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The Resident Poet's Page

 

In 2014, the Dracula Society Committee created the honorary post of Society "Poet in Residence".

The first incumbent was Peter "Cardinal" Cox, who is based in the city of Peterborough, and who has now created many original poems for us, some of which were inspired by Society events.

Many of these works have been presented "live" by their author at Society meetings, and/or reproduced in our Society magazine Voices from the Vaults.

Many of those reproduced below are preceded by notes on their sources of inspiration, which include non-Society genre-related events attended by and/or contributed to by the author.

Please be aware that these works are the property of the author, and should not be reproduced elsewhere without permission.

 

The work of our second incumbent in the post, Tina Rath, will be featured here soon.

 

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Before Video

 

Was late Friday nights on BBC2

Some classic films shown in a double-bill

And both guaranteed to give you a chill

Too young to go out, what else could we do?

 

Moody black and white or garish colour

Sitting alone with the sound turned right down

And your mates did the same all over town

So you became a horror film lover

 

House of the Wolfman and The Creature’s Bride

The hunter was duped, a maiden was caught

In final reel the monster knows defeat

 

A Deadly Legacy of Mr. Hyde

Tension rises until you were so fraught

Next week, cast and viewer would again meet

 

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Countess Dolingen of Gratz

 

Her love, rode against Napoleon, died

A hussar resplendent in uniform

She waved him off and wore his cloak so warm

Was silent when news came to the young bride

 

Into forest she rides wearing red cape

At her bare trees stretch and low branches snatch

She becomes a thing only night would catch

It seems that her fate she will not escape

 

Tales of village where dead are unquiet

A great grey wolf prowls between twilight trees

So in that empty place she found her doom

 

Such stories could bring a town to riot

There are things that only the lone owl sees

But she’s restless within white marble tomb

 

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Lost Hearts

 

'Lost Hearts' by M. R. James, written 1892-93 and set in Aswarby Hall, close to Sleaford, is regarded by my local vampire group 'The Belfry' as their founding text and the elderly Abney as their originator. Also Robert Lloyd Parry, a great performer of James’ tales performed a couple of times in the local area during the period of my residency.

 

Spring equinox when evil has been willed

Even finest house can become a gaol

Walk amongst Aswarby trees you’ll be chilled

 

An ancient ritual to be fulfilled

Old master Abney knows he must not fail

Spring equinox when evil has been willed

 

Abney was a member of a damned guild

The Gnostic texts insist he must prevail

Walk amongst Aswarby trees you’ll be chilled

 

To honour the dark gods blood must be spilled

Recalls Little Hugh of Lincoln’s sad tale

Spring equinox when evil has been willed

 

At this sin the shadow spirits are thrilled

Seen at dusk, a ghostly hand, long of nail

Walk amongst Aswarby trees you’ll be chilled

 

For power must an innocent be killed?

About Abney’s thin grave there’s none who’ll wail

Spring equinox when evil has been willed

Walk amongst Aswarby trees you’ll be chilled

 

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Castle Ferenczy, East of Rakus

 

A poem written ahead of The Dracula Society’s trip to Romania, inspired by H. P. Lovecraft’s book 'The Case of Charles Dexter Ward', (which in turn inspired small parts of Brian Lumley’s 'Necroscope' series). This also links in to my Lovecraftian poetry pamphlet 'Codex Ghul'.

 

 

“…happy is the tomb where no wizard hath lain,

and happy the town at night whose wizards are all ashes.”

Ibn Schacabao, quoted by Abd-al-Hazra’d

 

“Do not call up any that you cannot put down”

From RNA salts and queer morphogenic field

Yog-Sothoth incantation produces strange yield

Locked shutters and doors you’ll find at night in that town

 

These images you do not want before your eye

From forbidden knowledge that is jealously kept

Come creatures who in graves have long centuries slept

’Tis written “In strange aeons even death may die”

 

Oldest New Englander remembers Salem’s trials

So know that which is trapped might unhappily sleep

Consult holy men for wisest of views

 

There are curious chemicals in ancient vials

But beware into innocent dreams foul things creep

Acid, not fire, a valiant scourge must use.

 

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Grendel

 

In the summer of 2014 I was part of a group of poets who wrote verse to accompany the photographic exhibition 'In Grendel’s Footsteps'. Our work was used on the website and extracts appeared in the accompanying book. When ITV announced a TV series to be produced from 'Beowulf' I wrote this poem to link to the roots of Gothic legend.

 

It comes

Foul fiend scuttles out of the fens

This dweller within damnations darkness

The raging oath-broken ogre

A haggard horror enters the mead hall

And soldiers are slain while they sleep

This

Fog cloaked

Scaled skinned

Sword shatterer

This

Dagger toothed

Shield splitter

Spear shrugger

This

Foetid breathed

Water wrestler

Shadow creeper

This

Pit liver

Out dweller

Thane eater

 

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Lake Geneva Shoreline

 

Storm clouds ruin crops. What war has

not destroyed weather will. Moon breaks

through clouds to illuminate dreams,

shadow trees are not what they seem.

Harvests fail and cattle fall ill.

 

Monk Lewis reads ghost tales to the

outcasts. Geraldine stalks spectres

of dead babies. Stories filled with

what-ifs and maybes. While life is

small death is vast

 

Skull-headed maid peeps through villa’s

locks. Greek corpses continue to

struggle against Turk. Reflected

doppelgängers in lake.

 

Foul portents, deadly shocks. Day is

wrapped in twilight’s murk. Destiny

has a strange road to take

 

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Hyde

 

Again inspired by an announcement that ITV were to make a TV series. This also links into my Lovecraftian pamphlet 'Codex Jermyn' (revolving around Homo Erectus survivals) and the steampunk pamphlet 'Steam Driven Oi' in which Hyde crosses paths with Dorian Gray.

 

Our pasts hidden as memories in an attic

I don’t refer to some youthful indiscretions

Or a pale lip-licking priest’s longed for confession

And our gross anatomy of flesh is plastic

 

Darwinian avatar, drawn from history

Brows heavy, nose short, also rough hair wraps strong limbs

Fine folks in suits or bustled skirt think my face grim

I am though proof of evolution’s mystery

 

Teeth large within my heavy jaw as the top male

I am as an animal free from false morals

Hansom horses shy, they know me as predator

 

That hypocrite refined doctor my proper gaol

In city I’m as shark swimming over coral

The only woman who would touch me is a whore

 

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Peter Cushing in Thorney

 

There is a local tradition that after the death of his beloved wife Helen in 1971, Peter Cushing came briefly to stay in Thorney with an old friend, the then vicar. As the most picturesque parts of Thorney is still the model village built by the Duke of Bedford in the middle of the nineteenth century, I’ve occasionally imagined it as a Hammer Film backdrop.

 

- I saw the greatest detective

Arriving from the city

- Hush now, he’s resting

After investigating a death

He could not solve

 

- I saw the monster hunter

Walking round the vicarage

- Hush now, he’s recovering

After facing a death

He could not defeat

 

- I saw the monster maker

Sitting in the church

- Hush now, he’s recuperating

After finding a death

He could not reverse

 

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"…and leave something of the happiness you bring!”

Louis Jourdan (1926 – 2015)

 

Hundred faces for millions of people –

Avoiding Nazis with sedition warm

beneath his coat – Falling in love with girl

he’s meant to seduce – A shadow descends

a cursed castle wall above Borgo Pass –

Sewing un-men together – Facing the

Queen’s assassin – The world shrinks – One place

blends into another – Peterborough

becomes East Germany – Sunshine bathed grave

 

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Carpathian Castle

(After Jules Verne)

 

A second poem ahead of the Dracula Society’s trip to Romania, and this ties into my steampunk pamphlet 'Le Monde Extraordinaire' (given away at Loncon III) that imagined Jules Verne not as a visionary novelist but rather as a hack journalist quickly producing books to cash in on the latest news.

 

They say the Devil lives in the tower

Voices of the famous dead can be heard

Singing just as shrill as the morning bird

The departed conjured by fell power

 

Lone lost traveller seeks shelter from snowstorm

Weak but beats against heavy black-oak door

Not knowing the valley villagers lore

Opens slow upon a shadowy form

 

Finds knowledge here not the work of a mage

Phonographs filled with aria phrases

Controlled by punch cards as a Jacquard loom

 

Magic lantern projects moving image

Science usurps necromantic basis

Technology has now conquered the tomb

 

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Clive Barker’s Dracula

 

 Actor Simon Bamford lived for a while in the Peterborough area (appearing in local pantos) and had roles in a number of Clive Barker’s films, starting with 'Hellraiser' in 1987.

 

1. Strident female voice proclaims

“A Return to Victorian Values…”

 

2. Anonymous port. J, Harker, clerk, scribbles arranging loans for council tenants to buy their riot-repaired hovels.

 

3. Armani Marxist, Red Mayor (played by Les Dennis) has witnessed miners' defeat, fears friends more than opponents.

 

4. An unspoken plague spreads between addicts, rent boys and whores and on through silent clients into tight polite suburbia.

 

5. Renfield, given a prescription bag, dropped into sheltered housing/halfway house. As redundancy notice handed to his care worker.

 

6. Rumours of wild dogs empty parks ahead of redevelopment. Travellers pull-up in by-pass lay-bys, soil-filled tea chests hidden in their buses.

 

7. USAF officer Quincey Morris supervises cruise missiles at RAF Croglin. Outside Lucy and Mina pitch bivouacs amongst peace-camp squatters.

 

8. Strident female voice proclaims

“A Return to Victorian Values…”

 

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Space Vampires

 

Maybe they’re from Drakulon; maybe they’re from Mars,

Maybe they’ve got spaceships like 1950s cars

All slick, soft-tops and chrome and stubby/pointy wings

Perhaps want our salt, life force or other precious things

All ancient predictions state they will be here soon

Descend to our world during eclipse of the moon

 

Space Vampires, Surf Vampires, Nazi experiment

It’s said from a distant black sun they have been sent

 

They hunt and they feast, start to take-on human form

Before too long, look like they were naturally born

Trapped into false bodies, their astro-powers wane

Mundane mortal needs fill-up their immortal brain

They have to take jobs, it is so sad to be seen

Midnight in office blocks, they’re now the ones who clean

 

Space Vampires, Surf Vampires, Nazi experiment

It’s said from a distant black sun they have been sent

 

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Bloodline – Generations of Erzsébet Bathory

 

Lilith begat Succubus

Succubus begat Geraldine

Geraldine begat Carmilla Karnstein

Carmilla begat the Brides of Dracula

 

A Bride of Dracula begat Dracula’s Daughter

Dracula’s Daughter begat Morticia Addams

Morticia begat Siouxsie Sioux

Siouxsie begat Patricia Morrison

Patricia begat Death of the Endless

 

A Bride of Dracula begat Vampira

Vampira begat Elvira

Elvira begat Lilith Silver

Lilith Silver begat Selene

 

A Bride of Dracula begat Vampirella

Vampirella begat Lady Death

 

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Working Class Dead 1

 

From 1992 through to 1994 Jason Parkinson’s MF Comics published 'Attom', a violent zombie adventure taking in alternate realities and political conspiracies, by Charles Farley and Kathleen Maddox. I would give them a table at the Fantasy Fairs (including next to Dave Sim and Gerhard when they came on tour) because I remembered what it was like to publish Dave and Eddie’s comic 'Psychoted'.

 

West African primate brain parasite

Experiment goes wrong, someone frees chimp

A bitten body twitching but lies limp

To know what’s next you don’t need second sight

 

Illness, fever, a terminal coma

Medical services are overwhelmed

Black ’copters from military base helmed

Then body-bagged corpse becomes a roamer

 

Life-prisoners riot, break down the walls

Army builds a high perimeter fence

The few who stay have to take up the gun

 

In empty streets the dead shuffle and crawl

A nation beyond the wall becomes tense

Graffiti sprayed says, “Welcome to ZED-One”.

 

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Last Punks in Town

 

In the middle of the first decade of the 21st century local band 'The Ruined' made a name for themselves on the horror-punk circuit and released a couple of CDs.

 

Last punks in town know what’s gone down

Shoot ’em in head without a frown

Squat top floors, zip-wire getaway

Hunting undead both night and day

Boots always on, gun by our side

Keeping tally matter of pride

City a playground, hunt from bus

While got ammo there’s not a fuss

 

TV made them zombie

Fast-food made them zombie

Papers made them zombie

Society made zombies

 

Fence round the Zone, we ride the range

People outside, they think we’re strange

Enclaves of rich upon the hill

For them sport whatever they kill

We barter for bullets and food

When once for the dole we’d have queued

Keep to your home turf, safest place

Hear the alarm, time to give chase

 

Boredom made them zombie

Boredom made them zombie

Boredom made them zombie

Boredom made them zombie

 

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(Working Class Dead III)

 

In 2007 local-born actress Claudia Katz had a small role (as a nun) in the direct-to-video 'Flight of the Living Dead' (aka 'Plane Dead').

 

Within the Zone, behind mine-field and wire

Airbase that once stood against foreign foes

Now stands against the undead hoard that grows

In the towers nervous guards, primed to fire

 

Snatch undead and conduct experiment

The heart might be still but the body moves

Scientist has a theory to prove

Hoping her tests will bring enlightenment

 

Accident and a medic is infected

Base receives the order to be locked-down

A quarantine for any with symptoms

 

But maybe this is something expected

In a week, month, how many will be found?

They must shut away guns, grenades and bombs

 

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(Working Class Dead IV)

 

I performed at a couple of burlesque nights in the Voodoo Lounge at Mama Liz’s in Stamford (years ago now) but the great decoration sticks in my memory.

 

John the Conqueror growing in a pot

Chilli on the hob, bubbling nice and hot

Cigar smouldering before Johnson’s photo’

Next to a picture of Marie Laveau

 

Dancing girls and one-time crowds have gone

If there’s a singer, they’d sing a sad song

Blues and Jazz on the now silent jukebox

Got a skeleton key to secret box

 

Through the old town the dead they are walking

Up in the bar it’s the spirits talking

Down in the cellar they talk to the souls

Searching for a way to perform zen boule

 

There’s still sticky ribs, gumbo with corn bread

There are always strange paths down which we’re led

Hands clap battérie maconnique tonight

In the dark we all stumble for the light

 

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Drawn of the Dead

 

The web-comic 'Immunis' started in summer 2013 and heavily featured local settings in its pages.

 

Hacked CCTV sends pictures to worldwide fans

Carrion birds perch on Ravensthorpe’s ruined roofs

Priests see evidence of infernal cloven hoof

Urban roads lined with rusted cars and rotting vans

 

From Gore Corner to town centre figures stumble

Feral former pets form small packs in Dogsthorpe streets

Just don’t enquire too much on what they might eat

Untended buildings burn and decay and crumble

 

Armed spy drones swoop low over Zone’s former fields

While hunters helicopter in to enclave’s pad

Becomes a bloody circus for the outside world

 

These farms forever destined for zero yields

Infamous in suits covered with corporate ads

A hell into such as which Lucifer was hurled

 

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(Working Class Dead VI)

 

I’m old enough to remember when 'Public Enemy' played in my city, and while I’m not into hip-hop I know some in the scene. When I wrote this in 2015 we were waiting for the release of 'Zombies in da Hood'.

 

We say that this is an African thing

About Zombies Fela Kuti did sing

We say that it’s a West Indian thing

Well ain’t that where everything all begin?

Maybe it takes a slave to dream this curse

To be dead and working, what could be worse?

Don’t the man say these are the baddest crew,

Can’t we see the evil that they do?

Feasting on flesh trying to fight them off

If you ain’t seen it don’t you ever scoff

And they’re all rotting and raggedy arse

From grave-busting start their chance is just sparse

Weight of numbers is what they’ve got, dammit

Sure who said “Fear of an Undead Planet”?

Till then I’m pumping iron, packing steel

If they get in my way they’ll learn what’s real

Notches on the handle of my warm gun

Aiming to be the city’s number one

Guarding our turf and protecting my ’hood

Don’t care if the man thinks I’m bad or good

One day coming though I’ll know that it’s my time

To turn on to its head what is all mine

So go and get myself the kiss of death

Then I’ll see what it’s like to have no breath

And go dead to head with the other gangs

Red, as they sometimes say, in claw and fang

Gonna be primo gangster number one

Gonna see if it’s a way to have fun

Toughest of the zombies, toughest in town

Punks and the toffs will learn what’s going down

The brothers will all know my rotting face

Better make sure that they give me some space

In the pack of cards I’d be the black ace

Until then my DJ go drop that bass

Taggers go out and mark my territory

And dance my crazy fam’ as you is free

 

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Rare 8vo Volume

 

Bound in hand-tooled human skin

Moth wing end papers

Sewn with hair from

An executed mass-murderer

Illustrated by Richard Dadd

Annotated by Arminius Vambéry

Some pages stained

A reddish residue

Slight foxing to the spine

Second printing…

 

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Dublin Dreams

 

In the late nineties I and a friend had a long weekend in Dublin and I visited many places associated with Bram Stoker, Sheridan le Fanu and other writers (plus starting at St. Michan’s Church). Poems I wrote over that period were published in a pamphlet from Possum Holler Tarot press in Orleans in America.

 

In my dreams, as in my waking hours, I

am a clerk scrivening in D. Castle,

scratch at the paper, lines of ink saying

nothing. Tinkers in their carts drive round the

courtyard, shrieking in their broad west-land cant.

Upon its hill sits the castle, buildings

clustering around the viceroy. And there

are three women in D. Castle’s shadow

calling to lounging off-duty soldiers.

In dream the three come at me, lips open,

tongues upon teeth broken, black, breath fetid.

They would devour the child before it’s born.

 

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Dracula’s Ring

 

Back in 1987 I met Forrest ('4E') J. Ackerman, who was wearing the infamous ring of Dracula, worn by John Carradine in 'House of Frankenstein' (1944) and 'House of Dracula' (1945), possibly by Lon Chaney Jr in 'Son of Dracula' (1943) and Bela Lugosi in 'Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein' (1948), plus a copy was made for Christopher Lee for him to wear in a couple of Hammer Draculas.

 

Glint of moonlight upon Dracula’s ring

Bearing a shield embellished with four crowns

Surmounted by a great bat on the wing

 

Emblem of the eternal undead king

On hand that ripped many a maidens’ gown

Glint of moonlight upon Dracula’s ring

 

Seals wax upon dread letters with this thing

Curse upon burghers of many a town

Surmounted by a great bat on the wing

 

Always scents of the grave about him cling

Lock doors; pull shutters to as sun goes down

Glint of moonlight upon Dracula’s ring

 

Tempts unlucky thief whose neck he will wring

In a crimson pool simple hopes will drown

Surmounted by a great bat on the wing

 

With a wave invites a damned choir to sing

To replace this would cause jewellers to frown

Glint of moonlight upon Dracula’s ring

Surmounted by a great bat on the wing

 

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Jilted Brides of Dracula

 

One of Peterborough’s local bands of the 1980s was 'The Jilted Brides' who released one 12-inch single, the cover of which was drawn by my friend Dave.

 

While they’ve been kissed they are each still a miss

Leather, latex and a mass of old lace

Hats of mixed styles with net over face

Their ears have all heard an old serpent hiss

 

Corset and long gloves over arms and hands

The nightclub lights flash into kohl-ringed eyes

Music too loud and brash to hear their sighs

Make-up smeared from sweating over strange bands

 

They’ve boots and buckles and bangles and belts

Many drinks have been spilled and looks have killed

Hearts turned cold by the departed’s last touch

 

With trims of antique fur, feather and felt

Each has memories of lover who thrilled

On to these memories they tightly clutch

 

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The Wages of Sin Pay the Bills of Mortality

 

During Easter 2015 I attended a steampunk event in Northampton (as usual I admired the Gothic Revival splendour of the guildhall). Afterwards I was looking something up and I came across the fact that the poet and hymn writer William Cowper (who lived briefly in Huntingdon) wrote verses to be added to the annual Bills of Mortality that recorded deaths in the parish of All Saints in Northampton during the 1780s and 90s.

 

Death by visitation of the wrath of God

Death by chocking on a bone from a cod

Death by falling from a ladder

Death by the poisonous kiss of an adder

Death by boiling in gin

Death resulting from an unspecified sin

Death by a highwayman’s bullet

Death by being pecked by twenty pullets

Death by leaf-fall at autumn time

Death by distraction by a street-corner mime

Death by a carriage racing to its doom

Death by tumbling into an unattended tomb

Death by a maiden’s enraged father

Death undetermined, or rather

Death by something we do not wish to talk about

Death by a well-delivered clout

Death by waiting in the wrong line

Death by suffocation in a deep mine

Death by arrangement of a fiendish plot

Death by accident caused by a careless tot

Death by a cat chasing a ball of wool

Death by not realising when one is full

Death by a falling book causing a nasty cut

[due to the sharp corner of a page

Death by old age

 

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Twins of Evil to be Remade with The Cheeky Girls

 

All the well-known critics and the fans are alarmed

(Eileen Daly as Carmilla resurrected)

They must be oblivious to the two Girls' charms

Director insists project to be respected

The money comes from a tie-in computer game

Cradle of Filth are to re-record the theme song

And it is art not schlock that is the production’s aim

The Witchfinder cult cannot see if they do wrong

Eastern Europe is chosen for location scenes

I’ve met the Girls, know how professional can be

But the vitriol from some is just downright mean

For too many it is a film they would not see

And the Facebook campaign reaches a mania

Forgetting sisters are from Transylvania

 

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Jehanette D’Arc – Slayer

 

My girlfriend is a fan of Buffy and I wondered about historical slayers, and Joan of Arc (1412–1431) seemed to fit. That she had her own Giles in Gilles de Rais (1404–1440) added to it. The fact that she was executed in the same year that Vlad Dracula was born just added to the mythic possibilities.

 

Voices of saints from ancient holy tree

Picking up the sword and pulling on plate

To war, unknowingly sealing her fate

And not for long would this maiden be free

 

Fairies, mandrakes, devils in her trial

English priests and French bishops sit in court

Examining closely what she’d been taught

Fire the answer to her denial

 

Her Watcher, Marshal Gilles de Rais, goes home

To alchemy’s secrets the Baron turns

Necromancy and perversion follow

 

Accused of consulting a hellish tome

Executed, his body never burns

Interred in church rather than some hollow

 

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Jean Rollin’s Dracula

 

 

1. In a Brittany harbour, the Demeter is half sunk, corpses in water. German troops direct reluctant salvage teams. Poster on a lamppost advertises hunt for Van Helsing.

 

2. Châteaux surrounded by a forest partially in flames. A black car arrives (Romanian fascist emblem on door) driver unseen. The Count gets out; regional commander explains that Allies had dropped incendiary bombs, “the barbarians”.

 

3. In woods Helsing, a Dutch resistance member on the run devours a half-cooked rabbit.

 

4. Dr. Jacques Seward escorts the Count around hospital where he conducts his experiments. Shows him Renfield, “unusual physiognomy”. The Count kills Seward, takes Renfield with him.

 

5. While the Count and regional commander discuss deployment of troops against Allies approaching from Normandy, the Count’s three women assistants (in Waffen-SS foreign unit uniform) drag a corporal into a library, devour him.

 

6. Lucy and Mina are brought to entertain the Count (“the hungry Hungarian” one German describes him). With Renfield watching, the Count ravishes Lucy.

 

7. Time bomb within Demeter’s hull explodes.

 

8. As the Count climbs into his car Helsing attempts to shoot him. Withdrawing Germans shoot him first though.

 

9. Lucy and Mina, tied together in a town street, have their heads shaved by locals earlier seen fraternising with Germans. As sun rises over church, Lucy bursts into flame. Locals scatter. Major Quincey Morris in his tank rolls into the town square, Mina struggling to escape from rope tying her to burning Lucy.

 

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The Picture of D

 

Plot and Aytown borrowed from Bram Stoker’s discard pile, Basil is from Wilde (who Stoker knew well) as 2015 was the 125th anniversary of 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'.  Have seen theatrical versions a couple of times, once memorably in Oundle when the dry ice (foggy London Town) set off the smoke detector alarms through the second-half.

 

Francis Aytown moved into the studio of his absent mentor Basil Hallward, missing then for three years. Francis was commissioned by an East European aristocrat to paint his portrait, preliminary work though proved difficult. His subject sat in a well-lit chair by the north-facing window and the young artist worked hard to capture his client’s nose, moustache, ears, mouth, fingers…

 

Pencil sketches when returned to revealed themselves to be of worms crawling through a skeleton. Crayons proved to be of a corpse hacked in battle. Charcoals looked to be the remains of a funeral pyre. In ink the subject became scribbled text about a wolf in a forest at night. Watercolours, when dry, were a formless mist with two red eyes at its heart.

 

Francis hunted through Basil’s notebooks, searching for clues towards composition. Returning to the studio he found the aristocrat had returned and was looking through the work.

 

“Ah, you have captured me perfectly…”

 

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Kiss of the Pale-Faced Lady

 

Alexandre Dumas' collection of 1849, 'Thousand and One Phantoms' includes a story about a femme-fatale vampire from the Carpathian Mountains. In my head this became entwined with what happened in Transylvania during the internationally revolutionary year of 1848, a time I focused on in one of my “history-punk” pamphlets.

 

She watches from between dark forest trees

Magyar rise against the Austrian crown

Romanians hate Germans in their towns

She can hear the liberated serfs’ pleas

 

Grim Székelys relive their own past

Burn villages, ride hard, slaughter the poor

Claiming they support Imperial law

Alone she welcomes those of every caste

 

She comes from the mountains for huddled sick

Her hand extends to the mass without food

So close she might inhale their foetid breath

 

She offers sweet sleep, those with wounds she’ll lick

Morning finds them alone, cooling and chewed

For hers is the freezing embrace of death

 

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Kept

 

F. Paul Wilson’s book 'The Keep' was a starting point for this one that became more Lovecraftian as I wrote it.

 

Amongst forested mountains

Where once ice-age lingered long

Weighed down by hewn masonry

A cairn upon a crypt

Wolf is not evil

Serpent is not evil

Tapeworm is not evil

Bacillus is not evil

Avalanche is not evil

Evil is wise, self-aware

Evil is choice, selection

Ahnenerbe would think this

Jotunn as gods would fight

For Hesiod, a beast of chaos

Hekatonkheires, a pre-Titan

For Ottomans, an effrit

Proud, strutting come this

Latest master race amongst many

All soft, malleable when it comes to dying

And this shadow beneath the moon

Is older than fascism

Older than scholomance

Older than Zalmoxis

Older than iron-working

This thing that hates straight lines

And those that carries or builds them

Ripples, flows through fissures

Searching for a way back

For there is that which we keep

Those that are kept

And those that are thrown away

 

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Devil Doctor’s Diagnosis and Prescription

 

I never really saw Fu Manchu as the villain of Sax Rohmer’s books, more the anti-hero. His methods might have been more ‘direct action’ than Gandhi but compared to Commander Perry sailing to Japan (1854) or Britain’s Opium Wars with China (to force that land in 1858 to accept the Opium we grew in India) they were perhaps understandable. The Si-Fan presumably had links to the White Lotus societies and the Boxers at home and the Triads abroad.

 

Our only wish is that we would be free

We’ve watched foreign powers divide our lands

We are now tired of the heavy hands

We would determine our own destiny

 

Palaces looted as India fell

Coolies shipped to America to slave

On railway tracks to lay and streets to pave

Opium turned my China to a hell

 

I have five thousand years to draw upon

Science doesn’t know of every toxin

My plots are many and my reach is far

 

Dream of the day when westerners are gone

I’ve thugee and dacoits, experts in sin

Beware the rising of my eastern star

 

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Dance of the Dead I

 

The Bogomils emerged as a sect in the tenth century and were largely confined to Bulgaria and the Serbian states to the south and west of Wallachia and Transylvania. They still existed in the era of both Vlad Dracul and his son Vlad Tepes.

 

The Beloved-of-God said the Devil made the world

And so those that rule the lands are the Devil’s men

And Satan’s high bishops wear gold and are be-pearled

 

They foresee the final times soon, not if, not when

Marriage and making children are the Devil’s laws

They witness the Devil’s works again and again

 

Wild-eyed priests tell them that they can go to whores

Their dead – like any other – dance upon a rope

The Devil’s finest works are his glorious wars

 

This slaughter encouraged by the Roman Pope

And equally by the Patriarch of the Greeks

For Jesus’ heaven alone they can but hope

 

In poverty – no Paradise – this world is bleak

For everywhere strong live upon the many weak

 

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Dance of the Dead II

 

Jan Hus (executed 1416) found fertile ground in Bohemia for his proto-Protestant creed of simplicity and the importance of the Bible. Jan Zizka, who led the Hussite forces in rebellion from 1419, had previously served with the Tutonic Knights against the Poles, with the Austrians against the Turks and for the English against the French at Agincourt. Despite losing his sight he continued to lead the Hussite forces through Hungary and Germany against Sigismund’s Order of the Dragon. When Zizka died he was succeeded by Andrew Prokop who led the forces as far as Dresden, Nuremberg (1430, where he had Hus’s 'Four Articles of Faith' read in the town square) and Leipzig. Prokop died in 1433, but by then Vlad II had been invested in the Order of the Dragon, adopting the name Dracul in recognition of this honour.

 

Jan Hus, born peasant, went to Prague College

The Church’s ways he began to question

In University learned much knowledge

On pardons – relics – he pondered upon

To wise John Wycliffe he did acknowledge

A dept, fled to avoid oblivion

Sigismund escorted Jan to trial

An honest man, offered no denial

 

Nobles saw way to be free of Church tax

For once poor heard Bible in their own tongue

Famous war hero led many attacks

While re-baptising of both old and young

Armoured knight on horse, peasant with pole-ax

All soldiers writhe when on the wheel are strung

Dragon Order persuades back to the faith

Christ’s promised peace is such a fleeting wraith

 

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Dance of the Dead III

 

In 1437, when the young Vlad was six, the peasants of Transylvania rose (much as the Jacquerie had in France in 1358 and Wat Tyler’s force had in England in 1381) in what is known as the Budai Nagy Antal revolt after the minor noble who led it. It started after King Sigismund temporarily devalued the economy and the Catholic Bishop of Transylvania waited three years to collect tithes. It ended to little advantage to their position.

 

Drought, harvest storms, bad weather births lean years

Boyars still take fields’ corn, gold from mine

Resistance punished with more than a fine

Rumours of revolt sound good to thin ears

 

Thick walls defend the well-fed Saxon towns

Abbey tithe barns emptied, then put to flames

Grim priests in silk give the devil the blame

Swimming caught rioters until they drown

 

From Hungary the king’s loyal troops come

Rebels soon learn to fear cavalry lance

Blood, as fertiliser, replenish land

 

Soldiers are eager to put down serf scum

Lynched bandits always recall a folk dance

The poor learn to kneel when others stand

 

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Pope Pius’ Pavane

 

Constantinople fell in 1453, the severed head of the last Emperor preserved and sent around Islamic courts as a sign of the Ottoman Sultan’s success. He followed this with a campaign through Serbia and Greece. The Pope called the congress of Western powers to launch a crusade that never came in 1459. While Matthias Corvinus of Hungary accepted the Church’s gold to raise an army, he instead spent it on trying to buy himself the crown of St. Stephen. Vlad Dracula (Tepes) alone rode to face the Turks in 1462.

 

We smile, we bow, we circle

Diplomats we go nowhere

Mehmed the Conqueror stands

Bloody within Europe’s gate

Gloating over the Balkans

We smile, we bow, we circle

Diplomats we go nowhere

Good Christian Europe has

Civil war in half its states

Other worries, other lands

We smile, we bow, we circle

Diplomats we go nowhere

Promises of clemency

For other sins, respite from

Purgatory, no longer enough

We smile, we bow, we circle

Diplomats we go nowhere

Italian mercenaries, as ever

Only interested in Church’s gold

Not high golden hereafter

We smile, we bow, we circle

Diplomats we go nowhere

Beyond – our enemy’s enemies

Would bring Islamic armies

If sure of Western forces

We smile, we bow, we circle

Diplomats we go nowhere

Ottoman music disturbs our dance

Loud and brash, trumpets blaring

Storm-tones of cymbals

 

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The Last Dance

 

The campaign started in summer 1475, Vlad Tepes at the head of an army given him by Matthias Corvinus marched into Bosnia.

The following spring the force was in Transylvania where Moldavians sent by his cousin Stefan joined them. From there they attacked Wallachia and captured Bucharest. Vlad was killed in December 1476, his head taken to Constantinople.

 

Freed from house-arrest, army under him

Bathory brings a Moldavian force

Mountains echo to the beat of warhorse

Captured Turks tortured and ripped limb from limb

 

These eastern lands know no respite from war

Cities fall, boyars pledge to stay loyal

Empty oaths, be they noble or royal

Battles continue, but allies withdraw

 

Final attack is an assassin’s cut

History rolls on, infamous voivod dead

Lance in the back on a bleak mountaintop

 

Head removed, then into a sack is shut

Corpse pale, robes sodden from where it has bled

On a high pole, eyes blind, loose jaw a-flap

 

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Thuthmoses III Needle

 

In Sax Rohmer’s 'Green Eyes of Bast' (which reminded me of both Algernon Blackwood’s 'Ancient Sorceries' and the film 'Cat People') the central character has an office off Fleet Street in Temple, close-by where the Dracula Society meet and within strolling distance of Cleopatra’s Needle.

 

Aswan red granite, cool

afternoon mason work.

Ancient pharaoh proclaimed

by sphinxes three thousand

years later beside Thames,

renamed Isis upstream.

Other treasures lie in

British Museum. This

though attracted Golden

Dawn – offering praise to

Horus on Horizon.

Hieroglyphs admired

by Abel Trelawny.

Journalist – in shadow –

Jack Addison takes break

from battling against Bast’s

chosen pure handmaiden.

This obelisk sews mem-

ory into future.

 

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An Extra Shadow

 

In May 2015 I performed at Wisbech’s Brinks Festival at which they also had a talk about Charles Dickens (Wisbech was used during the filming of a Dickens adaptation years ago) and I started to think about Dickensian ghost stories.

 

We count an extra shadow on drawing room floor

There seems to be no moral to this sorry tale

As you fall asleep there comes a knocking at the door

 

It causes the young chambermaid an extra chore

We thought our round uncle had imbibed too much ale

We count an extra shadow on drawing room floor

 

At meals the bright cook prepares enough for one more

Slime on scullery flags we blamed upon a snail

As you fall asleep there comes a knocking at the door

 

Creek upon the empty landing chills to the core

No known previous resident was sent to gaol

We count an extra shadow on drawing room floor

 

When the sweet vicar kindly called we heard he swore

What, we wonder, could have ripped the eternal veil

As you fall asleep there comes a knocking at the door

 

A nervous niece had vivid vision of gore

We await the inevitable midnight wail

We count an extra shadow on drawing room floor

As you fall asleep there comes a knocking at the door

 

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Dr. Phibes in New York

 

At the end of May 2015 I performed at STOAT, a steampunk event on the Nene Valley Railway. This poem is more dieselpunk though. I imagined Dr. Phibes in 1930 in the art deco splendour of the Chrysler Building like a Lovecraftian villain (thinking of the foreign correspondents from 'Cool Air') importing dinosaur eggs from The Lost World in South America (or possibly the Valley of the Gwangi) as a prequel to the bonkers film 'Q'.

 

He has an apartment in the Chrysler Tower

Oriental servant, beautiful assistant

Evidence of plots ever-so extravagant

Other curious accoutrements of power

 

Stout wooden cases shipped from far Maple-White Land

Stencilled with black ink, marked fragile, handle with care

Open them? Henchfolk and flunkies would never dare

All wonder though at what the doctor might have planned

 

Truth is, there are eggs (chirping, clicking) in the box

Leather-winged Pteradons that are waiting to hatch

When fully grown they’re to fly about Manhattan

 

Flying dinosaurs, the infernal paradox

At high skyscraper windows they’d be trained to scratch

Bringing terror, on Wall Street ’brokers they’d fatten

 

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Clues in an Unsolved Case

 

Sherlock Holmes is one of the other iconic characters of Victorian literature, his adventures being re-made, re-imagined and added to by many writers.

 

Wisps of her hair taken from her ivory brush

Ash from a briar pipe found in the bedroom grate

The cast of a boot print discovered beneath bush

Several fragments of string located on roof slates

One dark blue bottle recovered from the deep lake

Notches noticed on the shaft of a walking stick

Debris of a hastily eaten slice of cake

Indications of the poison that made her sick

Description of a man spotted once in the street

Items suggesting the drugging of the dog’s meat

Taken together to whom do all the clues point?

 

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Dracula’s Armadillos

 

This was written just before World Dracula Day, when I was interviewed for BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, an edited version of which was repeated on the syndicated national evening show (that also interviewed Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe). The day was tempered with the reports of the death of Tanith Lee.

 

Maxamillian invaded Mexico to the south

Augustus Morris searched for golden cities west of ranch

Amongst the natives’ high pueblos stalks an old hungry mouth

Texas law, far away, dry corpse swings from a dead tree’s branch

 

Apache hunting band read foreboding signs in the sand

In peyote rituals evil visions revealed

Ancient sin from the lower worlds has crawled into their land

Twilight colours soak into pebbles as blood congealed

 

Wings of midnight between the stars hungry for mortal blood

Pistol shots bring silence as echo across barren rocks

Sounds of a fight, two bodies clash, and then sound of a thud

Rescuing dawn, so far away, brings with it its own shocks

 

Out in the desert night ancient Camazotz incarnate

In the blackness coyotes fear another hunter

The day reveals evidence of a throat lacerate

As a memento, two armadillos taken home east

 

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Luis Bunuel’s Dracula

(Made after his work on Jean Epstein’s 'La Chutte de la Maison Usher', script co-written with Salvador Dali)

 

1. Jonathan arrives in Switzerland at the castle-like Bank of Dracula. In the reception area three women act as tellers. Dracula takes Jonathan to an office where he is to work on deeds. Exploring the bank Jonathan discovers Dracula sleeping in a coffin. Other coffins are filled with gold coins. The women-tellers attack Jonathan but Dracula saves him. Jonathan escapes…

 

2. During a storm a train arrives in Madrid containing the boxes of gold that are taken to the various properties Jonathan arranged for Dracula to buy.

 

3. A ball in Madrid, all the wealthiest people arrive. At the gate is Renfield, a mad beggar. If someone throws him a coin he swallows it. At the centre of the ball is Dracula offering loans to the wealthy.

 

4. Dracula enters a convent to offer a loan to the confessor. Here he meets Lucy, a young nun. Dracula shows her a diamond necklace and she gives herself to him.

 

5. Street-scene. Seward, a black North African, is trying to comfort mad Renfield. He finds Jonathan and starts to recognise other beggars as the previously wealthy from the ball.

 

6. Seward and Jonathan call together a team to fight Dracula. They are the Jew Van Helsing; Quincus, a Mexican; and Mina, Jonathan’s fiancée – a telephone operator.

 

7. Dracula has left Madrid to head back to Switzerland. The five follow him. Dracula kills Quincus but Mina stabs Dracula. As he falls to the floor coins rather than blood falls out of his wound.

 

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Crime Report

 

I went to the Forensics exhibition at the Wellcome Collection and this started me wondering about how they might detect a vampire murderer in the twenty-first century.

 

She’s caught the eye of the guy who doesn’t

Show in the mirror behind the bar

And now she’s starting to wonder why

She offered this week to drive her car.

Party night for the girls, all looking good

 

They made-up their minds, then touched up

Their faces. Dressed as sharp as they could

Because tonight they wanted to go places.

Picked out her smart black-leather skirt

 

And plain silk top, the wine helps her

Slough off the week’s dirt. Tomorrow

They’ll report her missing to the cops.

As they dance, she doesn’t know, she

Offers her throat to the night.

 

He moves with a wild animal grace.

Closing time, she’s not there, search

As her friends might. Next

Week, reviewing CCTV, they’ll see

She was alone as she left that place

 

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The Old Devil Inn, Fleet Street

 

The Old Devil Inn closed in 1788, the site then being occupied by Tellson’s Bank.

 

Ben Johnson sat in Apollo’s blessed dance room

At inn where St. Dunstan held devil by the nose

All the bucks of the city in doublet and hose

While contemplating on Will Shakespeare in his tomb

 

Close where Templars once had priory of their own

Years gone since were accused of blasphemies and sin

And such sorceries worthy of ancient Merlin

’Tis said that initiates were a devil shown

 

Rules penned covered food and drink, men and women both

Silence to secrets, that gold should be in a purse

Keep no malice, and contests not of fists but words

 

This very printers’ devil of wayzgoose oath

Here once royal Laureates rehearsed their court verse

Such was the music and song of the city birds

 

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Poe’s Mummy, from Roger Corman

 

In the casting of this imaginary late 60s AIP movie (tackling themes of race and drugs in the horror medium) I’ve visualised Nichelle Nichols as the lost paramour. Tanith Lee of course wrote some fine books featuring her own Scarabae.

 

Vincent Price brought out of a desert tomb

Revived and painted bandages removed

A symbol threatening antebellum doom

So heretical theory is proved

 

Scarab beetles roll dung across hot sands

Eggs lain inside, from this the young hatch out

Thus alchemists made homunculi and

So too did very first Scarabaei sprout

 

In silks he searches for his love’s remains

Museums are checked all the globe across

Archaeologist fears he’ll go insane

The ancient one so distraught at his loss

 

Maintains lives with stolen vitality

Pair vanish back into eternity

 

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Girl by the Graveyard Gates

 

Don’t look at her; she catches in corner of eye

Fathers knew her, their fathers and their fathers too

Long grass and headstones but not shortcut to go through

Fades from rough sunlight and police as though she might die

 

Shadow of the street lamp gives her a bluish air

If you think she’s bruised know she defends herself well

Her nights drag on to centuries in private hell

Think it an addiction she affects? Have a care

 

Late chemists buying make-up on quiet wet nights

Cold, cold kisses and her fingers are all but bone

She comes close, steels your breath, you pay and then forget

 

Winter, it’s her, snow carrying, not wind that bites

Loiters under the same gnarled yew tree all alone

Only wives and lovers can guess that you have met

 

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Woman of the Wonderful West

 

I was disappointed that DC Comics in its 'Convergence' series of comics didn’t revisit the 'Gotham by Gaslight' Elseworlds. As a writer though, I thought I’d write my own with a version of Wonder Woman at the end of the nineteenth century.

 

Gotham ’91, sideshow attraction

She came from Manoa on Lake Parime

Just one booth at the World’s Fair and here all

America came to have a good time

Her beloved though dies late one grim night

Corpse is terrible, looked a vicious fight

Now she’s armed with her poisons and blow darts

To jungle tribal gods revenge she swears

Disappears into the dark city, where

Fate will take her she little knows or cares

She follows tracks and recognises signs

Knows not to expect help in solving crime

Out west on prairie she meets a cowboy

Who teaches her many skills with the rope

But something that is much more important

He offers the slightest glimmer of hope

Night, dreams of a mighty statue she saw

Woman who promised liberty not war

New Orleans bordello, found quarry,

Dressed in bloomers, corset of stripes and star

The battle is harsh, long fought and bloody

But she alone alive leaves the low bar.

 

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Temple Bar

 

A second poem inspired by the part of London close by to where The Dracula Society meet, after I saw the great dragon standing in the middle of the road.

 

Where once infamous traitors’ heads stared blindly down

Rebuilt by Wren after the city’s great fire

Piled wagons though might wish arches were higher

Ancient gate between Westminster and London town

 

Great wooden doors hung molding on iron hinges

In room over, Tellson’s bank held aging files

Accounting for gold and money kept in piles

So it always sat upon the city’s fringes

 

Good aldermen decided it should be removed

The bank wrote to its many foreign investors

Explaining institutions reduction of space

 

And so the burghers thought Fleet Street could be improved

Certain Balkan noble became the suggester

Statue of mighty dragon could the Bar replace

 

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Christabel’s End

 

June in Peterborough sees the annual Heritage Festival, with talks by historians and shows by re-enactors from many different eras. (The stars of 2015 were the fifteenth century jousters in the Cathedral grounds). For this poem I was thinking more of an imaginary fourteenth century origin of Christabel rather than Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s original.

 

Armed, Christabel pulled on a mail suit

With battleaxe she split her father’s spine

She’d entered the tower by secret route

So perished old crusader Leoline

Whose body was buried near sacred shrine

She did her crime before sun rose in sky

To destroy evil, innocence must die

 

Much later they took quiet maid to court

The elf had bound the serpent with tight vine

Patricide is treason, murderer caught

She chopped off the head of foul Geraldine

Lady no longer seen as being fine

About the girl’s scattered parts swarm the fly

To destroy evil, innocence must die

 

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Max Windshoeffel’s Research

 

A second piece inspired by a character in Bram Stoker’s discard pile. I also thought it might be fun to build upon the 'Dance of the Dead' poems to give a framework for folks going to Renaissance Fairs in America to play the Count.

 

There are records of a shadowy character, claiming descent from a certain Voivode of Wallachia by a Szekely mistress, first on the peripheries of the court of the Borgias. Here this dubious noble tried to raise the possibility of a crusade against the Ottomans. He was rumoured to have returned to Hungary on the outbreak of the Peasant War of 1514.

 

He disappeared from history until someone of his description appeared in Moscow as a malign influence on the young Grand Duke Ivan. When, in 1564 Ivan consolidated his power, the Balkan gained more influence. Some are recorded as having remarked that this foreigner was seemingly indistinguishable from his supposed ancestor.

 

When the throne of Poland became vacant in 1576 and Stephen Bathory was elected the new king, one of his last acts as being only the Prince of Transylvania was to call the mysterious character from the court of the Russian Tsar, made him a Count and granted him a castle beyond the Borgo Pass, to be a thorn in the side of the Ottomans who nominally held power over the remote land. The charter was curiously written, it noted the friendship between the Prince’s ancestor (who a century earlier had led Moldavian forces in support of the certain Voivode’s last campaign) and the son of Vlad Dracul. In recognition of this he gave the castle to his new Count for as long as he might hold it. However, should he be parted from the castle for a year and a day, then he would have relinquished all legal claims to the estate.

 

He vanished again through the reigns of subsequent princes of Transylvania until after the reign of mad Gabor Bathory (who was assassinated in 1613) when he was implicated in the several witchcraft trials of Gabor’s sister Anna, between 1615 and 1640.

 

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Glam’s Saga

 

'Dracula' contains a wonderfully garbled speech by Van Helsing where he muses on the Icelandic ancestry of the Count. In fact that country had the first official foreign language edition, which contains a translation of Stoker’s introduction used nowhere else. In some of the ancient Icelandic sagas the dead do return to haunt the living, as in Grettir’s Saga, so perhaps part of his ancestry does lie on that northern isle.

 

Dead Glam is restless, his grave goes unfilled

His body was bloated, flesh turned quite blue

It would not go to church, no cart might carry it

Still it stumbles along familiar streets

People faint who meet the foul fellow

The sight of him steals men’s sanity

He sits upon the ridge of rough turf roves

Stamping square and scaring farmers

Many desert the district for fear of the dead

Ox-broad outlaw

Shuffling stinker

Cursed cattle thief

Hated haunter

Loathsome leach

Storm centre

Winter’s warrior

Barn blighter

Smokehouse smasher

Hel’s exile

 

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At the Whitechapel Anarchist Club

 

In the past I’ve written a handful of poetry pamphlets inspired by the Historical Re-enactment Wing of the Invincible Army, subjects related to the nineteenth century include the revolutions of 1848 and the Paris Commune of 1871.

 

We’ve just the best bomb makers, trained by Special Branch

Bravest Nihilists who are all in the Czar’s pay

Atrocities planned, make the respectable blanch

And a foreign spy in a terrible toupee

The French Embassy kindly pays for our fine wine

We’ve a couple of Marxists over by the bar

Over there, secret police direct from the Rhine

The inspector’s the one with the long duelling scar

It’s just a jolly night at the Anarchist Club

Those rough working types are all the first sons of Lords

This is such a prime revolutionary hub

The burly man on the door is really called Claude

When someone finally writes a rebel song to sing

Then the workers insurrection might well begin

 

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Trajan in Dacia

 

I’ve written elsewhere about the Plutocracy, spirits that followed Aeneas out of Hades into Italy, fortified by Romulus and Remus the werewolves. In the British Museum they have a copy of Trajan’s Column, I can only imagine how they might have made a cast of the original monument in Rome.

 

Legionnaires tramp north on weary feet, promises

Of gold to follow sharp steel. Poor Thracian witches

Avert their eyes; auguries foretell blood, dogs of

Their dark crossroad goddess howl. They march, not for where

They were born but that they might die in Empire

Underworld gods play with dice, carved from dead-men’s’ teeth

 

Dacians have their own dark prophet, died but returned,

Mystery cult so familiar. Warriors

Wrap themselves in wolf skins, beasts they themselves have slain

Fur soft, hide warm when snow comes from high mountains. Their

God demands sacrifices strung on spears, screaming.

Blood seeps through night-black soil, becomes gold in rocks.

 

Unlike other cults (Orpheus, Isis, Jesus,

Mithras) it does not spread, The Mountains hem it in.

Romans bring language, slavery, build cities with

Stadia in which gladiators fight to live,

Beneath which dark spirits slate thirst on spilt blood. From

East ride fresh tribes, their own desires for blood, gold.

 

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The Templar’s Tale

 

During the Peterborough Heritage Festival I took part in a poetry performance related to Magna Carta. Parts of the inspiration for this verse came from the medieval English tales recorded by Walter Map and William of Newburgh. Around Peterborough there were a few parishes owned by the Order of the Knights Templar.

 

From London’s New Temple by the Thames a Knight rode

Towards a distant village from which tithes were owed

Word had come to the Prior that the Reeve had died

But into his churchyard grave he would not be tied

He walked at night, scared villagers and plague came too

And so the Knight was called to do what he must do

A Knight, pledged before God to all pilgrims protect,

With instructions as to how this evil detect.

Arrives and he goes into the chapel to pray

Is still there as faint sun goes down at end of day

A shout goes up; the walking dead Reeve has been seen

But the Knight goes to the grave where corpse should have been

In the vacant hole he prepares a silver trap

And as the fresh sun starts to rise he hears it snap

With winch he raises the silver box from the hole

From in the chest they hear moans from thing with no soul

States decapitation for those who from plague died

And so away the Knight and frightful load did ride

With his accursed captive back to holy lords

Who preach humility and peace while armed with swords.

What happened to the undead Reeve? We do not know

But holy law said that Templars to hell must go.

 

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 On the Death of Lord Summerisle

 

The Home Office announced in June the death in prison of Lord Summerisle. He had been in custody since the early 1970s for his part in the ritual death of a Scottish police sergeant. The military had only left the island that he owned after the signing of the All Hallows Eve Agreement of a few years ago.

 

Winter is a-coming in

Loudly call the crow

Iron ground, wind around

Call the Crow!

Bullock feel the knife

Life given to feed life

Bleakly call the crow

The crow, the crow

Loud singest blackest crow

He call for evermore

Hills echo with the caw

Call crow now, call the crow!

 

(Pes:  Call the crow, call crow now!)

 

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Reports of the Death of Fu Manchu

 

Correspondents and journalists in the Far East started to relay rumours back west to their editors.

 

Reports of the death of Fu Manchu

Where they originated we have no clue

Scotland Yard doesn’t know what to do

Reports of the death of Fu Manchu

Politicians cannot verify they are true

Facts are far between and few

Reports of the death of Fu Manchu

Are, in deed, nothing new

Was it a poisonous plant unknown to Kew?

Reports of the death of Fu Manchu

Leaves the underworld a terrible stew

He was a mastermind who took the long view

Reports of the death of Fu Manchu

So it is that the black legends grew

One wonders about his private zoo

Reports of the death of Fu Manchu

…are probably exaggerated

 

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Mid-Summer Morning

 

The Silver Birch Grove of Stamford in Lincolnshire reveres the memories of William Stukeley (1687–1765) and Lady Charlotte Guest (1812–1895) – whose translation of 'The Mabinogion' into English inspired my collection 'A Sack of Midnight' (2010), as well as that of Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809–1892).

 

Dewed grass, gentlemen druids gather in pre-light

Beards clipped neat, pre-Raphaelite inspired robes

With ancient knowledge drawn from all around the globe

They are the celebrants challenging the short night

 

Equal women members in fine embroidered gowns

Within the ancient stones they salute four points

Royal Archdruid with honey each one anoints

Single symbolic stone set in filigree crowns

 

Hark bright birdsong, blesséd chalice is held aloft

Recite words adapted from those of Tennyson

Safely summer has been praised for another year

 

Sun breaks free of the horizon and hats are doffed

All wish welcome to aetherical denizen

Ceremony done, tavern for breakfast and beer

 

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Carfax House

 

During a trip to Hornchurch and Romford (a friend's birthday) I took the opportunity to visit Purfleet and stand outside the ancient baronial-esque residence whose history stretched back to the fourteenth century and the Peasants' Revolt. I peered through the gaps in the high iron gates and wondered what was in the cellar still…

 

North of the Thames as it becomes sea

Purfleet ancient watchtower against coast raiders

Cyclopedian stones used in house’s construction

This Essex estate left lengthily empty

History of hauntings in this unhappy place

Anti-aircraft batteries in both wars

Engaged in battling for the wild blue

Bought by the Order of the Gorgon

Initiations, instructions

Rituals raising ragged elementals

No saucers for these sorcerers

Instead alien contact via Ouija

Manifestations during magical acts

 

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Egaeus after Waterloo

 

The friend in Hornchurch whose birthday I attended (Dr. Hill) is a Napoleonic War enthusiast and he confirmed the veracity of the tale of ‘Waterloo dentures’ that I have here combined with a Poe character’s obsession.

 

Our small unhappy band stalk the battlefield

Bottle of hard spirits to fortify our soul

Hope only for the gold our harvest will yield

We must find each body ’fore thrown into a hole

We will not search pockets or steal precious rings

We’ve hammers, chisels and pliers with which to prise

Our small quarry is for other curious things

Like the ivory hunters we have a white prize

In London town the rich and vain await our wares

Men and women both desire that which we find

Where we get our bounty from they have little care

Where the sparklers come from they do not really mind

Our shady work here is no real mystery

We collect teeth to be reused in dentistry

 

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Sir Robert’s Tomb, St. Mary’s Stamford

 

After I performed at the Stamford Arts Festival I took the time to pop into the magnificent Church of Saint Mary’s (which gets a mention in Michael Cox’s novel 'The Meaning of Night') and which reminded me of the William Morris poem set in the town, 'Welland River'.

 

Here lies noble Sir Robert of this town

He was brave and the Easterlings did fight

Here too we did then fair Ellayne lie down.

He was known as a good Christian knight

She did wait while he fought in foreign wars

And won back his heart when he did return,

For but few short days widows gown she wore.

Of her wrath another maid did once learn

Across the river does her rival lie

For spurned she did quickly sicken and fade

Robert did not notice when she did die

Buried without memorial that maid.

All three mortals now are in the cold earth

Think on this fate for all who suffer birth.

 

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Highwayman on the Heath

 

For the festival I was teamed up with a band from Oakham called 'Blue Skin Blake'. They are named after an infamous highwayman, infamous for testifying against other highwaymen and so escaping from punishment at their expense.

 

There’s a highwayman on the heath

Waits ready on his horse

Pistol and rapier in hand

There’ll be a use of force

 

There’s a highwayman on the heath

Hiding from hired guards

Wishing he was in a tavern

Drinking ale, playing cards

 

There’s a highwayman on the heath

Dreaming of his mistress

Safe at home with her own husband

While he is in distress

 

There’s a highwayman on the heath

Who in the gibbet swings

He was caught with gold and jewels

And someone else’s rings

 

There’s a highwayman on the heath

The moon shines straight through him

He’s been there near three hundred years

Seen, you whisper a hymn

 

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Rock Show: Radio Midnight

 

Our set (played with variations four times) had me reading some of my poetry inspired by rock music and the band playing songs and us bouncing off each other. A good day.

 

Well it’s always midnight somewhere on Earth

News, weather and travel on the hour

Our transmitter has surprising power

And we play music from before your birth

 

We might do requests if you just write in

Our ancient DJs have no need to rest

Coffee and something keeps them at their best

Say hello to those in gaol for their sin

 

All sorts of good metal; death, trash and black

Soundscapes, instrumentals to help you sleep

We’ll dig out Screamin’ Jay for R ’n’ B

 

There’s always one classical music track

Each one of our listeners we hope to keep

Each tune is an emotive threnody

 

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Searching for Alice

 

To mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of 'Alice in Wonderland' Peterborough Museum held a nice little exhibition of prints from the original woodblocks of Tenniel’s illustrations and other associated material. Curiously (or, perhaps, curiouser and curiouser) nothing about the local connection of Henry Kingsley (born at Barnack and younger brother of Charles Kingsley) and his part in the publication of the book.

 

In basement flats and attics low

Pepper guards’ jackets, Beardsley prints

Entranced by the TV’s grey glow

In basement flats and attics low

Maddened by internal tableau

Ancient pictures with vivid tints

In basement flats and attics low

Pepper guards’ jackets, Beardsley prints

 

Students want Alice of their own

Muse to lead them to worlds anew

Perhaps search for something unkown

Students want Alice of their own

Before long sanity has flown

But they attract no ingénue

Students want Alice of their own

Muse to lead them to worlds anew

 

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Goths Die In Hot Cars

 

Come each summer and a horror sweeps the nation

For while other folks are dreaming of vacation

Too many young Goths die in overheating cars

When should be taken into air-conditioned bars

It’s not enough to open the windows a crack

While their plumage as ever remains deepest black

A bowl of cider and black will never suffice

They need a climate made up of chills and dry ice.

Yes, mistreatment of our black clad friends is a sin

Taken out in cars, they may expire within.

So to all Goths I say some attention please pay

To your sundry clothing on any sunny day

Metal piercings may become overheated

In leather you may look as though you have wilted,

Please replace the PVC with airy fishnet

And any make-up may well run with streams of sweat.

Remember our pale skinned kin fear summer heat

Don’t leave them in motors on which the sun might beat

 

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Mrs. Salmon’s Waxworks

 

Mrs. Salmon opened her shop around 1787, outside of which, on alternate days, would stand the effigy of either an old match-seller or a proud Beefeater. Admission to the waxworks was 6d, a treat for small children of the city.

 

Above the toyshop of puppet and bat

First and second floors of persons well known

Mrs. Salmon’s slight skills were plainly shown

But, they whispered, there was more beyond that

 

You paid the scowling staff a shilling more

Towards the attic you climbed steep-set stairs

Heart beating hard for what might be in there

And so you reached the poor uppermost floor

 

Here then a tableau of local terror

Barber with silver razor dripping blood

And his mistress preparing strange meat pies

 

Oh no, oh no, there could be no error

In this the ancient city of King Lud

Sweeney Todd’s sins set out before your eyes

 

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Dark Empire

 

Personality downloads

Immortality within computer tombs

Mausoleums needed to be built

Somewhere superconductor cool

Buried on Pluto

Death was now a migration

Communication ouija-wise by letters

Some affinity groups – cults – whatever

Wanted afterlife apart

Barques built, filled slowly

Launched into the infinite

Slow cruises to neighbouring stars

Virtual reality generation ships

Hundred thousand years nothing

For lightware undead

Cultural seeding of exoworlds

Overseeing terraforming

Awaiting colonists

Waiting

Waiting

 

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Graf Orlok’s Skull

 

News announces curious crime so grim

Wisborg still remembers the plague he brought

Orlok’s skull stolen from beneath tomb’s rim

 

Did not touch whatever remained of ancient limbs

Those few who opposed him had their plans fraught

News announces curious crime so grim

 

The chances of finding the thieves are slim

Much evil by nosferatu was wrought

Orlok’s skull stolen from beneath tomb’s rim

 

Can guess at those who might want this of him

Unstoppable until by dawn’s light caught

News announces curious crime so grim

 

Imagine celebrants chanting dark hymn

There are those who in fell knowledge are taught

Orlok’s skull stolen from beneath tomb’s rim

 

For some the Graf was fallen seraphim

Relic by occultists might have been sought

News announces curious crime so grim

Orlok’s skull stolen from beneath tomb’s rim

 

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The Scarecrow Rides

 

In July 2015 the Dracula Society visited Whitstable in Kent, associated with Peter Cushing, and my thoughts turned to the tales of Doctor Syn, adventures that both my father and I enjoyed in our respective youth.

 

Over the marshes there is a new moon

Burly smugglers gather – all are in masks

Close to midnight – boat will be here soon

The leaders name? No one ever dares ask

A great black wild stallion is his mount

Had he been a pirate on Spanish Maine?

He brings those who betray him to account

Each Sunday the Vicar curses his name

 

The Scarecrow

(Musket flash)

The Scarecrow

(Steel sword clash)

The Scarecrow

(Sea waves roar)

Scarecrow Rides

(Dymchurch lore)

 

Armed customsmen and militia fill town

Brandy and baccy tomorrow in Kent

Sexton with his spade – Vicar in his gown

Some poor families can now pay their rent

Contraband goes to London along lanes

Tonight gentlemen will toast to the Scarecrow

In the wind swings the golden weather vane

Tonight some poor fellow to Hell will go

 

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Bruxa

 

The same weekend as the Society's trip to Kent the annual Portuguese festival was held in my home city, a community that embraces Brazilians, Angolans and those from a few other ex-colonies.

 

Midnight – full moon – she shakes off her skin and grows wings

Ancient Rome called her Strix – here Bruxa is her name

She can fly as long as a candle holds a flame

Sucks babies blood – commits other unhallowed sins

 

They are birds of some war goddess – long forgotten

African witches know spell of going at night

She’s strong in the darkness but weak in the day’s light

Foolish Sunday priests name them Satan-begotten

 

At open nursery window curtains billow

Retreat from garlic sewn into child’s clothes at cuffs

Atlantic winds might blow sisters to distant lands

 

Search for those without scissors under their pillow

And wise parents recite holy prayers enough

The flock roosts in gallows tree – daughters of the damned

 

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Corpse Flower Blooms in Cambridge

 

After sunset greenhouse is open still

About their mouth and nose some hold a rag

Rarest bloom that makes visitors feel ill

For the scent is one to make strong folks gag

 

About their mouth and nose some hold a rag

Flies swarm, attracted by the putrid smell

For the scent is one to make strong folks gag

A tale jungle explorer would tell

 

Flies swarm, attracted by the putrid smell

Pollen rich, they try to find second plant

A tale jungle explorer would tell

But for a decade, locally they shan’t

 

Pollen rich, they try to find second plant

In botanical garden on the hill

But for a decade, locally they shan’t

After sunset greenhouse is open still

 

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Stuffed Yeti to be Auctioned in Yeovil

 

The Lambton Club of St. James in London was founded in the mid-eighteenth century (for those who hunted monsters) by one of the family from Durham who still would not die in their bed due to a bargain made with a witch so that the young John Lambton, Knight of Rhodes, did not have to kill his own father.

 

For sale, for those who might bid the most

Familiar to a great bon wizard

Used to more than occasional blizzard

Suitable for a home lacking a ghost

 

The pelt could probably do with a brush

Hunted by member of the Lambton Club

We hope the flesh didn’t become just grub

Please do not purchase it all in a rush

 

Lived in a high land of yogi and yak

Denizen of the rhododendron wood

Eyes, they say, follow one around the room

 

Perhaps in a fine yacht it was brought back

Once a shy creature who so proudly stood

Now though deserving of an ornate tomb

 

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White Chapel Perilous

 

'Ripper Street' returned to BBC1, about the time we were being reminded that Stoker had mentioned the influence of the Jack the Ripper crimes had had on the writing of 'Dracula' in his introduction to the Icelandic edition. My great-grandfather had served in H Division of the Metropolitan Police, family legend putting him on the infamous case and so helping to start my interest in both Victoriana and the macabre. My friend Dr. Hill is a member of the Whitechapel Society and he suggested parts of this.

 

East of the city, hovels hudd-

le north of the river

Stories of crime and squalor make

nice folks up west shiver

Romans feared war-like Celts who

came from Essex this way

Great ships from around the world al-

ways docked at every quay

Here the capitals last wolf died,

slain by silver arrow

Before they built the crowded terr-

aced roads so mean, narrow

Bell foundry, noise through the day,

belches smoke and foul smells

Tailors shops on every street make

suits for workers and swells

Nights lengthen, in pubs sailors mix

with migrants from the east

Jews cluster with Irish, finding

little when hoped for feast

Blood on the cobbles and vigil-

ance committees are formed

Up west, through autumn, on wet nights

the fat bodies are warmed

 

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Thunderbolt Idol

From the notes of Sir James Frazer

 

At the very beginning of August 2015 a steampunk event was held in Cambridge that I couldn’t attend for various reasons. The Cambridge “branch” of the Silver Birch Grove (who met in The Druid pub, enacted solstice and equinox rituals upon the Gog Magog hills and for many years offered a dawn blessing upon the summer Strawberry Fair) drew inspiration from Frazer’s 'The Golden Bough'. Published between 1890 and 1922 this compendium of folklore from around the globe also influenced practises on Summerisle, west of Scotland.

 

Furthest north, ’midst savage Inuit tribe

Something embedded in solid ice block

Giant figure that none of them dare mock

Hellish thing offered sacrificial bribe

 

Glows blue as on comes electrical storm

Magnetic pole draws lightning bolts to it

Is it demon outcast by holy writ?

Here where only the blood of bear is warm

 

Where this thing came from they have no folk tale

Grim scarred idol with such a mighty face

Sometimes bright sparks arc within the cold ice

 

They say it guides them in the hunt for whales

How could such a thing come to this bleak place?

For the tribe this holy thing has no price

 

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For Sale: Fresh Development in Maine

 

August 2015 was the 125th anniversary of the birth of H. P. Lovecraft and I thought I’d write poems inspired by writers inspired by him or that might have inspired him. Stephen King has acknowledged the debt he owes to many authors, not least the gentleman from Providence.

 

Jerusalem’s Lot welcomes prospective buyers

Let our charming northeastern town welcome you in

Let our friendly neighbourhoods get under your skin

About us ancient wooded mountains climb higher

 

Fresh estate development is just completed

Each new home comes with a lined basement as standard

(We’ve taken measures against those who have slandered

us). If you don’t come you will always feel cheated

 

Schools for every grade of the highest calibre

We have our own answer to youth delinquency

Make a family from any husband and wife

 

Please ignore tales of things in the hills that gibber

New fire station for any emergency

And lastly, become part of a thriving nightlife

 

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Layers of the White Worm

 

My eldest brother, who lives in Derbyshire, assures me that Castra Regis became a housing estate in the property boom of the 1980s. The occasional subsidence is blamed on coal or Blue John workings, though no one remembers either ever having been mined for in that area…

 

Once was Norman myth of dragon and knight

Beneath these peaks men have mined for ages

Descending into dark in lift cages

Chronicles record an unholy fight

 

Strange magnetism, fluid of aether

She, the jewelled serpent, tempts amidst the trees

Her offers of knowledge are just to tease

Priestess, monster, or possibly neither

 

They unknown squirm and dig deep in the ground

Lost cave beneath bush in which horrors wait

Grove ablaze, hole at the heart of fire

 

Explosions vibrate as through air flows sound

She is the prize and she is the bait

Bright blaze becomes a funeral pyre

 

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From the Abyss

 

This relates as much to the body of work I’ve written for the H. G. Wells Society as for H. P. Lovecraft.

 

A bathysphere can become a

Balloon to creatures of

Unutterable depths. That which

Falls into the abyss

Dark can rise again. Caught in the

Updraft of deep vents, plume

Sulphur about steel ball

Held in their safe pressure

They climb to levels where fishes

Thrive. Finally they find

Heights where light penetrates. Future

Voyages require

Dark goggles. They prepare, they wait.

 

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Vaccine

 

Something about the Ebola plague reminded me of a sequence in Jack Williamson’s 'Darker Than You Think' of the maverick archaeologist excavating the ancient grave of a witch in Africa.

 

West African plague spreads

Through city slums, born in blood

Brought from dusk bats’ great flocks.

Stories spiral, witchcraft

Corpses clawing their way

Out of overfilled graves

 

Military medics

Arrive just as further

North fresh Caliphate, all

Wrath, starts to be air-struck.

Infections travel with

Returns to Texas and

U.K. The rumours start

Of weaponisations

 

Word comes of a vaccine

Tested, lab and field.

Hoping to be ahead

Of the next grim horseman’s

Charge across the jungle.

Stories remain, blood, bats,

Witchcraft, restless corpses

 

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St. Dunstan’s Giants

 

A last poem inspired by the sights of Fleet Street of the past.

 

Ringing the great bell four times an hour

Cousins to the Guildhall’s more famous pairs

Simpler though – without Corporation airs

Their home always within the church tower

 

Late morning will attract the tourist crowd

(Amongst the throng move nimble cutpurses

Much later the victim lets forth curses)

Even if the bell’s tone was not so loud

 

Brought from Cornwall after the Great Fire

They are heroes of the Liberty’s streets

Strange proof of evolution’s expansion

 

Never invited to join the choir

In taverns they brag of the couple’s feats

Retired to Hertford’s Regents Park house

 

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Sideshow Retirement

 

Went to a screening of the film 'Freaks' (and 'Un Chien Andalou') and the feature made me think of David Lynch’s 'The Elephant Man'.

 

Florida, private community for show folk

They’d found family they might not otherwise find

Each is complete in soul if not body or mind

Don’t appreciate outsiders whose noses poke

 

Gawped at in the past for only the ticket price

As carnival travelled they saw sights of the world

Living briefly wherever circus flag unfurled

None of the straight rubes would dare to insult them twice

 

Thawed iceman sometimes comes to the town to visit

Revived in electrical storm when freezer broke

Brings news of the outside world they’ve opted to shun

 

Tells tales of adventures slightly illicit

It’s been fifty years since this old giant awoke

He knows the residents’ peace should not be undone

 

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 Abberline’s First Wife

 

Sergeant Fred Abberline married Martha Mackness in March 1868; she died only two months later in Elton (becoming the first connection to The Ripper case for Peterborough). In 1873 he was promoted to Inspector and transferred to H Division. He re-married (to Emma Beaument) in 1876.

 

Young Sergeant in suit, barely twenty-five

Desires might be considered risqué

She coughs, discreet behind a small bouquet

Soon she struggles just to stay alive

 

Dispatched to convalesce in small village

Farmers’ cottages about Elton Hall

The grave that they dug for her looked so small

Little he guesses of future rampage

 

She was so pale with blood on her thin lips

Weak, they saw she swayed through wedding service

Spring should be a time of natures re-birth

 

And so his young life falls into eclipse

Wonders if he might now have a purpose

As the box was lowered into the earth

 

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Mr. Singleton Investigates

 

While Bram Stoker was not a member of the Golden Dawn, his friend J. W. Brodie-Innes was, eventually becoming one of the heads of the order of Alpha et Omega that succeeded the earlier magical organisation.

 

Above a small shoe-factory, in a cleared storeroom, stood the wooden structure. It wasn’t too far from Great Portland Street and outside the waves of traffic could be heard breaking against the curb.

As the other opened the door to the vault Singleton recalled, covering his mouth. The other sniffed and raised his eyebrows, as he could detect nothing. Singleton patted coat pockets until he found a sprig of some herb, set it to smoulder with a match and threw it into the area enclosed by the painted walls.

He entered the wooden structure and inside realised he could just about touch the walls with both arms outstretched. In the middle was a drum that served as an altar.

“How many were here?” Singleton asked the man who had invited him here.

“Three.”

“They could all fit in?”

“Just.”

From the small valise he carried he extracted four objects that reminded of electric torches but with bare wire pentagrams rather than bulbs. A switch was flicked on each and the wire started to glow pink.

“Are they usual for members of the SPR?”

“Experimental” he gruffly explained. Each device was put at a cardinal point.

An open book was on top of the purple draped altar.

“They were using this?”

“Yes. A copy of a manuscript from Rohonc in Hungary. The original is currently in Paris. Do you have any thoughts?”

“I’ve seen table-turners a-plenty, most used their toes rather than the efforts of the departed. Ectoplasm turns out to be silk handkerchiefs that mediums have swallowed. This though…the doctor has confirmed that each had lost significant amounts of blood. Also, they say that the fiend the fools summoned here called them pale imitators of the Scholomance.”

 

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O Satan, Please Pity Me in my Long Misery

 

Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867) was influenced by Edgar Allan Poe and his infamous book of poetry ('Les Fleurs du Mal', published 1857) was quickly seized by the French authorities for offending public morality. He is regarded as one of the fathers of the Decadent Movement in art and literature.

 

After a smoke and a glass of strong wine

Stagger to the church, climb over the wall

It’s not on the grey priest we’ve come to call

I’ve decided, pale maid, you should be mine

 

So up against the church or on tombstones

I’ll cup your buttocks in my shaking hands

Constable would say what we do is banned

Through your thin flesh I will grapple your bones

 

Oh thief of my heat, oh stealer of breath

On my ear lobe you plant your rotten teeth

Then black cat jumps onto my naked back

 

One day soon either of us might know death

So, moment of life for those underneath

If see, your brother would give me a whack

 

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Virtual Lands

 

A computer and e-gaming event was planned for Peterborough (but unfortunately had to be cancelled with a fortnight to go) and this led me to think about cyberpunks and vampires in what once would have been a neon-lit near future, but now I think would be illuminated by L.E.Ds.

 

Like mirrors, they couldn’t enter virtual lands

But if they sup from someone totally immersed

They find a wondrous place where they’ll not slate their taste

And while they can watch, their actual presence is banned

 

Seen sights centuries old brains cannot comprehend

They cling to their thrall, second-hand experience

Hunger grows with an immortal malevolence

Into this v. world they desire to descend

 

They whisper into the ears of those that they ride

So they slow become puppet lords of this half-life

Such that their parasite audience might enjoy

 

But if not careful and the wired-in host died

Drained, dehydrated, as if opened by a knife

Deprived the leach searches arcades for a new toy

 

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Mr. Fox’s Wedding

For Gregory O’Reagan

 

We had a couple of things in Peterborough relating to fairy tales, including Jason Duckmanton’s exhibition One for Sorrow, so I thought I’d adapt an old English one (a variant on Bluebeard) into a poem.

 

Bold, be bold, but not too bold, less your blood run cold

A wedding breakfast in the very heart of spring

“Not so,” said Mr. Fox, “nor can it be so told.”

 

“I had a dream I must tell you though you might scold”

In the green trees the birds to the couple did sing

Bold, be bold, but not too bold, less your blood run cold.

 

“Wanted to see your home so into it I stole’d

And in that fine house I saw a terrible thing.”

“Not so,” said Mr. Fox, “nor can it be so told.”

 

“There were dead maidens there and all covered in mold

To the house, Fox, another maiden you did bring”.

Bold, be bold, but not too bold, less your blood run cold.

 

“In your hand, I dreamt, that a great axe you did hold

So chopped and a bloody limb away you did fling.”

“Not so,” said Mr. Fox, “nor can it be so told.”

 

“Sliced off her hand to gain the jewel set in gold

And here is the maiden’s hand still wearing the ring.”

Bold, be bold, but not too bold, less your blood run cold.

“Not so,” said Mr. Fox, “nor can it be so told.”

 

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About the Gargoyles

 

At the end of August the Church Trust organised a bat watch evening/camping night at the 13th century church of St. John the Baptist in Parson’s Drove, near Wisbech, so I channelled my inner Nick Cave to write the below (his song being contemporarily covered by friends in local band 'The Destructors').

 

“A hundred fluttering in your skirt

Don’t tell me that it doesn’t hurt”

Release the Bats

The Birthday Party

 

They come ahead of the night

Fly with the thinning of light

They come out of the crypt

Something dark has ripped

From the belfry they come

For the day’s almost done

Awake, awake from the eaves

Hours’ sweet thieves

They come

They come

They come

They come

They come

They come

 

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Floodland of Tears

 

A study was published in 'The Lancet' suggesting that Goths were more prone to depression and self-harming, though I wonder whether the sensitivities of the culture might just be attractive to those with those tendencies and so here is a group who can share their feelings. Also, I’d been directed to some footage on-line of 'The Sisters of Mercy' (fronted by Andrew Eldritch who was born in Ely) performing at a gig in Peterborough from 1983.

 

Perhaps you’re just more aware of the pain

Observe the cruel world and wisely nod

Hair hangs lank – make-up runs as if in rain

How I wish for just a merciful god

 

This was a tribe that once beckoned to you

Apart as if everyone was a clod

All your clothes reflect a monochrome view

How I wish for just a merciful god

 

You dance and you dance to take it away

Rest of the straight world looks at us as odd

For ours is the night – we forgo the day

How I wish for just a merciful god

 

Blood to be shared as recognised by clan

For though we might be exotically shod

Reborn in the moment a fresh human

How I wish for just a merciful god

 

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Sir Integra

 

With a couple of animé events in the region (held in Leicester and Cambridge) I thought a little of this character, presumably descended from Abraham van Helsing’s youngest child, product of his second marriage after his first wife died in her asylum.

 

Stately home; brave blood

surges in her, cold rage not

love in her young heart.

Hawthorn shoots bursting to green.

Growing one day into stakes.

 

Patagonia

expanses hide Nazi hoard

hungry to catch wind.

SS skull-insignia

worn on faded uniforms.

 

Militant-Abbey,

relics of warrior-saints;

sword-cross, blessed weapons.

Holy blood washes their sins,

their march a funeral mass

 

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Swimming Witches

 

The Folklore Society held its annual weekend in Huntingdon, with talks on the subject of crime and punishment, with some time devoted to the Witches of Warboys. Indeed, an old friend of mine delivered one paper at the event.

 

Flat village pond – weedy, dirty and dark

Amongst the rushes – underneath the ducks

Little old ladies have run out of luck

For now’s the time we have to bath the old

 

Collect the ancient neighbours turning mad

Their pet cats are tested in sacks with stones

We pick on those who are old and alone

Muttering and mumbling and cursing bad

 

Sick cows, bad weather, need someone to blame

Walk them all night to keep them half-awake

Priest knows signs and reads from his holy book

 

It is the village’s voice – feel no shame

Say, “we do it only for their soul’s sake”

To find the devil’s teat takes but a look

 

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We’re all Going to –

 

At the Fenland Literature Festival in Wisbech (where the then-Fenland Laureate Jonathan Totman read an excellent poem about ghosts) I met local horror author Simon Crow. As a group we played a game based (loosely) on his first two novels to see if readers could survive them better than the characters he creates. We did badly…

 

Strangers brought to dine

Weird mansion – lights fail

Outside – full moon shine

Faces turn pale

A scream – a thump

Wonder if invite lied

Stumbling – furniture bump

Figures in shadows hide

First killed

Second attacked

Blood spilled

Into cellar backed

Tools of war

Laughter in dark

Bones cover floor

Fear Cain’s mark

 

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‘Clay Pipe’ McKenzie, July 1889

 

Alice McKenzie, supposed by some to have been an additional victim of The Ripper, apparently came from Peterborough. Remembered by local libertines ('The Vestry'), unfortunately she was not the last local sex worker to die before their time of violence, infection or overdose.

 

It’s gone midnight off the East End’s main thoroughfare

Corpse has been found, blood flowing, lying in the street

No more to worry (if ever did) about hair

Head towards the gutter, house wall against her feet

Another drunk skivvy trying to make ends meet

Police examine and find open gaping cuts

Beer in her when she should have had something to eat

Word was she had no hope but be a drunken slut

Amongst wounds one long gash from breasts across her gut

Clay pipe and farthing still under her sprawled body

Another lonely soul who found all doors were shut

Someone takes the news to her lodgings so shoddy

Coppers gather, note the odd stockings on her legs

Yet another poor sot from society’s dregs

 

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City Night Children

 

Another e-gaming event in Peterborough and again I wondered about the late twentieth/early twenty-first century Undead in years to come.

 

The ’Eighties unborn – while

sires or grandsires strove to take

on predator forms, became tall, thin,

angular dark angels with great hair.

Slept in velvet, in lace, hunted low-lit

back street bars. Used glamour as

makeup. Remembered home computers

struggled with texting, blaming nails

 

The next generation took to changing as fresh

modification, new augmentation. Collagen

sheets between bulked muscles and

skin cuttlefish animated. Black-dyed

military off-cuts, ridges under flesh.

Touch-screens refused them, hot-wired

in keyboards, honed hacking traits.

Rejected old structures of blood,

clan, family, loyalties of unbirth. Forged

alliances in disused warehouses.

 

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Cagliostro

 

Peterborough’s Italian Festival celebrates a community whose first recorded members arrived in the city in the 1830s. During World War Two Italian prisoners of war were held locally and after the war the brickyards welcomed many from the southern half of Italy to work in the pits and furnaces around this area.

I chose to write about Count Alessandro di Cagliostro (1743–1795), as some of the French officers held at Norman Cross P.O.W. camp during the Napoleonic War were initiates of his Egyptian Freemasonry, which in turn influenced the local occult society.

 

And they find paltry reasons to prosecute me

Forgery, say, fraud or Freemason as my sin

Yet priests interview in search of some holy key

A Kabbalahist in such a terrible inn?

My Serafina urges us to again flee

Take to the roads, to the ocean, to save our skin

Will not the blesséd Pope hear my repeated plea?

Is this prison my tomb, am I to die herein?

 

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Auberge Afternoon

 

Paul Verlaine (1844–1896) was another decadent poet. He became estranged from his wife due to his affair with Arthur Rimbaud, a relationship that ended with Verlaine shooting and wounding the younger poet. After his release from prison he briefly taught in south Lincolnshire in 1875 (and so is regarded by The Vestry) before returning to France. His last eight years were spent between hospital and cheap rented rooms, though he wrote much.

 

To loosen your blouse, raise your nipples with my thumbs

We’ve met again in municipal gallery

Bought you some slight lunch with my paltry salary

Your hands slip down my back, reach to caress my bum

 

If your husband knew what we do I’m sure I’d die

Your breathing short within satin and whalebone

Seat you on the narrow bed as if on a throne

Pull up your skirt over stockings, kiss your cool thigh

 

Entwined, you naked but for your elegant gloves

Entwined, faces away, we’re both gasping for breath

Our serpent tongues search out each other’s pools of sweat

 

Talking, eyes closed, we stumble over words of love

Our acts in this room aim to challenge tyrant death

If you cough and I make a joke of what you ate

 

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 Traditional Averoigne Lai of the Garlic Harvesters

 

Peterborough’s Harvest Festival (organised by Metal) combined art, music and dance. I contributed to an installation about onions (about how one Gnostic sect believed that Eve tempted Adam with an onion rather than an apple as knowledge brings tears).

 

First bulb from the ground

A wondrous thing found

Perfect

 

Last plant passed around

Harvest queen is crowned

Bedecked

 

Sacred herb renowned

Oil a strong compound

Protect

 

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Adam Van H.

 

A few comic-related conventions (in Bedford, Northampton and Leicester) led me to think about Vampirella and this character, presumably a cousin (from the American branch of the family) of Sir Integra who I wrote about earlier.

 

She winces, he touches scars on her back

Close contact always draws breath from his lung

Sometimes his heart feels as if it is wrung.

He has looked into a void that is black

Fought an unknown war, often caught flack

Learned to hunt (family trait) when was young

She winces

 

Somewhere his life took a winding rough track

Knows the taste of life and death on her tongue

Somewhere there’s a song waiting to be sung

Upon the joy of dawn’s pink distant crack

She winces

 

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William Stukeley

 

The end of September saw the Stamford Georgian Festival (held alternate years). As I mentioned earlier William Stukeley, who was born in Holbeach, is remembered by the Silver Birch Grove for his contribution to modern druidry. He was vicar of one of the churches in Stamford from 1730 to 1747. Earlier in the month archaeologists discovered a buried henge monument not far from Stonehenge.

 

Reading Cesar’s War and surveying stones

From apothecary he learnt herb lore

Wondered what the mossy menhir was for

And watches workmen bringing up old bones

 

London, initiated a mason

Once halting a sermon to watch eclipse

Pondering on St. John’s Apocalypse

Drops black ink into a midnight basin

 

Dubs princess as archdruidess of Kew

Her crown of mistletoe, ivy and oak

Observes the geese skein with a fenman’s eye

Knows them migrating to edge of the sky

Searches for the lost knowledge of the folk

Remembers fields where heard the cuckoo

 

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Robert Owen

 

Robert Owen (1771–1858) spent his years as an apprentice, 1781–1787, in Stamford. It was this time, he said, that confirmed in him an atheist outlook. Later, first as a mill owner in Scotland and then with his own town in America, he attempted to use Communitarian principles to build ideal societies (these also influenced a colony founded at Manea in the fens). On his return to Britain he became a supporter of the early co-operative movement amongst other causes. The Invincible Army observes his memory.

 

We should not worship gods that look to chide

Or those small deities that crave our praise

Who consign innocents to sacred blaze

Sitting in judgement on those who have died

 

Let us live our lives without their fury

Let young learn in play with what attracts them

Factories enough await to condemn

Without spirits acting as a jury

 

The poor can be helped into better lives

Communities of equals we’ve to build

For we’re all members of the human race

 

It is not enough for them to survive

Homes to be constructed, fields to be tilled

Healthy, well fed, a future they can face

 

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Pumpkins

 

Early October sees an annual pumpkin festival in Spalding in the fens north of Peterborough.

 

Candlelight within glowing gold

Ripe fruit carved into shape of skull

New England backwoods senses lull

These lanterns stand firm against cold

 

Here’s tale Ichabod Crane once told

Trudging home from village école

Candlelight within glowing gold

Ripe fruit carved into shape of skull

 

Along the lane burning fruit rolled

Bullies find idle moments dull

Towards the sea come cries of gull

 

For headless horseman pumpkin bowled

Candlelight within glowing gold

Ripe fruit carved into shape of skull

 

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Black Sun Legacy

 

October saw a number of media events in Peterborough that related to (or had actors from) such TV and film space operas as 'Blake’s Seven', 'Farscape', 'Star Trek' and 'Star Wars'.

I wondered again about alien vampires and a possible origin.

 

Young star – matter forming orbiting bodies

Out on edge – ice condenses

There chemicals form – re-form

Amino acids on brink of life

Some full to proto-worlds

Others flicked or knocked into

Interstellar wastes to wander until

Caught by another – spreading

These spring bounty pollen

 

Another star – late in life – unstable

Incapable of supporting its own weight

Stumbles in dark – explodes

Ejecting gas into nova

Globes ripped to pieces – edge comets scattered

Chemicals under crusts

Battered in baleful energies

Become anti-life frequency

That rain on alien spheres

Infecting living – re-vitalising corpses

Turns dead into hunters

 

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Mme. Hyacinthe Chantelouve

 

Another production of 'The Portrait of Dorian Gray' locally reminded me that some think the yellow novel he is given to read might have been Huysmans’ 'A Rebours' (1884). However for this poem I recalled the femme fatal from the first of J. K. Huysmans’ (1848–1907) trilogy about the author Durtal. In 'La Bas' (1891) he fictionalised his own encounters with Parisian occultists. The series continued with Durtal’s redemption (which again echoed the author’s experiences) in 'En Route' (1895) and 'La Cathedrale' (1898).

 

Respectability! It’s just a wall

Rather, chimney round fire of her heart

But do not mistake to think her a tart

For she has carefully thought through it all

 

Blond, slim – or rather, fine-boned – ash-grey eyes

Elegant in both action and her dress

Her gloved hands into your very soul press

Knows well how to evoke passionate sighs

 

Rules mean so little against hungry wants

Flesh desires offer moments freedom

Every danger proves that the heart still beats

 

And if perhaps she appears nonchalant

It’s just a sign of where she has come from

And a need sometimes to be so discreet

 

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Hamlin’s Children

 

A gig by Donovan made me think about the Pied Piper, a legend some equate with the Children’s Crusade, others with the Dancing Mania (a phenomenon touched upon by my local medieval poet Robert Manning of Bourne in the Dancers of Colbek part of his book 'Handling Sin'). My research, as you will see below, suggests another origin for the tale.

 

Ancient Hamlin needs to recruit a new rat-catcher

This fine Saxon town suffers from a plague of vermin

Says everyone from good burghers to lowly thatcher

Messengers disperse from the mayor in his ermine

 

A pied-garbed goliard comes who can charm the creatures

The citizens are awed by his curious powers

Though he is accused of sorcery by the preachers

So bargain was broken by mayor in his tower

 

So next he enchanted the fair children of the region

Bishop pronounces a curse upon the musician

While to Transylvania he dances his legion

But the man of God was also a low magician

 

In his grave the piper finds no eternal quiet

Silenced skop rises and amongst the mountains wanders

Blood of the children’s children’s children is his diet

His many rats bring him gold that he does not squander

 

He comes to occupy the bleak castle Orlok

 

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Cabaresque

For Lucy Furr

 

A friend (who had previously had me perform at her Candyland Burlesque nights in Stamford) organised an evening to raise money for cancer charities. While I could not be there, I could write this poem.

 

When once photographers filled glass plates with street scenes

Blurred shadows collected, revenants unpictured

Death stalked amongst the living in such strange mixtures

Who now cannot be divined as to what they mean

 

Radiographers hold up transparencies to light

And shadows can still be amongst the organs found

Reflections of those who feast on lost sailors drowned

And so against these shadows we gather to fight

 

So to challenge creeping death we must embrace life

Enjoy the exotic dance of those here so skilled

And laugh loud and hard against the oncoming grave

 

For we all have friends who have lain beneath the knife

And too many remember those who have been killed

In the face of this we raise two fingers and rave

 

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Surgeon from Tver

 

William Le Queux (1864–1927) was a journalist for 'The Globe' during the time of Jack the Ripper, later covering the first Balkan War, during which he may also have acted as a Field Officer for British Intelligence. After becoming a novelist he took a house in Castor near Peterborough in 1901, where he based himself until 1905. He claimed he kept a Bengal tiger and a Himalayan bear there, but in his career he claimed many things. Following the Russian Revolution he claimed to have obtained documents that implicated the Czarist secret police as being behind the Whitechapel murders to discredit Scotland Yard.

 

Not say where these papers really came from

Dictated by Rasputin and in French

Passed from a foreign agent at park bench

And retell this little tale with aplomb

 

Okhrana and nihilists in their own dance

Agent provocateurs, double-crosses

Secret war with unrecorded losses

Unstable surgeon smuggled in from France

 

Now no one knows who anyone works for

Blood on the cobbles and fog in the air

Propaganda, misinformation, lies

 

Few care who actually killed the whores

Never will the honest facts be laid bare

Some bleak things are not for innocent eyes

 

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The Bloodless Nun

 

In the run-up to Hallowe’en at historic Hinchingbrook Hall – near Huntingdon – an attraction was opened for the evenings.

 

About the House wanders shade of a nun

Walks straight through one solid-brick garden wall

It’s six centuries since she felt the sun

 

Tales are told of what evil had been done

Winter does not force her into a shawl

About the House wanders shade of a nun

 

Seduced, ’tis said, by squire’s wastrel son

Most mournful is her circuit round the Hall

It’s six centuries since she felt the sun

 

And so through ages her doomed fate has run

She once interrupted a County ball

About the House wanders shade of a nun

 

She’s seen in late mist at dawn of Whitsun

And in an attic scratches a scrawl

It’s six centuries since she felt the sun

 

Sin, tears and suicide this curse begun

Responds to chapel bell funeral call

About the House wanders shade of a nun

It’s six centuries since she felt the sun

 

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Monster Movies

 

Also in the weeks before Hallowe’en we had a drive-in season in the city.

 

Parks convertible way at back

So doesn’t obscure any view

Top down, he sits tall, feet on dash’

Bring bucket of ’corn on request

As sun goes down they run adverts

Trailers, a pair of old cartoons

They’ve all come for the main feature

Couples snuggle, guzzling cola

He though thinks, as celluloid spins

I knew him when he was a pup

I knew her before her first tooth

Knew it before atomic spill

Knew those before saucer landed

Knew him before formula found

Knew her when she waited tables

Knew them before acting lessons

I knew those before the scandal

Knew it before operation

Knew myself when the scars were fresh

 

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Sponsored by the Blood-Meal Fertilizer Company

 

With both an old film re-done on stage as a radio play at a local theatre and a great panel on audio drama/podcasts at the British Fantasycon the previous weekend, I thought about some of the radio plays and readings I’d enjoyed in the past.

 

Thirty minutes broadcast late each Saturday night

This is not some New Deal arts presentation

Mid-west prairie homes tune to Radio Midnight

These are ghost stories to corner of the nation

Scriptwriters plunder literature for the plays

Classic tales are adapted for the small cast

Small-town farmers remembering Tolstoy for days

Depression, they said, but with wireless and pulps

Favourite productions taken out to school halls

In the low light they induce shivers and such gulps

Audience see faces of those they heard on air

Families gathered to tune-in, teachers in rooms

All listening as old chains rattle in a tomb

 

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Dance the Paddington Polka

 

Cruel dance master kicks away the chairs

To make us sinners jig on London airs

We line up in our best on Tyburn Hill

Expect us to dance whether fit or ill

City is here to see us give a jig

Thieves, priests, lords with wives, judges in their wig

Before my turn I can address the crowd

Over the hubbub have to be quiet loud

 

Dance the Paddington polka

Dance the Paddington polka

Quick upon the wooden stage

Dance the Paddington polka

 

Thank family, farewell to pretty whores

Wish soldiers and sailors well in the wars

Hands busy, dance master adjusts my tie

If I were improperly dressed I’d die

The music they have is rough, composed of drums

There is hardly any tune you could hum

I give a bow, a bounce and then I dance

Crowd roars at this my last impressing chance

 

Dance the Paddington polka

Dance the Paddington polka

Quick upon the wooden stage

Dance the Paddington polka

 

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Prince Zaleski Investigates

 

Around Hallowe’en a couple of Murder Mystery nights (one was Addams' Family themed, the other steampunk) were held in my home city. My thoughts turned to M. P. Shiel’s decadent detective, the collection of which was published in 1895.

 

Languidly, in his lush appointed rooms

Heavy clods of some Eastern sweet incense

He awaits some final approaching doom

 

While he considers the sparse evidence

Listening to tale of some outré crime

And his visitors are held in suspense

 

Silent servants attend as if in mime

Reclined on couch he is a grand vizier

The decaying palace consumed by time

 

Maid vanishes, jewellery disappears

The city devours the lost and the poor

Family’s pale son’s actions are unclear

 

Destitute she falls to become a whore

Always waves grind the sand upon the shore

 

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Family Secrets

 

In Paul H. Feldman’s book 'Jack the Ripper: The Final Chapter' he encounters a family from Whittlesey (who carry a name associated with his particular suspect) but the birth, wedding, death certificates and even records regarding their admission to the local workhouse are riddled with inconsistencies. This becomes an interesting aside but he struggles to prove anything in particular. Something that could be levelled at many a 'Ripperologist'.

 

Some stories are always best left unsaid

Do not question your food upon your plate

Nor ask what kept your mother up so late

Sometimes secrets are best kept by the dead

 

Paper don’t lie; ink don’t need to be true

Rumours and whispers are best never heard

Learn to ignore even the cruellest word

If you learned the truth what good would it do?

 

Christmas time and wakes relatives gather

Look to aunts who might be quiet mothers

To escape is an expensive ticket

 

Backwash babbling brook of smallest blather

Eye uncles, as could be unspoken brothers

Family tree as ivy-clad thicket

 

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Dinner at the Diogenese Club

 

So gather here all of the unseen government

The silent room fills with thick pungent cigar smoke

They eat their banquet but never a word is spoke

Between those who’ve profited by strange accident

 

The secret financiers and the spymasters

Ex-generals, professors and a commodore

They communicate with serviette semaphore

These engineers of so many a disaster

 

Menus encoded with acrostic messages

A choice of squid boiled in invisible ink

Or carrier pigeon (still with its message) pie

 

They practice diffusing the plump pork sausages

And check for curious sediments in their drink

While plotting which territories to occupy

 

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Sister Hyde

 

She’s waiting for gas lamps to be lit

Anima in corset, gloves, stockings, dress

Instead of either/or, or sliding scale

Imagine Venn diagram – circles interlacing

Of biology, gender, orientation, nature, nurture

 

Look to our simian siblings in their bonobotopia

Whiptail lizards of New Mexico

Parthenogenic females entwined without males

Fishes on coral reef swapping genders

To meet group needs for balance

Slugs and snails at heads and tails

Hermaphrodites in their mucus mess

 

Our flesh is destiny but flesh is malleable

(As ribofunk slogan once had it)

Be we hijras, katoeys or wraeththu

Her mirror still has makeup about it

She’s waiting for gas lamps to be lit

 

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Tuppenny Blood, Shilling Shocker

 

Human Tragedy! Ultimate Terror!

Read of Inquisition’s infernal gaol

Suffer divine wrath or human error

 

Sensation! Horror beyond normal scale

Virgin daughters lost amongst savage tribe

Next week the new issue will be for sale

 

Misery recorded by starving scribe

Printed on latest steam rotary press

Buy each week or have library subscribe

 

Episode of Dick Turpin on Black Bess

The paper’s rough but holds the midnight ink

Corsican bandits rip the maiden’s dress

 

Cheap to have but, vicar says, worse than drink

More noxious to young than the city’s stink

 

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Notebook of a Damned Soul

 

Arthur Rimbaud (1854–1891) had an affair with Verlaine that shocked Paris for its intensity. Ostracised, they abused alcohol and drugs and travelled (including to London) until finally the older poet shot and wounded his younger lover. Arthur then enlisted in a colonial army in the East Indies, deserted back to France and then fled to Ethiopia to become a trader, dying of a disease he contracted there.

 

O clouds, O Mountains

I dream of distant fountains

 

Abyssinian and elegant Nubian maidens

Eyes flash above veils in Aden

 

Love brought me pain so I fled

My soul dried and I bled

 

Load guns to trade on thin beasts

In mountains avoid hospitality of priests

 

Chew leaves around fire with shepherds

Night alive with imagined jackals and leopards

 

O clouds, O Mountains

 

Should I have chosen Algeria for comforts boys offer

Instead of this harsh Christian land to fill my coffer

 

O clouds, O Mountains

 

Alone a demon I dwell amongst beautiful saints

At dawn God covers this land with paint

 

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Beneath Priestgate

 

There’s an unseen underside to every city

Beneath streets that once felt the step of Saxon shoes

Wells driven through earth to hidden water-filled depths

Church crypt family vaults of wool-merchants made good

Priest hole hideaway for avoiding detection

Racked wine bottles cradling summer suns since long gone

Coal-cellar dark with carboniferous forest

Tiled hospital mortuary where corpses once lay

Cramped bomb shelters as armament intended for

Railway freight yards or vital factories fell short

Tunnels between town hall and telephone exchange

Refuges from threatened A-bombs that never fell

And foul, dank sewers, freshened by rain, home for rats

 

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Three Sisters

 

November saw gigs in Peterborough by both Toyah Wilcox and a Kate Bush tribute act. I thought of those (plus Siouxie Sioux who played in the city in the early 80s) and how in their turn they influenced different facets of what we think of as Goth music.

 

In each of them is an eternal spark

Distant stars they cast forth their cool light

Catch the wind – spring through clouds – a stringless kite

Dance a spirit beneath broad trees in park

 

Hair and make-up – secret sisterhood’s mark

Summon mother muse with ancient rite

In each of them is an eternal spark

Distant stars they cast forth their cool light

 

Each embraced instead of running from dark

For they have called down the full-moon bright

Theirs is a siren song we cannot fight

 

Drawing is the singing to which we hark

In each of them is an eternal spark

Distant stars they cast forth their cool light

 

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Upier

 

The older Polish community in Peterborough dates from the Second World War. Batchel’s one-time vicarage in Stoneground was the ex-Serviceman’s Club. I remember Solidarity signs in delicatessens in the early eighties. The younger members are part of the post-Perestroika/joining the European Union generation. Both celebrate their national Independence Day on November 11.

 

Any baby born in caul or with teeth

And even if raised firm in true belief

Is doomed to wake within their cold grave

A thousand masses will not their soul save

Traditional Polish Rhyme

 

The black-cross knights bring their Christ, cold

From coming so far from the south

With steel to the forest, fire to

The village, leaving graves as hoof-

Prints as they travel, beheading

Corpses before they can rise again.

Bishop in Krakow promises

Only his faithful should taste his

God’s blood, should wake again at some

Point distant and leave the damp earth.

Dark woods, deep valleys hide secrets

Other invaders come. We wait,

We wait for the lost, the alone.

Ravens watch while we count pebbles

 

 

 

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