A Night in the Castle (at Halloween)

Up in the Ghost Tower
a dead poet sits in a room
at the top of the stair.

Dark wood and lavender,
a slight scent of polish,
bottle glass casements
that gaze to the sunset.
He was never fond of the basements.
The dungeons are not to his taste.

The breath of his spirit
Laces an icey mist in the air
But he doesn’t care.
He died broken hearted
When his lady departed
And went off to heaven without him.

Don’t doubt him.
No lover was ever more faithful
No lover affair ever less fruitful.
I don’t know his name.
Her name was Maud.
He can sit with his quills
and his parchments and sword.
His muse is intact, that’s a fact,
But, to be fair, his story’s not gory,
So I’ll leave it like that, where it is.

The castle was old and was crowded with ghosts,
unbeknownst to the unwitting hosts
from Madame Tussauds,
who were planning a Halloween Tour.

They got more than they bargained for!

The ghosts, if invited, would have been happy
to join in the party
Of that I am certain and sure!
As it was they were very annoyed.
Bad feelings were hard to avoid.

For hundred of years they had haunted the castle
Often unseen, always unloved, neglected, dejected,
undetected by psychics in droves.
The Earl still roves the hallways and dungeons.
He’s beastly.
He’s noisy.
He’s bored.

Guy was the Earl
(his daughter, a beauty,
an absolute pearl,
a vision most lovely……,
I’m getting distracted ~
sadly she’s not in the tale).

(pass me a swig of ale, …
if you would)

As I was saying, …
Guy was the Earl.
I don’t want to raise any sympathy here,
he was an arrogant and terrible, infamous tyrant
who harried the locals,
out on his rides,
he raped all the brides,
robbed all the peasants,
took bribes in the courts.
No justice.
He’s bad, beyond hope.
He just is.

He chained young men to his walls
for sport, out of spite,
like toys to torture all through the night,
after his sumptuous balls.

You wouldn’t have wanted to be his squire!
He ended up on the fire
when he lost the Earls glove
while dreaming about the kitchen maid.
Ah young love!
Tragedy was fore played.

Guy was beheaded, not so long after.
Found out trying to outwit the King.
The plot was laid bare by a woman abused.
Clever thing!
She wasn’t amused by his games.

Now Guy haunts the dark dungeons,
rattling the chains, moaning and sighing,
blocking the drains in bad weather,
bemoaning the fact he is dying.
At his wake he claimed the mourners were lying.
He hasn’t realised yet,
(despite the lack of a truly resolved end to his neck,
and his head cradled under his arm),
that he’s no longer of this earth,
no chance of rebirth.
He’s kaput, he is finished,
…dead as the well known parrot.
Deceased.
Released from his mortal coil.
Shuffled off.
Head doffed.
Over and done with,
farewell, bye bye …
dastardly bastard
die fiend die!

Like little Willy Wee
he is dead, dead, dead.
Let me drive the point home,
like a nail in a coffin,
Guy has no head.
It’s decidedly off ‘im.

Up in the office
finance was a factor ~
the Event Manager mustered
his raggedy troupe of underpaid students
and an out-of-work actor.
They’re dressed as dead princes
and demons and loons
in mock medieval costumes and motley,
with faded old stockings
and short pantaloons,
and tatty long skirts
that have seen better days,
and cobwebby wigs.

He’s hired a musician
who knows the old tunes…
La Volte and Greensleeves
and various jigs.

They drag out the old weaving loom
(that’s ancient, authentic)
as a subtle suggestion of dark fairy-tales
up in the best guest room.

There are freshly dug graves,
out in the park,
to rise out of spookily
when it’s sufficiently gloomily dark.

The guests for the tour start to arrive.
They’re impressed by the castle.
They have come from all over the world to be here.
They anticipate scenes of horror and fear.
They’re impressed by the height of the fortified walls
and the towers and the turrets, and the studded oak doors
and the stone spirals stairs
and the style of the sign
above a low arch
declaring Beware!
on parchment, in ink
(it’s Gothic, they think)

Guaranteed to survive the fears in the night
with a full English Breakfast served at first light
and a story of legends to take home and share
the tourists are ready and eager to start.
The actors are anxious to play their own part
but their feeling of safety is going to be fleeting.

The Earl has decided it’s time for a meeting!

Guy sounds a long blast on his old hunting horn
that’s hung on his walls for hundred of years.
He rants and he roars.
He’s hell bent on a haunting.
The harp in the hall, unattended,
starts to play a turgid lament,
slightly off-key and demented.

He gathers them all …
the ghosties and ghouls …
they answer his call.
They’re ready,
they’re eager,
they’re running.
They’re coming!

Not the poet, he’s drying his eyes,
behind a locked door.
He’s composing a verse,
even worse than the last one before,
and he can’t hear a thing
for the sighs of the wind
that slide down the chimneys
and the sound of the leaves
that tap on the lattice.
(He doesn’t look up
and wonder what that is.)
He keeps endlessly writing,
next to the candle
that’s always relighting.
(The fact is, he’s not short of practice
but lacks some important poetic tactics
or some musical underscore. I’m not sure,
Never mind.
Back to the story).

The Grey Lady comes at the sound of the horn.
She usually comes at the first sign of dawn,
but time is no issue
she is happy to float
translucent and pale
and lean by the stair rail
and stare at the moat
through the window she fell from
so long ago she’s forgotten quite why.

She’s hoping her lover
will arrive in a boat
or on horseback
or secretly creeping
and the Earl won’t discover
she’s running away.
She’s weeping.
That’s usual.
She does that all night
and often all day.

But she makes a grand gesture
for this occasion …..
she might wear a hat,
with a feather.
She mutters and wanders,
ringing her hands,
not sure about that.
Should she ever?
Ah, maybe she won’t.
It worries her so.
She is so indecisive.
She thinks death has become
even more tiring than life is.
(Of course, she means was,
becoz,
she is dead,
as you know.)

The Earl looks her over
with a scowl of distaste.
He is thoroughly sick
of seeing her face.
Five hundred years is a very long time.

”This won’t be enough”
says Sir Guy in a huff.

Guy wants his army amassed in the grounds
and his horrible drooling hound at his heels.
He’s in a mood.
He’s angry.
He feels!!
(it’s the general state of his spleen and his liver).

Inside the castle the lighting is dim
and the full moon is rising, over the river.
The Black Hound awakens out in the woods.
The leaves on the oak trees shiver and quiver.

Guy summons the water sprites
up from the water
(where else would they be?
that’s where they live, just like they oughta!)

But please – not THEM!
No, no. Not again.
They give me the creeps.
They climb rusty pipes
and come up through plug-holes,
always at bath time.
I remember the last time.
They filled the old tub
with cold bubbling blood!

But Guy likes his sprites
and Guy doesn’t bath.
From his strange perspective
they’re good for a laugh.

What Guy wants
Guy usually gets.
And the crews not complete yet.
I must repeat.
Guy wants his army amassed in the grounds
and his horrible drooling hound at his feet.

The Event Manager hears an odd noise in the passage
and sends one of the boys (he dislikes) to inspect.
(Health and Safety ignored.
That’s neglect.
He’ll be sued
and decried in the news.)
The boy doesn’t return.
Guy laughs a gurgling guffaw
(from under his arm)
”They never will learn”

The Black Hound arrives
with a blood curdling snarl
and adoringly looks up at his Master.
He’s got massive sharp teeth
and a grin that presages disaster.
He sits at Guy’s feet.
The guests will be meat.
He prefers men to beef
and has a penchant for eye-balls
– at least as an aperitif.

Now the troupes are gathering faster.
These men are loosely strung bones.
They grin with bared teeth, sans tongue, sans lips.
They are no longer young.
The moonlight shines on the glimmering spear tips
As they stand, row upon row upon row.
Their armour is rusty
but their sword are still trusty.
They’re still loyal, despite death,
to their dark raging Lord.
Their souls are eternally flawed.

Guy yells a great thundering shout.
Out!
“To the Trebuchet!”
Go!
Wheel it out men.
“Don’t delay!
Load it again like the old days.
Boulders away!!!!”

CLANG!!!!!

(Even the poet heard THAT
and looked up for a moment, distracted.
He forgot his next line
Which had SUCH a great rhyme.
‘’No-one considers the poets’’ he sighs.)

The shot hit the tower
where the big bell was swinging
to give early warnings of war.
It was ringing,
but not any more.

That bell was anointed
by an Arch-Bishop, no less.
Now it’s cracked and disjointed,
down on the ground.
It’s a mess.

Meanwhile…
back in the castle….
the woman from Florida,
up in the corridor,
is having the time of her life.
She rounded a corner
And bumped into the Lady in Grey.
Oh, not bumped….went right through her!
That threw her, for a moment or two.

‘’HOORAY!!’’
She’s found what she’s looking for.
Worth every dollar and more!
She is excited.
She’s delighted!
She lets out a squeal….
”This is REAL!”
She runs down the stairs
waving her arms in glee.
“Weeeeeeeeee!”

The Lady in Grey, ceasing her gliding,
turned on her heel to flee into hiding
just as the bell in the Tower fell down,
clanging that strange, strangled peel.
(They all heard.
That’s what it’s like when a bell falls).

Out in the town, outside the walls,
the people, all sleeping, turned in their beds.
They dreamed awful visions of hideous creatures
and some seemed to have no heads, or no features.
In their nightmares, wandering ghosts
with swords and shields, out in the fields,
gave chase to some tourists.

Who cares!

‘’Madame Tussauds does nothing for us’’
they declared in the morning.
‘’Let this be a warning and make them think twice.
It’s not nice we can’t walk in the park of an evenin’ no more’’.

The ghost knights charge into the forecourt
mounted on horses in chaotic stampede.
The Event Manager never had enough forethought.
He should have seen this coming.
Doesn’t he READ?

Now he is running to save his own life.
He wants to get home and collapse on his wife.
He’s the first to take flight
Ahead of the guests.
But Guy never rests.
He raises the drawbridge
and calls for the oil he told them to boil.
‘’Slovenly knaves, where is it?’’ he shouts
‘’ Trap them!
Don’t let them get out!’’

He rants and he raves
but he has forgotten
the curtain wall fell away, in decay
as long ago as last century at least.
The guests don’t need to flee though the entry.
They’re off and they’re not coming back.

Guy’s lucky he won’t have to pay
all the ticket refunds next day
or suppress all the gossip and scoffers.
There is nothing left in his coffers but dust
and a mysteriously well kept locket.
Did he once have a heart that was slighted?
I doubt it.
Murderous old fart. He’s blighted.

At peace in the castle,
The Florida Lady, very content,
wonders aloud to The Lady in Grey,
if breakfast is just a tad late today.
She goes to the kitchens
and brews them a strong cup of tea.
‘’Sugar my dear?’’
‘’Yes, I’ll have three’’
Forsooth,
the ghost still has a sweet tooth.

After some toast
(hot, buttered, of course)
it’s time for farewells.
One leaves to the airport,
one to the stairwells.
They promise to write,
but they wont.
The poet would have,
possibly should have,
but they never met
so he didn’t.
Maybe he would even forget.

His idea of a post-box
would still be the raven he keeps as a pet
along with a fox and a slow worm ….
(yes, he’s weird,
but not to be feared).

Ce la vie.
Let it be.
Her friends won’t believe her
but science can’t deceive her.
She knows what she saw.
She’ll go back next year
for much more, she is sure.

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The Death of a Queen

The Queen stood surrounded, by jeering, clamouring crowds,
beleaguered on every side, with no place left to hide.
While her King stood in the corner, consulting once more with the Bishop,
the Black Knight slowly sidled to the only place still allowed.
He was enjoying the moves and the elegant ride.
He’d been skirting her for hours now, like baiting a silver fish hook
his sweet words and twinkling glances hid the truth of his game.
Her only aim was to save her Liege, her Lord, her indolent Love,
he of the fine apparel, the armour, the velvet glove,
he who would always linger, lazy until the last.
When the Kingdom was at its end and he had no valiant friend,
Perhaps he would remember her, as the Knight sliced off his head,
After his Queen was dead.

Goodbye Old House

It was a dark moonless night

when the clock struck noon

and the cat turned and looked at me twice.

She shot from the room

like a bursting balloon

waving her tail in the air.

(To be fair she had done it all week,

every night, but I hadn’t paid much attention.

I’m too tired out to much care).

The door-frames kept clicking,

the floorboards were creaking

and the clocks were all ticking too fast.

I followed the cat

(I’m adventurous like that)

and there, by the fire,

sat the family choir

smiling and telling their tales.

(I remembered their songs from before)

They were the old ones,

the aunts and the uncles,

who had lived long ago in the Valleys,

and no-one had told them

that they weren’t alive any more.

I wasn’t surprised.

Everyone dies, in their time,

But I knew this time wasn’t mine,

so I bowed myself out of the room

while they hummed a gentle old tune.

I knew beyond doubt

it was time I moved out

so I picked up the cat

and, smoothing her cares,

I tiptoed slowly downstairs.

We sat on the step

all night long, in the wet,

and I sang a new song in the rain.

I wished there had been a full moon

but when it’s time to move on…..

well, it’s time to move on, just the same.

There is no going back there again.

Old moon, new moon, half moon or sickle,

the removal van can’t come too soon for my liking.

No one should live in a sad mausoleum.

So I’m burning their boats, like a viking.

Sweet Avon

Under green summer willows my family walked,

Avoiding the shadows of serious talk.

As a child, without care, I ran on ahead,

Chasing the sunlight, alarming the swans,

Watching the ripples that spread from the banks,

I took all for granted, when time was my friend.

Now, by the Avon, I wander alone.

Clear in the knowledge that everything ends.

Now I find comfort in rivers and ghosts.

The Enigma of Anne

While plague after plague swept through the city
Winnowing lives, like corn, without pity,
The gallows stood close, the axe was not dulled,
While I, by the peace of Avon was lulled.
The play is the thing, all life is a play,
Three days and nights on horse-back away.
All journeys end in true lovers greeting.
Where the bee sucks our pleasures were fleeting,
Violets, eglantine, sweet summer wine,
Came with their season and then he was mine.
Spring time is gone, winter’s cold, he is dead.
I dream in the depths of our second best bed.

Seasons keep turning, and little remains
but wise words from sweet Will, who won’t come again.

 

Corridors

so accustomed to hospital corridors,
the creams, gentle blue, pale greens
that define and encompass my days,
the outside world, full of colour, no longer seems real
am i even here?
nothing is clear
the light and the cold and the roads I pass through
are only ways and directions to you
where you lay in your bed speaking strangely
muttering in distant places, one hand in another world

you passed through a door and don’t know it
I watched your determined and turbulent ride
you returned to this other side
i feel sorrow but never show it
you are not really here any more
my heart is an empty void
the well is too deep
i sit here beside you
not who I want to be
not hidden
but partially dead inside
– this waiting is killing me

The Visions Nightly Gather

the visions nightly gather
around my mother’s bed
she fears to lose the light
she huddles like a child
who needs a low lit lamp
and dreads the lullaby
she hides inside the story books
and keeps the bell at hand
her bedside charms are bastions
against that other land

the visions nightly gather
around my mother’s bed
she knows that all her visitors
are shadows of the dead

Falling House

There’s a chair I will never sit in.
There are unread books by his bed.
There are things that I said
That I wish I said sooner,
Long before he was dead.
I am glad this house is falling down
It’s a fitting tribute
To the skill that kept it strong,
The skill of a father who’s gone.
Light spills through the cracks in the floorboards.
In the creaking timber I still hear his footsteps.
Let it fall, let it fall, let it fall.

The windows hang on frayed breaking ropes
Worn by the shifting years.
Now they won’t open at all.
The lighting rod, well earthed,
Serves its protective purpose.
The house is weathered by sunlight and storms,
Its wires inextricably tangled.
It’s hard to let go of memories.
It’s hard to let go of mortar and bricks.
It’s hard to let go of buildings.
It’s hard to let go of a father who’s dead
While his voice speaks clear in my head.

Buried in Boxes

I pick my way through a battered box,
Full of old ideas and notebooks.
Finding none of the spiders I feared
But two ladybirds, dusty and dead,
Were buried beneath the old books.
They didn’t fly away home.
Amongst all the papers are poignant pages
I made for a lover long years ago.
I had borrowed it back.
It was never returned,
It wasn’t requested or missed.
It was full of small painting
Done with great care
But the poems I’d written weren’t there.
The last thing I found
Was two stained serviettes
I’d scribbled my thoughts on one day in a pub
As my friend slumped asleep in a chair
Escaping his life through an emptying glass.
It made no difference whatever I said.
He was drinking his life away.
Soon he’ll be dead, I am sure.
There are worn travel journals,
India, Morocco and Poland all carefully stored,
Some interesting stuff, full of days I forgot
And pictures, quite beautiful,
Carefully hand drawn in Wales.
It shocks me, as always,
When I find my statement
Made to police, one traumatic day.
I wish I could throw it away.
The terrors described are wiped from my head
Like words from a novel I’m unable to write.
It’s humid now.
I feel stifled for air.
Sick of dusty old boxes
I look out of the window.
The leaves outside flutter and tremble
As they always do, before a big storm.
They aren’t sure which way the wind blows.
Neither am I, today.

Honour the Dead

honour the long loved dead
by being the person they’d want
don’t offer them dying flowers
don’t linger too long by the tomb
don’t keep the curtains closed
let in the light into the room
honour the dead in your life
honour their wishes for you
accept that thought as their gift

honour them
honour their virtues
that’s all we must do for our dead
we know all the words they would speak
listen to all they would say
we will always take them with us
to be our loving guide
as we follow the path ahead
into another day