ducks here to sieve,

To quinces to give

Only caviar, soup, and tea

And many strange

ephemera of spoons

With holes in for company

He sighed at his own

Pied beauty alone

Reflected grotesque

In his bowl

And prayed for the end

That fate would soon send

Some demon to feast on his soul.

 

 

Words by Lou Pulford

Art by Tom Brown

The Balloonist

You will not find Ivor Watson’s poems in any of the anthologies of nineteenth century American verse. For the few who are aware of his work he has always been viewed as a very minor poet, overshadowed by the likes of Longfellow, Whitman and Dickinson. The greatness and public admiration that he so desired always eluded him. In fairness, we cannot attribute this lack of celebrity to the fact that he died when still in his twenties; after all, it didn’t do John Keats any harm (except for the dying bit). To be brutally honest the real reason was that he was just not a very good poet.
Having been born into one of the wealthier families of New England, Ivor had the freedom to indulge his various passions to the full. One of these was a desire to take to the skies. He had been inspired in this by reading of the exploits of Mr John Wise, a famous balloonist of the time. In 1850 Ivor purchased Wise’s newly published book, the snappily entitled:
‘A System of Aeronautics, Comprehending Its Earliest Investigations, and Modern Practice and Art. Designed as a History for the Common Reader, and Guide to the Student of the Art, in Three Parts’.
Armed with this tome Ivor felt empowered to go out and buy a very expensive hot air balloon. This was a state of the art piece of modern technology and had been produced strictly to Wise’s specifications. And so, in the Spring of 1851, he set out to explore the heavens. What could possibly go wrong?

When all the gas escaped and the balloon floundered off the coast of Maine, to his credit, Ivor didn’t panic. Wise’s design ensured that if, for any reason, the balloon should become deflated when aloft it would collapse to form a parachute. This would ensure that the occupant of the basket descended to the earth in a reasonably dignified manner and without injury. That was the good news. The bad news was that he had landed upon the rocky shores of Hopeless.

We will now go forward in time and space. It was a year or so later that Mr Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was intrigued to take receipt of a small package, wrapped in oilskin, that his wife Frances had discovered, washed up on a beach. Inside was a small hand-written notebook. Within its pages were the ink-smudged last words ever written by Ivor Watson, which included his final poem. This Longfellow dismissed out of hand as being opium-addled nonsense but he was quite taken by the meter Ivor had employed (which is, I am reliably informed, trochaic tetrameter) and decided to use it himself some day.
By great coincidence the notebook is now in the possession of Rufus Lypiatt, landlord of the Squid and Teapot, having been inadvertently left there in a carpet-bag by Mr W.S.Gilbert, who had acquired it from Longfellow when he visited him in 1871.

Here, then, are the final words of Ivor Watson:

Tuesday April 15 1851 written from the comfort of my room in The Squid and Teapot.
I am thankful to have landed safely upon this island, though its austere bareness immediately troubled me for reasons which, at first, I could not comprehend. The basket of my ruined balloon still sits in the desolation of a long abandoned chapel. I will return there in the morning and see what might be done. It strikes me as being exceedingly strange that a house of God should have once existed in such a desolate spot.

When darkness descended upon the land I was loathe to venture far from the chapel, feeling that if evil was truly abroad its agents would be less likely to cause me harm if I stood upon consecrated ground. In the wan light of a full moon I witnessed certain creatures passing but in truth they resembled no fauna I have seen illustrated in any publication. I have always been led to believe that only denizens of the sea propel themselves with tentacles.
As the night drew on I began to fear that these horrors would indeed attack me. They came ever nearer, seeming to have no fear or respect for what was once the house of our Lord. As I was about to abandon all hope of deliverance I spied the figure of a man on a nearby hill. Although he carried a large burden on his back he scrambled over the rocks with great agility. The beasts, if creatures of flesh and blood they were, seemed to trouble him not. As he neared them they eschewed his very presence and thankfully retreated. I confess, I wondered who might wield such power over them and fretted that this might be yet another demon in human guise.
This fellow was certainly human but, in truth, his stench was untenable. Alas, it is the price I had to pay for his companionship and protection, for I believe that his reek, which is that of human filth, keeps the very demons of the pit at bay. I guessed him to be a collector of night soil. We have such men in Portland who patrol with pony and cart. Their business is conducted when gentlefolk are abed so this is the first of his type I have met. Despite the stench he is a good sort and accompanied me to this nearby hostelry.

Wednesday April 16 1851
Dear God, is there no respite from the demons that haunt this island? Disturbed from sleep last night, I swear I saw a tiny, almost fish-like figure scuttle through my room wearing pewter stilts that resembled spoons. I did but wonder if I had died and gone to Hell. Even the name of this inn screams of my worst nightmares. Squids and teapots are unlikely bedfellows in the waking world.
But at least now I have breakfasted and feel in better spirits. I prepare to make my way back in daylight to see if anything may be done with my late lamented air balloon.

Wednesday April 16 from the chapel ruins.
Good fortune has smiled upon me. As I made my way along I chanced upon some men of God seeking a place to build an abbey. Although papists, they seemed cheered by my description of the ruined chapel. We ventured here together and praise be, they have helped me secure my escape from this accursed island.
By prudently caulking my basket with moss and mud, then lining it with the fabric of my balloon, part of which will furnish me with a fine sail, I am now ready to put to sea and feel confident that this very evening I will be dining with my parents in Portland. However, before I may leave I have two tasks to complete. Firstly, I will write a poem to commemorate my journey. This should be in some heroic meter. I recall my Finnish nanny, dear Kaija, used to chant to me snatches of the epic tale from her native land ,The Kalevala. I always loved its rhythm. My other task before setting off is to wrap this notebook securely in oilskin, to protect it from the ravages of saltwater.

 

An excerpt from
The Song of Ivor Watson

On the rugged shores of Hopeless,
By the angry, murky water,
Wet and shiv’ring in the darkness,
I stood waiting for the morning
Hoping I’d survive ‘til sun up.
Then before me, not too distant
On the headland stood a stranger
With a bucket strapped upon him.
Oh the air was foul and fetid
In those places where he wandered,
Wandered with his lidded bucket,
O’er the rocks so slick and jagged.
“Tell me stranger” I beseeched him,
Trying not to retch and splutter,
“Tell me where I might find shelter,
Safely from the ghosts and goblins,
Those who gibber, scream and cackle
In the darkness, where my nightmares
Tentacled and fanged and slimy
Haunt me when I do not slumber.”
“Get you to the The Squid and Teapot”
Answered then the pungent stranger,
“There the company is pleasant,
There you’ll drink strong ale and porter.
Maybe try the local moonshine.
Local moonshine, giggling water”

In the safety of my chamber
Food and shelter soon refreshed me,
Drove away those nightmare visions
Spawned from fear and desperation
In the ruins of the chapel.
Exorcised those frightful demons.
Those who slithered in the darkness,
Those who shunned the gentle sunlight.
Nurs’ry monsters of my childhood.
So unto my bed I wander’d
Seeking sweet repose and comfort.
Then my eyes beheld a figure
Swathed in moonlight, small, misshapen
Spoons for legs and eyes a-glowing
Dancing on my bedside table
Capering within the moonlight
Even here the hell-spawn lingered.
Even here my nightmares taunt me.
Was it too much giggling water?

(The rest was an inky blur and completely unreadable. This, dear reader, is no great loss to literature)

 

Illustration by Clifford Cumber