At night the isle is webbed with lullabies,
soft spirit voices tangled in the mists of thorn
and furze. They’re wisps of sound that gentle
me to sleep. By day, the murmurs guide me
to fresh springs, are at my shoulder as I creep
between the trees, sing a celebration as I slit
the warthog’s throat. They stroke the bristles
on it’s coat; lick my blood-hot hands; breathe
the stink of roasting flesh.
The man in the moon beats fast above the trees.
I met him once – O, years gone, when the wizard
and the girl were here. He wore a sea-stained jerkin,
tipped the liquor from a bark bottle down my throat.
He sang of women with his piebald slave. I worshipped
him, thought he’d kill the wizard, help me take the girl.
She taught me words, but I could never sing. When
the voices play, she’s all I want. To lick her shell-pink
skin, to part her thighs, to lose myself.
He kept her stoppered and secure. She wasn’t just stuff
for me, not Sycorax’s son. She had a higher destiny.
He saved her for a bald-faced, milky boy, a skinny prince
who’d swam ashore when the sail-boat split. I never
learned to swim. That’s all I miss: the girl.
Her father made her see me as I am.
But, when he went, he left the island’s song.
I’m a creature who’ll teach yer ‘bout language,
all the ghost-verbs that wander about,
cos I gobble the text that’s rejected -
all the bits that the smart kids rub out.
I eat up the unneeded adverbs,
munch on wily waste words tilI I bloat;
long-winded leftovers tempt me;
surplus syllables slip down my throat.
I lap up the lazy old letters
that will never get into a book.
I steal them from kids who write pages
and give them to kids who are stuck.
You might call me an alphabet freakoid
(O, those unwanted words taste so good!) -
but I see myself more as a hero:
in my view, I’m the new Robin Hood.
I’ll lick up the spare prepositions;
I’ll guzzle and dribble and slurp.
Once I’m full, then I give you fair warning:
Sometimes a word-worm must burp…
"All Hallows' Eve in Alnmouth"
Pink All Hallows’ light fingers the dunes,
unfurling shadows across their shifting feet,
down which the darker guests will tread.
The bugle of the sweet, wild wind
announces the first cobwebbed carriage,
and stirs the marram and couch to a flustered applause.
The moon lifts. White Hecate’s eye,
composed above the blue-black sea, spotlights
the first of the fae, in his silver and salt-green,
stepping, light as down, through the parting of grass,
threading his way by Jack-o-lantern
to the place where the torches have just been lit.
Behind him arrive his fellows, twisted in feathers
and fronds, slips of turquoise silk and sea-glass
glinting in the starlight, scraps of cloud
and mist: a queen with a golden diadem, a girl
in a scarlet dress, a tall man in violet-grey –
the multitude stream across the smoky dunes,
some dancing in giddy delight, some stately,
some wrapped in unknowable thoughts,
all trailing the sliver of moon-light through the smudge
of elephant grey. The sea breathes out,
breathes in. Far off, a lonely banshee wails.
The leader stops between the flames, calls to the sea,
his voice the shiver of pebbles under waves.
He warbles out his welcome at the ocean’s edge,
to the beetle-backed coracles that are suddenly there,
powered by strangely-jointed arms with batwing oars,
as they heave and pull towards the shore.
A murmur whispers and whistles, the rattle of shells
in a pocket, and spidery arms are raised. But one
of the company turns, looks keenly up, and sees -
the house overlooking the beach, the curtain’s sly spasm
as a face pulls back, into his home’s soft shadow.
One smiles like a scalpel; he saw the child’s face.
The ceremony has begun, the crowd is surging softly
forward, shrewd moths between the torch-flames,
eager to greet their friends. One looks back,
looks back and beckons with a rapier finger.
‘Come, child. We need a - guest of honour. Come.’
Yorkshire-woman Louise Wilford is an English teacher and examiner. She has had around fifty poems and short stories published in magazines including Popshots, Pushing Out The Boat, The Stinging Fly and Agenda, and has won or been shortlisted for several competitions. She is currently writing a children's fantasy novel.
This isn’t like fixing a Monet after someone has punched it. Horrible things are happening. My foremost thought is, “I want macaroni and cheese next time. I haven’t had it in years.” All of a sudden EMTs rush past with a man on a stretcher, his face covered in blood and bite marks. I scream something – in terror, I suppose. The last time I was so unsteady was probably when my mother died. I feel like any minute now I might look up and see her in the window of a plane
waving. A policewoman orders me to move along. And I was just about to ask, “What advice do you have for young people?” It was only a couple of days ago that some kids grabbed a classmate and persuaded him with fists and sticks and colorful arguments that one eye is enough.
"Are You Fucking Kidding Me?"
Groups of friends arrive on the hour every hour. A guard with the enflamed eyes of a drunk demands identification from them, but in a voice too faint to hear. You need to be patient at this stage. People don’t remember and sometimes I think they don’t even understand where they are. Cows roam around with butcher knives in their backs to make slaughtering easier. There are countless dead rabbits. A fly can't land on a fruit tree without first begging permission. So I just
sit here with my mouth open, I do, because I’m getting older now, and it’s hard work.
Howie Good is the author of The Loser's Guide to Street Fighting, winner of the 2017 Lorien Prize and forthcoming from Thoughtcrime Press, and Dangerous Acts Starring Unstable Elements, winner of the 2015 Press Americana Prize for Poetry.