The Shadowed Queen

In a lonely, far off place,
the shadow of a gentle queen,
cast across her lofty tower,
caught my tired and vacant eye.
I was conscious of her grace
yet never once I saw her face.

I watched the shadow slowly change
through the slow revolving hours
as the light grew bright and strong
but faded fast away.
Sunlight is a harsh light,
laying bare reality,
then shadows grew too long.
I thought that in the moonlight,
when starlight lit the way,
and all the air was quiet and clear,
the mystery of a true romance
might bring the queen to me.

The castle walls were sheer and high
but where they swept so steeply down
to granite rocks  in gloom, below,
I saw a single, deep red rose
cast upon the stony ground,
a bud that almost bloomed.
I took it in my hand.
I laid it to my heart,
yet she could not come down.

I spent a lonely vigil there
but I saw only shadows,
light and dark, an interplay

I’ve seen bones amongst the leaves
in many ancient forests.
They’re the bones of valiant knights
that shadows led astray.
They died consumed of hunger.
They dug their own cold graves.

I’m bewitched by beauty,
but I know dark
and I know light,
and all the shades that rest between.
Experience has taught me well,
and so I rode away

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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.

Deja Vu

In a dream of another time,
In a life so completely still mine,
The world had a soft glowing shine.

As I walked in the country lanes
My mind was rested in peace.

Beside the pathway, a seat,
Hidden by foxglove and meadowsweet,
Piled rocks from a fallen tower
Close by a bend, that in turning, I knew,
Would reveal a view of the sea.
I recall lifting you, to sit like a queen,
Wild flowers entwined in your hair.

In some scented hour long ago,
It must have been déjà vu

Timeless

how sweetly jasmin scents the air
its petals gleaming in the night
against the dark stones of the tower
my lady never looked so fair
as she looks tonight

leaning in her window there
her gentle hand against her cheek
with tender breezes in here hair
my lady never looked so fair
as she looks tonight

i know that she is thinking now of me
her lips curved in a smile of love
and she is dreaming peacefully
my lady never looked so fair
as she looks tonight

i could watch her hour by hour
passing time in loves delight
in moonlight she’s the loveliest flower
my lady never looked so fair
as she looks tonight

time will not fade her lovely face
an endless beauty shines within
a light, illuminating grace
my lady will remain as fair
as she is tonight

My Dragon

there is a good reason
fairy tale lovers often live
in high towers
with a thick wood all around
they may need a drawbridge
and a watery moat
to keep a troublesome world out

i don’t know
how to drop the portcullis
the wheel is too big to turn it about
but you have your silver dust
in a pouch from the faeries
and i have a dragon
that’s always on guard

he may speak with soft words
but he sleeps with one eye wide open
and the other half closed

Five Haiku to start five stories

a girl surrounded by fairy wings
sees what others don’t see
the gate stands open

 

guarded by ravens
the tower stands in the forest
twigs snap in the dark

 

a man hurried past
his breathing heavy
shadows obscure the path

 

the bus is surrounded
bright eyed boys in the dusk
starlings flock to the rooftops

 

after a hot day

silver crack on the horizon

a line in the dark

The Queen of the Greenwood (a Corona)

i sit by the fire in the woodland
all is peace, gentle, quiet, dear,
yet my heart rises to my throat
rises like a spring, a songbird
wings beating, bursting
the well is deep, the moment fleeting
my pulse like water singing
drumming, humming
all fades away on the breeze
even as its golden light glows
shining out in the darkness
known, yet unknown.

home is her, and now.
it comes, it goes, the rose

it comes, it goes, the rose
the wild rose of the woodland
i run, trying to reach it
eagerness grasps only thorns
no perfume, no tender pink heart
better admired where it grows
soft petals shine out in the dark
dark trees loom all around
lost or found it blooms there
where is she in all i seek
she who holds the rose
why does she always leave

turning always to look back at me
she comes, she goes, holding the rose

she comes, she goes, holding the rose
i saw her up on the green hill
weaving in and out of the dance
i bow to her and take her hand
spin her, never win her
that wild, unruly, so gentle glance
as she turns and runs away
always looking back at me
always a footfall further
she haunts me still, never stays
she of the hill and the greenwood
where the paths all lead inward

deeper and ever deeper
into the wood i travel, willingly

into the wood i travel, willingly
this forest so wide and vast
these paths turn on fortunes wheel
darkness and light
all things future, all things past
shadows and clearings
silence and voices
a harp song on the wind
flute and owl hoot
the flash of a birds wing
in the night
i follow the ravens flight

i follow the Raven to the Tower
the gate is locked and barred

the gate is locked and barred
all is empty here
a hollow echo from before
i will not venture in
i stand and feel no fear
the Tower crumbles all to dust
i lay down my ancient sword
my armour turns to rust
my horse is faithful still
i trust to him and the Raven
i will follow his path
it is my own at last

all travellers have a quest
we ride on, finding the way

we ride on to once upon a time
over the hills and far away
where all paths twist back on themselves
always to the greenwood
the distant rainbows end
the treasure at its heart
the place where the rose unfolds
i dream amongst the trees
unafraid of any foe
guarded by a wall of thorns
protected in her circling arms
where all my dreams come true

i will travel on with her
wherever she may go

wherever she goes i will go
i follow in the dance
my pulse like water singing
she of the hill and the greenwood
queen of the shadows and clearings
my armour gleams again
i will be her hero
until my breath gives out
guarded by twisted paths
we rest in peace, with the rose
over the hills and far away
where time will never end

*******

 

a Corona is a series of sonnets strung together by the repetition of a line

Escaping the Tower

Climbing the mountain, trying to reach the tower
Confronted by a dragon, endlessly asking me riddles,
While a great storm gathers all about us
Thunderbolts roar, lightning reflects on my shield

(“What do you do in that room all the time?
What are you thinking about?’’
I stop to get the food
And gather the rubbish that needs to go out)

I am losing my footing on the slippery rocks.
The dragon flashes his eyes with desire
I have to succeed, cannot be overpowered,
I call on the rain to quench his fire

(“Always off in imagination,
What’s wrong with you?
You spend hours on that
And it’s not even true’’)

I answer the final riddle, the dragon steps aside.
My way no longer barred, I struggle on up the mountain.
The tower reaches up to the clouds
Eagles circle above, come to help me in my troubles

(“I know you have talent?
Why don’t you use it?’’
“I work too!’’ i say
“You could work more!’’ says she)

The eagle carries me up to the princess, we hover.
She reaches out to me. I swing her onto the eagles back.
My arm circles her waist, her hair flies in my face.
She leans back on me in relief.

(“You always were some other place,
Even as a child. No different now than ever.
Why can’t you just be normal,
And stay in reality?’’)

We circle together above the now sunlit valleys
Looking down from above, we avoid all the cities and castles
And land in a summer meadow by a softly singing stream
She adorns herself with flowers, I dream

Escaping from the Tower

Climbing the mountain, trying to reach the tower
Confronted by a dragon, endlessly asking me riddles,
While a great storm gathers all about us
Thunderbolts roar, lightning reflects on my shield

(“What do you do in that room all the time?
What are you thinking about?’’
I stop to get the food
And gather the rubbish that needs to go out)

I am losing my footing on the slippery rocks.
The dragon flashes his eyes with desire
I have to succeed, cannot be overpowered,
I call on the rain to quench his fire

(“Always off in imagination,
What’s wrong with you?
You spend hours on that
And it’s not even true’’)

I answer the final riddle, the dragon steps aside.
My way no longer barred, I struggle on up the mountain.
The tower reaches up to the clouds
Eagles circle above, come to help me in my troubles

(“I know you have talent?
Why don’t you use it?’’
“I work too!’’ i say
“You could work more!’’ says she)

The eagle carries me up to the princess, we hover.
She reaches out to me. I swing her onto the eagles back.
My arm circles her waist, her hair flies in my face.
She leans back on me in relief.

(“You always were some other place,
Even as a child. No different now than ever.
Why can’t you just be normal,
And stay in reality?’’)

We circle together above the now sunlit valleys
Looking down from above, we avoid all the cities and castles
And land in a summer meadow by a softly singing stream
She adorns herself with flowers, I dream