Saturday 29 February 2020

The Book of Dreams

by Nick Gisburne

The book of despicable, dangerous dreams
Describing a path some are fearful to leave
The myths of a god who is not what he seems

A smokescreen for villains and vicious regimes
Its narrative twisted to cheat and deceive
The book of despicable, dangerous dreams

A hollow collection of arrogant schemes
Imposed on the gullible, needy, naïve
The myths of a god who is not what he seems

A banner for war and a shield for extremes
A licence to kill for the minds who believe
The book of despicable, dangerous dreams

A river of lies fed by poisonous streams
The wine of salvation, which none shall receive
The myths of a god who is not what he seems

Its doubters denounced with intolerant screams
The death rites of freedom, for which we should grieve
The book of despicable, dangerous dreams
The myths of a god who is not what he seems

Friday 28 February 2020

Spider Dogs

by Nick Gisburne

When Annabella Winterbottom woke to face the day
She loved to run around in pink pyjamas and to play
But hers was not a morning chasing unicorns, oh no
This time, when Annabella pulled the curtain, she saw snow

She scrunched her little eyes up tight and looked at it with awe
She’d never seen the snow in all her years (not many – four)
So Annabella ran to ask her mother, who said this:
“I’ll let you play outside in it, but first I’ll need a kiss”

With gloves and boots and hat and scarf and layers stuffed beneath
She giggled as the cold air put a chatter in her teeth
And stomping like a tiny giant, up the path she went
To fill the yard with footprints was her serious intent

Quite soon, it seemed, she heard her mother shouting, “Grandpa’s here!”
And Annabella Winterbottom gave a chilly cheer
She dashed inside the kitchen with her hands piled up with snow
If anyone could solve this winter puzzle, he would know

“Oh grandpa, is it magic? What has made the world so white?
Did fairies bring it, like they make the flowers and the light?
And why is it my cheeky cheekbones tingle with the cold?
I always ask you first because you’re very, very old”

While grandpa scratched his hairy chin, he pondered on a thought
“When I was young, no bigger than a goblin, I was taught
That snow is spread to catch the flying snowmen when they land
And you, my dove, have pieces of their pillows in your hand”

She gasped and threw the snow (or what was left of it) outside
Her plans to help the snowmen measured twenty grandpas wide
Their carpet she had trampled, but resolved to make amends
If snowmen came to visit they would need some little friends

“I need a snowman family so they can come to stay
Like mother, only better, and with not so much to say”
Her mother whispered, “That’s my child?” then louder, “Love you too”
But Annabella pointed at her grandpa. “I need you!”

“You go ahead,” said mother, “I need something from the shops
But don’t do everything she says, she really never stops”
He smiled and sighed, “I’m in control.” Yet in his heart he knew
That grandpas always do what Annabellas say they’ll do

She pulled him to the garden, to the land of ice and snow
“I need three heads, about this big. Go on then, grandpa, go!
And while he rolled the snow up in a rounder, bigger ball
She gathered twigs and sticks and piled them up against the wall

“You’ll need some coals for eyes,” he said. “A carrot for the nose”
A hat, a scarf, and buttons from his belly to his toes”
“What do you think we’re building? This is not some kind of man
We’re making giant spider dogs, the best way that we can”

Her grandpa said, “Ahh... spider dogs, I really should have guessed”
And wondered if this darling child might be some kind of test
She stamped her foot and pouted as she sent him back to work
But wandered off, while in his mind the doubts began to lurk

“Is that a...?” Oh dear me, it was. A long and slim device
She pushed the black remote control in sideways, smiling. “Nice!”
“Well that’s the mouth and teeth done, so I’ll need to find some eyes”
Poor grandpa kept on rolling. “That should be a nice surprise”

“I got these from the bathroom, not too long and not too thick”
She bashed assorted lipstick tubes in smartly with a brick
“A hairbrush makes the perfect nose.” So that is what they got
“And dried spaghetti hairstyles.” Was she joking? She was not

“I think we’ve done enough now, sweetheart, let’s go back inside”
The worried grandpa wondered if he ought to run or hide
But Annabella Winterbottom said, “Just work, don’t talk”
“I’m trying to decide how fast a spider dog can walk”

Each leg was now a branch she roughly twisted, bent and shaped
While on the whole creation dustbin liner bags were draped
She pulled more branches from her stash to make each dog a nest
While grandpa worried if she’d had her senses repossessed

“They just need names.” Arms folded, she inspected them with pride
“That’s Reaper, this is Dead Bone, and the shy one, Demon Tide
The snowmen won’t be lonely now. Each one can have a pet
Thanks grandpa, that was fun, and mum will love it too, I bet”

The car crunched up the driveway, back from shopping in the cold
And somehow grandpa suddenly felt very, very old
“I’m home!” called mother. “Sorry, someone stopped me for a chat
Have you been good? Oh, holy f***ing sh** balls! WHAT IS THAT?!

She swept into the garden as a storm raged in her eyes
And grandpa now regretted never making a disguise
Three angry looking spider dogs, remote controls for teeth
Gazed up at them with lipstick eyes, a hairbrush nose beneath

Their legs were poised; it seemed they might escape at any time
And that was grandpa’s new regret – if only he could climb
But Annabella Winterbottom’s heart was filled with joy
“The snowmen will be coming soon. I hope we get a boy!”

“Inside,” said mother’s gritted teeth. “Don’t want to catch a chill”
And grandpa’s final, deep regret – he hadn’t made a will
“My spider dogs will guard the house!” proclaimed the gleeful child
She left to change, but mother slowly locked the door and smiled

The war, one-sided, short and sweet, was very, very loud
With mother talking, grandpa not – who fights a thundercloud?
But families must get along, hostilities will cease
And once reminded who was boss (the women) there was peace

So Annabella slept that night with one thing on her mind
She dreamed of what the snow would bring, what magic she would find
And walking on the winter clouds, beyond the freezing fogs
Three snowmen flew above the house, with three young spider dogs

Thursday 27 February 2020

The Oracle of Doom

by Nick Gisburne

On the highest mountain peaks
In the temples of the west
Locked within a tiny room
Lives the Oracle of Doom
With his visions we are blessed
Listen as he speaks:

Tremble as the planet breaks
Mountains shatter, scorched and scarred
Cities, broken, burst and crash
Waves of fire and boiling ash
Bodies burning, smoking, charred
Tremble as he wakes

Stare in terror at the skies
See him rip the walls of space
Witness death’s unholy dreams
Marching through a field of screams
Wickedness consumes his face
Stare into his eyes

Feel the fear and boundless pain
See his plague infect the sky
Stinking tides of poisoned blood
Mankind choking in the mud
All will suffer as they die
Feel the blazing rain

Thus, the prophet, cold with dread
Faints and falls, but speaks once more:

If these future threads be spun
Fate decrees what must be done
Make a sandwich, lock the door
Don’t get out of bed

This was heading far from my original plans, into the realms of magniloquence(!), but I think I managed to steer it onto a different course. Putting these words into the mouth of a prophet made all the difference. Maybe.

She Cuts Herself

by Nick Gisburne

She cuts herself to take away the pain
The pressure, building, pushing, always there
That merciless and unrelenting strain
It drags her to the threshold of despair
She cuts herself for blessed sweet release
A chance to test the limits of her skin
The knife blade always brings a little peace
And drains the deep anxiety within
She cuts herself but no one else must know
Without it she believes her heart would burst
She needs that warm, intoxicating glow
To take away the feeling she is cursed
    She does it just to know she will survive
    She cuts herself to keep herself alive

Wednesday 26 February 2020

Harvest Candles

by Nick Gisburne

He hangs them by the neck, out in the field
The old, the young, the innocent, all die
Their fluids drained, the carcasses are sealed
And studied with a pale, unblinking eye
In seven moons they ripen and they rot
Each body splits to birth a crimson seed
He pounds the harvest in a grinding pot
And smiles to see them blending as they bleed
The septic paste soon thickens into wax
And into this he dips a twisted wick
The candles, carved with cryptic runes and tracks
Are fitted to a crooked candlestick
    The warlock lights them quickly with a spell
    And follows where they lead him, into Hell

The Eyes of Betrayal

by Nick Gisburne

Her eyes cannot erase what they have seen
No span of time will wash away the pain
The images of what should not have been
Are branded on the surface of her brain
No words can heal the damage I have done
The shame of my betrayal strips me bare
There is no shelter, nowhere now to run
From eyes burned black with anger and despair
The love we built has shattered into dust
Instead, a wall of ice, without a door
The ring, a sacred token of our trust
A cold and empty circle on the floor
    A moment of betrayal ends our life
    As surely as a heart receives a knife

Tuesday 25 February 2020

The Seeds of War

by Nick Gisburne

The fog of hate flows thick with tainted blood
It starves the sky and feeds the swollen seas
It pours a plague to blind the eyes of man
    His borrowed gold, a shining, filthy flood
    Corrupts the greedy lapdogs with disease
    They bark the tyrant gospels of his plan
He plants a war in sick, infected mud
With lies he seeds to grow like spiteful trees
Resistance purged, uprooted by his hand
    From every toxic, acid-poisoned bud
    A burning flower, screaming on its knees
    The ashes of their petals choke the land
No light can fill the darkness he will send
No words can turn this future from its end

An Antidote to Free Verse

What I know about poetic form has been absorbed gradually, over many years, sometimes accidentally, sometimes when I’ve actively looked for more information. Much of the time I’ve simply read a poem which I’ve appreciated, and then tried to write one with similar structure, or adapted its form to meet my needs. I’ve really just been playing it by ear.

The sestina and the villanelle are two forms I’ve discovered only this year, and I’ve come to enjoy writing them, but there is a temptation to just written dozens of those and nothing else. Now I feel like I need to learn about more forms, and to stretch myself to see what is possible. I’ve looked into buying books about poetic form, but they all seem to be very dry and overly academic. I keep falling back to Google searches, giving up, and going back to ‘if in doubt, write a sestina’, albeit customised to suit the poem I’m writing – I do break ‘rules’ if they need to be broken.

Yesterday I searched for ‘poetry’ on YouTube and found the video shown above. Stephen Fry (a legend in so, so many ways), talks about poetic form, and more importantly mentions a book he wrote about that very subject, teaching poetic form to people who want to write poetry.

It was a joy to listen to him talking about and promoting poetic form. The structure of poetry is what gives it something far more than prose, and I find it immensely satisfying to do the hard graft required to bring to my poetry the control required by whatever form I’ve decided to use.

Poetry without form is called ‘free verse’, so allow me to hit that particular topic with a sledgehammer. Although he was careful not to disparage free verse, it’s hard not to get the impression that it’s certainly not Stephen Fry’s favourite thing. I am far less coy about that subject. I have no love for free verse at all. Not because there aren’t any good writers of free verse (he mentions some in the video), but because 99.9% of free verse is, let there be no doubt, absolutely awful.

Random words thrown down without any structure at all, flowery phrases pulled out of someone’s backside just because they thought, ‘Oh that sounds nice,’ do not make great poetry. They just make a mess. They are not stirring my emotions at all, unless you count frustration as one – I am frustrated that people don’t know how to use words to write poetry, so they think that just writing a long jumble of lines is the way to go.

Bad free verse is no more than the literary equivalent of Jackson Pollock, who just spattered paint onto canvas in any old direction and called it art. No, Jackson Pollock’s splishy splashy crap was not art, it was just splishy splashy crap. Look up his stuff on Google images and tell me that any idiot with some pots of paint couldn’t do that. The art world is one of those places where if you can talk the talk you can get away with convincing art ‘critics’ that your plastic bag full of dog shit is ‘a commentary on the futility of war in a post-modern society’, or some bollocks like that. Free verse is exactly the same. People are telling you it’s art, but it’s not. It’s dog shit. In a bag.

Free verse, certainly in the hands of anyone I’ve seen on DeviantArt, is nothing its authors should be proud of. Maybe it’s just ‘not my thing’ in the same way as Jackson Pollock’s nonsense is ‘not my thing’, but I doubt it. It’s The Emperor’s New Clothes in poetry – there is nothing really there, and I’m calling it out for what it is. This journal post wasn’t originally intended to be a public lynching of free verse, but I’m glad to have put my feelings on the subject out there now.

What I really started this journal to say was that I’ve now ordered Stephen Fry’s book, The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within, and I’ll be trying to add to my skills, taking my poetry in new directions, at least new for me. If poetic form was good enough for the great poets over the centuries, then that’s good enough for me. Free verse is definitely not good enough for me.

Monday 24 February 2020

Defective Haiku

by Nick Gisburne

Defective haiku
One syllable is missing
How can I fix?

Friday 21 February 2020

Selkie Skin

by Nick Gisburne

Strange are the stories of legend and mystery
Whispers and rumours, old tales of the sea
Each has its keeper, a mind to remember it
Hear now the history given to me

Far to the North, where the sea freezes easily
There, on a desolate island of stone
Cloistered in poverty, humble in piety
Dwelt a disciple, a hermit, alone

Long had he struggled with scripture and solitude
Doubting his faith and contesting his creed
Filled with despondence, unbearable loneliness
Bound by his vows, how he longed to be freed

Only the boat bringing food to the hermitage
Broke for a moment his growing despair
Even these visits were silent and spiritless
Angered, he muttered a blasphemous prayer

“Spare me from misery,” murmured the mendicant
“Trapped on this island of wandering seals
Gannets and guillemots, puffins and cormorants
Why should they fly while a wretched man kneels?”

“What would I give for a minute of happiness?
What would I sell for one glorious day?
What, for a year, to abandon the emptiness?
Gladly my soul would I barter away!”

Evil, malevolent forces were listening
God turned away as the bargain was made
Darkness infected the skies with its wickedness
Raising a tempest, the price to be paid

Seething and surging, the withering thunderstorm
Lashed with a murderous, merciless roar
Shattering waves hurled invincible energy
Rearing as demons, they pounded the shore

Splinters of lightning ripped open the firmament
Bursting the heavens and boiling the seas
Madness invaded the house of the heretic
Worshipping, laughing, he fell to his knees

Only the dawn broke the cycle of violence
Fog filled the morning, oppressive and grey
Chasing the storm it flowed back to the underworld
Now, in the sands and the shingle, she lay

Colder than mist on a whispering waterfall
Soft as a promise, the ghost of a dream
Flowing hair blacker than darkest obsidian
Lustrous, her flesh seemed to shimmer and gleam

Was she illusion, a twist of reality?
Angel or demon, or something between?
Why had the storm brought this goddess, a girl, to him?
Was there some trick, a deception unseen?

Layers of subtlety, cryptic and sinister
What was the oddity found at her side?
Long as her body and slit down the length of it
Some kind of  curious animal hide

But, as he stroked it, he fathomed the mystery
Slowly he lifted the thing to his cheek
Priceless and precious as life, this was selkie skin
Mottled and leathery, supple and sleek

Gently he carried her up to the hermitage
Wrapped her in blankets and bundles of straw
Somehow her beauty was flawless, impossible
Sleeping, he watched her with deepening awe

She was a selkie, no question or argument
Shape-shifting seal-heart, a child of the sea
Shedding her skin, she could blend with humanity
Slipping it on she might swim away, free

Well he remembered the troublesome fairytale
Selkies will always leave humans behind
Quickly, he folded the skin and then buried it
Cruel deceptions came swiftly to mind

Softly he woke her with sorrow and sympathy
“Gone is your selkie skin, damaged and lost
Torn by the rocks, you can never see home again
I will protect you, whatever the cost”

First there were days of incredible suffering
Mourning the loss of what helped her to live
Patient, he comforted all of her agonies
Soothing her, showing the love he might give

Then there were glimmers of blossoming tenderness
Slowly the selkie accepted her fate
Trusting a man who could soften the tragedy
Healing the harm he had helped to create

Always she longed to return to the waterfront
Watching the seals as they followed the tide
Always he told her the pain could return to her
Better to follow his counsel, inside

Openly courting her, artful and devious
Weaving a tangle of promise and lies
Finally all of the selkie’s anxieties
Melted away to leave love in her eyes

Dark and enticing, the deepest of emeralds
Witnessed the man who had salvaged her life
“All is forgotten now, buried in history
Here will I stay as your lover and wife”

Now the disciple, with sinful iniquity
Took her and used her and made her his own
Vows of obedience, chastity, poverty
Into the flames of his passion were thrown

Days that were sweet became tainted with bitterness
Promises broken and feelings betrayed
Fearing his anger, the selkie would sing to him
Always obedient, always afraid

She was a vessel to fill with his weaknesses
Blaming her presence for all of his pain
Restless, he plotted to leave and be done with her
Only her beauty had made him remain

Food became scarce, his supplies feeding both of them
Finally, starving, the boat was now due
“Hide yourself, woman, you must not be visible”
Now, through the mist, came the vessel he knew

Leaving, he rushed to receive the delivery
Helping to tie up the boat on the shore
Longing to speak, he was noisy and arrogant
Neither had broken their silence before

“Hail to you, brother! May faith never trouble you!
Hail to the god who enslaves us in chains!”
Tripping the rower he kicked him relentlessly
Swinging a boat hook, he dashed out his brains

Dumping the corpse for the waters to swallow it
Startled, he spied an assembly of seals
Floating together, their dark eyes gazed up at him
Spooked and unsettled, he turned on his heels

How to explain why the boat had no mariner?
Why should he tell her, and what could she do?
Yearning to flaunt his success as a murderer
Filled with contempt, his malevolence grew

“All is prepared for the journey ahead of us
Freedom to live under different skies”
But the young selkie grew fearful and hesitant
Something disturbing was clouding her eyes

“How can I stray from the sea, from my family
Leaving the people who gave me my life?”
Angry, the hermit rebuked all her challenges
“Seals are but animals. You are my wife”

Roughly he pulled at her, frantic and terrified
Dragged her and ordered her into the boat
Tied her with ropes then returned to the hermitage
Sobbing, she clutched at the noose at her throat

Breaking the swell of the surface, soft ripple rings
Spreading, colliding, then fading away
Shadow-forms, spinning and dancing delightfully
Deep in the waters, the seal-folk at play

Helpless, she mourned for the loss of her family
One man alone was the source of her fears
Moments, mere glimpses, her last, to remember them
Bowing her head she cried seven small tears

Delicate droplets of infinite agony
Flowed from the emptiest depths of her heart
Seven, they sparkled and vanished like miracles
Pulling her sensitive spirit apart

Seven, the number of heads at the waterline
Seven, the figures who rose from the sea
Seven, the men who walked out from their selkie skins
Seven, together, to do what must be

Striding in silence they climbed to the hermitage
Watched as the sinner stepped out of the door
Loaded with relics and worthless accoutrements
All of them struck from his hands to the floor

Pain was his punishment, brutal and merciless
Long they delivered it, all he deserved
Battered and bludgeoned until he lay whimpering
Broken, they left him, his sentence now served

Yet, as they turned, they left one speck of wickedness
This was his vengeance, his poison, his sin
“Demons delivered it, these hands have buried it
Buried what’s dear to her – buried her skin!”

Murderous rage filled the eyes of the selkie-men
Lifting the hermit they carried him high
Down to the shoreline and down to the rowing boat
Down to his knees to atone for his lie

Pity was all that her feelings could find for him
Free from the ropes now, she stepped to his side
“How could I ever imagine you cared for me?
I was your victim, but never your bride”

“Give me the skin, or reveal where you buried it
Tell me what rock you have put it beneath
Tell me and live to return to your misery”
“Never!” He sneered through the blood on his teeth

Kneeling before him she nodded regretfully
One of the selkie-men pulled back his head
Gripping his throat she remembered his promises
When she released him his body was dead

Selkies may visit the land, though reluctantly
Always they long to return to the sea
So went the seven, but she could not follow them
Only with selkie skin could she be free

Trapped on the island, she combed every inch of it
Was she made whole again? Only she knows
Hear how she sings – yes, the selkie remembers it
Listen, she cries, when the winter wind blows

How I wrote 'Selkie Skin'

Selkie Skin is a poem about a selkie and her skin. Well, that wrapped everything up more quickly than I expected! The poem was written over a period of 4 days, and changed a lot during that time. This is a description of how the poem came about, and the process I went through to complete it successfully.


When I say it took 4 days to write Selkie Skin, I really do mean 4 days. If you work a 9-to-5 job in an office and sit down in front of the computer all day, well that’s not nearly the number of hours per day I spent in my 4 days of writing poetry. I tend to start at midday and keep going until I simply have to sleep, usually 4 or 5 am. I usually stop to eat, but sometimes I find I’ve missed a meal altogether! Do I eat dinner at 3 in the morning? Yes, sometimes I do.

I put a lot of time into this poem because, as usual, the story inside me demanded the time from me. This is not a simple story, or a snapshot of an event. Selkie Skin is a full story, with a detailed plot, characters, and many twists and turns. That all takes time.


And it’s poetry, with rhyme and metre. Rhyme is easy. Find two words to rhyme and put them together. You’re done. You can even get two lines which rhyme and have the same number of syllables, fairly easily. But that’s not the end of it. Read this aloud:

    There is a house beyond the blue hill
    Underneath it is an orange mill

Those are two lines which rhyme and have the same number of syllables, but they have no real metre, or at least none which flows naturally – there is no rhythm to these lines. They don’t even stutter along in the same (bad) pattern as each other. When you read them aloud your brain says, ‘Something is wrong, I don’t like this’, and your brain is absolutely correct!


I won’t be explaining what metre is here, and I won’t be getting too technical, so you’ll need to look it up elsewhere if you’re not sure. Try this link for the basics:

    Metre (poetry)

Writing with metre can be difficult. Sometimes you will find the perfect word and the perfect rhyme, but if its metre is DUM-da-da and your line needs da-da-DUM, you simply can’t use that word. And that doesn’t just apply the end of the line. The entire line will have metre, so every word has to have the correct metre, at the place you want to put it within the line. My poem is 188 lines long, and that’s a lot of lines, a lot of words, a lot of syllables (2024 of them!) all needing to fit the metre I chose for the poem. And that metre is...

    Dactylic tetrameter

I used the same metre in Forgotten Empires, and liked it there so I knew it would fit with the tone of this story.

And yes, as with that poem, you can also sing this one to the same tune as the opening bars of  ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ by The Beatles. But please don’t do it. I must stop mentioning that!


Of course, within these severest of constraints (which, by the way, makes writing this kind of poetry more enjoyable, not less), I also have to tell a story. The story may sometimes change, because what I want to say at a particular point won’t fit the metre, or because the metre forces me to use one word rather than another. When I say ‘forces’ I also mean ‘suggests’. I may find a word which fits, but which then makes me go in a different direction with the plot, or gives me further ideas for developing the story. That’s how I write most of my poems, certainly the longer ones. Everything is always open to change, if the changes are improvements.

All of this together takes time, huge amounts of it. Imagine that you have a jigsaw with 2000 pieces, and that you’re constantly trying to move and fit the pieces together. You find a piece of blue sky, but where will it fit? You see another piece of sky, but no, it’s the wrong shape (the metre), so you have to keep trying until it fits. When it’s all put together you have the big picture, and I have a poem. Unless, that is, I’ve looked at the clear blue sky, decided I’d rather see a cloudy grey one, and now have to make new and more interesting pieces to fit my puzzle!


I’ll talk more about selkies in a while, but for now all you need to know about them is this:
In Scottish mythology, selkies, meaning “seal folk”, are mythological beings capable of changing from seal to human form by shedding their skin.
That’s from Wikipedia, and if you need more you can read the whole entry here:


From this point onwards I need to assume you’ve read my poem. If not, consider this a huge spoiler alert!


Let’s talk about a dream I had. The date was 13 November 2019 and when I woke up I wrote down what I remembered of the dream:
A couple find a baby on a beach and take her home, adopt her and look after her. But when the mother dies the child is abused by the father in a terrible way. She runs away and the father pursues her, finding her eventually on the very beach where she was originally discovered. He is dragging her home when she gives an awful cry. The sound is answered by a population of seals who seem to come from nowhere and come ashore on the beach, surrounding the man and separating him from the girl. Some of the seals take human form and kill the man. Those still in seal form devour him. The girl returns with them to the sea. They are selkies, as is the girl.
I didn’t really need a spoiler alert there, because that dream is not the plot of this poem. But, when I started writing it, that was the plot I had in mind. I immediately wanted to have the baby (it was still a baby then) appear after a storm. So the very first stanza of the poem I wrote was this:
Seething and surging, the withering thunderstorm
Lashed with a murderous, merciless roar
Shattering waves hurled invincible energy
Rearing as demons, they pounded the shore
Writing something like that also helps me get into the correct mindset. I knew this would be a long poem, so would need a gradual build-up, but a few lines of high drama often gets the creative juices flowing more easily.

At the time I wanted an island with a couple living on it, who find the child. Why would a couple live on the island? Could I instead use a monk and a nun? Change of direction again. Problem: monks and nuns do not and did not live in that way. Not one of each, together. But for a hermit (in the religious sense of the word) it would work perfectly. So far I had: hermit finds stranded baby after a storm.

Back to my dream. The central theme to it is an abusive relationship. So the timescale now became an issue. Did I want to wait, in my story, until the baby grew up? No. Did I really want to explore ‘man abuses child’ in this poem? I’ve done that before, many times, because there are terrible things done to children, and I write to bring them to light and condemn them. But I had the sense that I wanted to go in a different direction here. ‘Woman in an abusive relationship’ is where this poem really started to take me. That’s the direction I went. The dream led me to a certain point, then I simply took a fork in the road.

More forks led to me ‘the hermit is a monk who loses his faith and goes bad’ and ‘the storm is called when he does a deal with a devil’. Those led directly to ‘finds a woman’, ‘loves the woman at first, but his evil nature is revealed’. Much much later we find that the path leads to ‘he gets what he deserves... or maybe not... oh yes he does... but does she have a happy ending?’ and we’re all the way into spoiler town again.


You’ll be best served by me not repeating everything I’ve read but simply guiding you to some of the material I found to be most useful.

The Selkie-folk
Imagine a seal, which takes off its skin. Inside it is a woman. But she cannot become a seal again without the skin. What if someone steals and hides the skin? The web page describes how selkies live, how they shed their skins, and how their skins can be taken so that the selkie is forced to stay, unable to return to the sea. It also describes the ‘seven tears’, which is important to my poem, although I changed its meaning a little to suit the story I had in mind. There are other links on that page to more selkie information.

Monk – Hermit – Mendicant
A complicated one because monks generally live in monasteries, with other monks. Hermits live alone and don’t mix with other people, so that’s why my main character is a hermit. A religious one, so the information about monks was important too. He’s a mix of all I read about monks and hermits. I mention the word ‘mendicant’ in the poem – someone who ‘relies chiefly or exclusively on alms to survive’. That ties in with the boat delivering supplies of food to the island.

The Island
The hermit’s island is in the North, and so are the selkies, so in my mind it was a small, remote island, part of the Orkney Islands. One of them had (or has) a chapel on it, but chapels aren’t for living in, so I built him a hermitage.

The Middle at the End

Once I was well into writing the poem, I realised I had a beginning (call down the storm, find the selkie) and an end (the selkies rise up against the hermit) but no middle. I actually went straight from the selkie waking up to, in the very next stanza, accepting her fate and saying she would marry him. And in the next stanza he was taking advantage of her and planning to leave the island. That was some quick turnaround!

So the very last thing I added was the gradual seduction of the selkie by the hermit, followed by his change in mood and abusive nature as soon as he got what he wanted. This was all to add weight to the idea of an abusive relationship, a universal truth found in all too many relationships, right up to modern times.


The hermit is punished, but he has a card up his sleeve and plays it when he knows he has nothing to lose. My original thoughts were that the selkie would find her skin, accuse him of hiding it, take the boat, and leave him on the island to starve. That sounded like too much of a happy ending to me (if you call starving someone to death ‘happy’). If you know me, you’ll know I don’t do a ‘Disney denouement’. Yes, the hermit is dealt with, but he hid her skin – why would I not want her to spend her life looking for it? The older versions of many fairy tales delight in avoiding happy endings. As do I. Poor selkie. You’ll hear her cries on the wind, if you just listen.


Massive poem. Massive amount of work. Massively satisfying. This is one of the best poems I’ve ever written. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you found these insights of some interest too. On to the next one!

Tuesday 18 February 2020

Let Me Help You

by Nick Gisburne

I can see your sorrow
I can see the grief
I can see the rage inside, the burning disbelief

    Let me take the madness
    Let me heal your heart
    Let me show you how to take this misery apart

Life can make you restless
Life can haunt your sleep
Life can play the memories you thought you’d buried deep

    Let me fight the nightmares
    Let me fill your dreams
    Let me show you nothing is as painful as it seems

Life can be a joker
Life can play the fool
Life can teach the wicked things you never learned at school

    Let me start the lesson
    Let me make things right
    Let me show you how to fall but stand and win the fight

Life can make you guilty
Life can feed you lies
Life can pull the tears of desolation from your eyes

    Let me be the lawyer
    Let me prove your case
    Let me free your spirit from the prison of this place

Life can feed you poison
Life can make you sick
Life can knock you down and break your bones with every kick

    Let me break the fever
    Let me be the cure
    Let me heal the wounds and make your future safe and sure

Life can be a phantom
Life can be a ghost
Life can be the things you fear to love or hate the most

    Let me bring the daylight
    Let me chase them out
    Let me put a certainty where now there is a doubt

Life can taint the magic
Life can twist its charm
Life can cast the spells which bring your sanity to harm

    Let me find the wonder
    Let me break the seal
    Let me show you what is mere illusion, what is real

Life can rise to anger
Life can seem so weak
Life can make impossible the peace for which you seek

    Let me calm the passion
    Let me take your hand
    Let me be your guide until your heart can understand

Life can call the darkness
Life can toll the bell
Life can bring oblivion or send your soul to Hell

    Let me be an angel
    Let me save your soul
    Let me fill the empty space inside and make you whole

Life is never easy
Life is long to live
Life can show you sins that only you can now forgive

    Life is worth the living
    Let me help you mend
    Let me teach you how to live again. I’m here, your friend

Friday 14 February 2020

A Night at The Galloping Dog

by Nick Gisburne

They gather together, a villainous crew
In a tavern, The Galloping Dog
With silver they pay for a glutinous stew
And a generous measure of grog

These outlaws and brigands and pirates and thieves
Are the worst of the average best
But knackered or not every bandit believes
In the glory and gold of a quest

“We ride on the morrow!” cheers Gretel the Grim
“We fly like a nail from a toe!”
Her brother, the muscle-bound Derek the Dim
Sees a problem. “We’ve nowhere to go.”

The bald-headed wizard, Cornelius Nit
Rubs the glass of his eye. “Let us think.
Together we’ll find a solution for it
And to this let us toast, let us drink!”

To the treasure we find and the gold in our chest
Let us drink to the glorious quest!

The dwarvish twin brothers, Shambuca and Sod
Bang their swords with a furious crash
“We’ve heard that Tiranto, the mystery god
Has a mountain of jewels and cash”

“He’s bankrupt, all gone in a pyramid scheme,”
Says the innkeeper’s wife, with a wink
“He paid for a dozen, then ran out of steam.
But enough of that, who’s for a drink?”

To the treasure you find and the gold in your chest
Drink your fill to the glorious quest!

Imelda the Ravenous, Queen of the Bite
Spits the crumbs from a mouthful of cake
“I’ve got the wrong breeches, this leather’s too tight
And my corsets are starting to ache”

She opens a button, which shatters a glass
As it pings to the back of the bar
“Let’s all have another! It’s giving me gas
But the smell isn’t toxic... so far.”

To the treasure locked up in my glorious chest
Let us drink while I loosen this dress!

“A city of dragons, a river of gold
That’s the rumour I’ve heard from the south”
The warlord is crooked, incredibly old
And he guards the lone tooth in his mouth

“Oh, Dennis, you darling,” laughs Libertine Len
As he freshens the rouge on his cheeks
“Those dragons are drinkers like all of you men
That’s a river of pee, and it reeks”

There’s laughing and drinking, more drinking and more
And the privy door bangs as it shuts
The pirate, Old Percy, has started to snore
But he wakes with a pain in the guts

To the treasure! Oh bugger, I’ve stained me new vest
Gizza drink, it’s a glory-arse quest!

“There’s goblins aplenty,” adds Dylan the Bard
“Very tricky to track, but it pays
To get a good goblin you need to work hard
Ask my wife, that’s what she always says”

A hiccuping elf, lying flat on the floor
Holds a gravy-stained map to his face
“These mountains are taters! Oy, innkeeper! More!
What’s it take to get served in this place?”

To the trouble! The treasure! The gravy! Oh yes!
Leave me down here, I’m making a nest

“It’s time for a sing-song! Go Dylan!” squeals Len
“Do ‘The Legend of Witchfinder’s Hole’!”
“You leave my hole out of it. Never again,”
Says the Witchfinder, “Not with a troll.”

“Do we know where we’re going yet?” Gretel is sad
“We’ve got dreams. We all know what they are.”
“Oh, poor Gretel. What’s yours?” says Methuselah’s dad
Gretel grins. “Pint of grog – there’s the bar!”

He’s flexing, it’s Derek, the challenge is on
Only one of his arms against six
“You’re not even trying.” Their chances are none
And he throws them away like old sticks

I am Derek the Dim, I put oil on my chest
Let us drink as I dead lift the quest!

“Cornelius, magic your way out of that!”
And Imelda grabs hold of his wand
She dances and wears just the wizard’s old hat
No one doubts she’s a natural blonde

Old Dennis, the former destroyer of men
Holds the last of his teeth in the air
“I’ve lost it! I’ve lost it!” “We know you have, Den
But we all have, and none of us care!”

A thunderous, shattering, fairly loud boom
Knocks the drunken old soaks to floor
The silence which follows envelops the room
Percy lets out a fart, and one more

The steps of a dozen, or more, maybe less
Or a loner with plenty of boots
With no working brains, they have no way to guess
And with no other rhyme, an owl hoots

The door crashes open and framed in its frame
Not the Furies, the Fuzz or the Fates
Not demons or monsters, not f-words of flame
Just Magnificent Mog and her mates

“We’re loaded with jewels and plenty of cash
Give us each a big bucket of grog
We’ve come for the booze, but we need a quick splash
We are busting, so where is the bog?”

Relieved, they return to the harrowing sight
Of a booze-up they’ve already missed
They hand out green potions called ‘Restart the Night’
And they all drink together, re-pissed

To the treasure we found and the gold in our chest
Let us drink to the glorious quest!

The villains of old in The Galloping Dog
Are at one with a new kind of crew
They drink to the plans of Magnificent Mog
And make regular trips to the loo

If ever you travel with gold in your chest
And if ever you’re lost in the fog
The time of your life is all there as a guest
At the glorious Galloping Dog

Thursday 13 February 2020

The Bite

by Nick Gisburne

He creeps in the margins of darkness and dust
He burns with a feverish, ravenous lust
He crawls in the shadowlands, longing to rise
He aches for the pain of your pitiful cries
He flows and he surges, a powerful flood
He slithers and slides to the heat of your blood
He sighs with a whispering, menacing breath
He thirsts for the murderous moment of death
He walks in the shivering stillness of night
Surrender, submit, to the bite

Wednesday 12 February 2020

The Titan of Brass

by Nick Gisburne

Frozen, abandoned, the titan of brass
Longs for a life, for a heartbeat of steam
Crippled and buried, her gears do not spin
Ice grips the metal, the shell of her skin
Centuries sleeping, a desolate dream
Locked in a prison of glass

Whispers remember her, frozen in glass
Murderous, mythical titan of brass
Is she a memory? More than a dream?
Where lies the goddess of shadow and steam?
Visions and nightmares burn into my skin
Images spiral and spin

There, in the north, where the compasses spin
There, in the glacial rivers of glass
There, where the blizzards rake into the skin
There will I find her, the titan of brass
There will I render the ice into steam
There will I follow my dream

Years have delivered me here, with a dream
Flames from my furnaces ripple and spin
Torrents of water and curtains of steam
Boiling away from the prison of glass
There, in the shadows, the titan of brass
Senses, in silence, her skin

Rivers of heat flood the shell of her skin
Long has she waited to wake from the dream
Destiny summons the titan of brass
Axles and flywheels and cylinders spin
Scarlet eyes burning, she shatters the glass
Rising in splendour and steam

Weeping, I worship my goddess of steam
Praising the shimmering lines of her skin
Why does she pick up the sliver of glass?
Did she not call for my help in a dream?
Silent, she watches the severed head spin
Thus wakes the titan of brass

Witness the tyrant, the goddess of steam
Vengeance and terror, set free from a dream
Howl as she crushes your bodies of skin
Welcome your death, see your destiny spin
Freed from the ice, from her prison of glass
Hail to the titan of brass

Another sestina, bent to my will! This time instead of a 3-line envoi at the end I decided to add a complete stanza, to tie everything together. As always, rules are there to be broken if the end result is enhanced. Is this now a true sestina? Probably not. But it’s poetry and it’s done and I like it.

I did have trouble starting this one. I had ‘steel’ and ‘wheel’ as two of the 6 end-words, and that was going absolutely nowhere for story ideas. But as soon as I decided on a replacement word, ‘brass’, I then used ‘glass’ and that was a lock-in for steampunk and ice, which as anyone will tell you is a truly excellent aperitif!

Tuesday 11 February 2020

My Flavouring Sins

by Nick Gisburne

To the tune of 'My Favourite Things' by Julie Andrews

Painful sclerosis, old blisters that thicken
Blight-rotten cankers, their worm-holes will sicken
Drowned baby savages fried in their skins
These are a stew of my flavouring sins

Germ-sullied hobos and shish-kebabed schoolgirls
Gore smells and drain smells and shit found in poo curls
Pile grease and eyelids abused with old pins
These are a stew of my flavouring sins

Vermin-like beggars with bruises and gashes
Skin flakes I’ve stained with my grandmother’s ashes
Slivers of fingers, the pelts of young twins
These are a stew of my flavouring sins

Blended frog whites
Tender seal limbs
Bent and bleeding bat
A gimp I’ll dismember for flavouring things
And serve with a peeled, cold cat

Rinse, retch and repeat

Friday 7 February 2020

The Voices

by Nick Gisburne

Your mind is a blizzard of feverish voices
They howl as they wrestle and writhe in your head
Each fights to be heard and the winner rejoices
Its prize is a moment of madness and dread

A violent thunderclap breaks the confusion
As ever, the first is the face of a girl
“I’m flying! I’m flying!” But this is illusion
She fades as the noises, the images, swirl

A little boy dangles a pitiful kitten
“There’s no one to fix it!” He bristles with hate
And pushing its body inside an old mitten
He digs it a grave at a furious rate

A woman: “Don’t touch me, you monster! I’ll kill you!”
A cyclone of spiralling anguish and hurt
You’re aching to tell her you’re sorry, but will you?
Too late, she is gone with a flick of her skirt

A teenager, raging, beats fast as a drummer
The fists on your temples are cruel and keen
“What happened?” He curses, this angry newcomer
A dangerous cog in your mental machine

The faceless officials all tower above you
Preposterous fingers jab into your brain
“Not good enough!”, “Idiot!”, “Nobody loves you!”
A chorus of scorn, a malicious refrain

“It’s what you deserve,” rolls the voice of a devil
A man with a crooked, contemptuous smile
The venom is pungent, but measured and level
His acid malevolence burns you with bile

Two grey-headed old ones step forward, together
They hurl an explosion of anger at you
“As long as we live we will hate you forever!”
“Whatever you say and whatever you do!”

A woman has twisted her face to show sorrow
Her platitudes futile, pathetic and small
You’ll hear them again and again, then tomorrow
“But how could you know?” is the worst of them all

Another. Her silvery, skeletal fingers
Scratch deep to the delicate nerves of your eyes
“I saw you,” she whispers. “I saw you.” She lingers
But she is the weakest, the slowest to rise

The faces all fade and leave only your daughter
No words, but you hear her; she hides but you see
She screams as her body slides under the water
And always, from this, you will never be free

And you, in the mirror, that hollow reflection
What words would you offer to challenge the rest?
The father, the key to a daughter’s protection
Forgetful, distracted, now haunted, possessed

You stand at the edge of the cliff and the ocean
You call to the waves, far below, where she fell
And so, in a single, unstoppable motion
You silence the voices, a final farewell

Wednesday 5 February 2020

Rage Never Dies

by Nick Gisburne

To Myself
I am burning with rage and I can’t get it out
These are frightening feelings, the danger, the doubt
But if everything lost in my life lies within
Well then, what is this tattoo of life on my skin?

I have hated my lovers, I’ve loved what I hate
Those emotions of old I cannot recreate
And I cannot find what I have closed with the door
All the things I have lost I don’t see anymore

And if only my life would be with me again
Those mistakes and emotions, the sadness, the pain
If I had my time over I’d throw it all out
Now I look at the past and I cry and I shout

But no, nothing is better now, nothing is good
Would I take it all back? If I could then I would
My mistakes, did I learn from them? Never and no
I can find no way forward now, nowhere to go

There just isn’t a day where I do not regret
And the pain has no ending, or none I’ve found yet
If this life carries on I will never survive
I have only two choices now: dead or alive

I am angry, I’m weak, I am empty of life
I cannot leave this room or I’ll pick up a knife
Living all of my days, I think each is my last
And the best and the worst of them, all now have passed

In a single, slow minute my life surely ends
And the message, the thoughts that my body now sends
Are the thoughts that keep coming, the old ones, the new
And yet none of them, all of them, some are of you

If the clock never stops, how can life carry on?
Every second, each moment, is faded and gone
I see colours but none of the colours see me
And I know what the price of my life is – it’s free

There is nothing I care for, no thing that I need
I won’t cut myself, no – I have no blood to bleed
If my life was a circus, that comical ring
In the circle of life all my clowns would be king

In the last of my days, when no I longer care
To the faces who happen by chance to be there
Don’t forget who I was, who I wanted to be
And if you should remember this, please remind me

To The One
Now to you, to the one who was angry by choice
To the one who ignored me and silenced my voice
In my life, in my prison, you locked me away
And you never allowed me to look at the day

When you walked in the room and the joke was on me
Did you know what you did? Tell me, what did you see?
Was I nothing, or something your mind never knew?
Did you never think what could I be now to you?

I have lived, and I live, but you’ve always been dead
You are not of this earth but are still in my head
I can’t give you my anger but here it all stands
All my life now is empty, it feels, in my hands

Have I hated you longer than you were alive?
Is this anger what tells me that I must survive?
I am living and breathing, my blood is still red
You are gone, you are nothing, I’m glad you are dead

And in all of this pain I am stronger than you
I have nothing and everything, I will pull through
If my words give you life I will burn them to dust
I will never be broken, I’ll live on, I must

There is only one thing I need out of my head
It’s a thing you put in there before you were dead
It’s the cancer, the sickness I cannot get out
It’s the constant, the nagging, perpetual doubt

If I thought I could win I would bet on the chance
But instead in my head is a furious dance
It’s a tango, a foxtrot, a terrible leap
And it freezes my day, but it burns in my sleep

I won’t listen, but know that I probably will
I have taken the poison, and you are the pill
There are dreams and reality, you are between
I am closing my eyes now to all I have seen

If a Hell that is real takes a person like you
Then I wish I believed it to see what you do
Do you think you deserve it, the torment and pain?
Do you feel every link of that tortuous chain?

If I follow you down to the place far below
There is one thing to lighten my heart, for I know
That the time you will spend there is longer than mine
Even if they would torture us both for all time

When the count of my days tallies higher than yours
I will spit at your life and accept my applause
You are nothing, but all that you were is within
And it’s there I will keep you, my prison of skin

When my final day claims me, and takes me at last
All the memories, all of the hate, will have passed
Though I keep you inside, I just wish you’d get out
And I wish in the still of the night I could shout

I won’t say what you did to me, what you did not
No, your death doesn’t help, but it’s all that I’ve got
If you’re gone from my life, well then why are you here?
You have stolen my courage and taught me to fear

There is so much you damaged, too much now to mend
Will I never be rid of you? Where is the end?
I will never know why you were hateful to me
But the damage is such I can never be free

To The End
I am weary of endlessly living this pain
You’re the dirt on my floor, just an ignorant stain
But an atom of comfort I take to my bed
You are gone from this world and will always be dead

This is perhaps the most honest poem I have ever written. A little alcohol after a stressful day, and a lifetime of living with the consequences of being put into a separate room, alone, by an uncaring stepfather, for ten years. Those are the ingredients here.

This was written in a single burst, in perhaps 20-30 minutes. It may have been more, but I wasn’t keeping track of the time. Writing so much poetry over the last two months probably gave me the tools to get it all out of me so quickly – I had never written anything in this way before.

Little is changed, other than for minor spelling and punctuation errors, and some sub-headings. Here and there I added a few words, just for the sake of maintaining the rhythm of the poem. Other than that I didn’t want to touch it. It represents what I was thinking and feeling in that moment.

And today will be a better day.

Tuesday 4 February 2020

The Crobber as Old as the Sea

by Nick Gisburne

In a sondrillous city of wonder
Lived a crobber as old as the sea
He was wifty and thin
With palufrious skin
And his eyes were both buddled and fee

He was greatly aggravied by thunder
For it bimbled the bones of his head
Every wicketous crack
Turned his glummety black
And a violous, velvian red

As he puggled a platter of umlies
Dropping figgans of trum in his tea
In the bools of his face
Came the mentifal trace
Of a skimmerish plan-pot or three

So he runtled the relevant chumlies
With his audifilacious dream
And the council of stigs
In their poonery wigs
Gave their garnies a gawp at the scheme

In their vogal, the verdict was umbous
And they wardled the crobber with gold
“Shush the bodious boom
And repungle this room
And in yambit we’ll yay,” he was told

Now he jithered a competent crumbus
And a mantrial, expert in dreen
With the pick of the dooz
And a gilliker’s hooze
These were farlies, the best to be seen

And this banjumous gangle of teegers
Gave a wongerling, winifrous cheer
To the meddocks they strode
Down the Jibbernang Road
Singing tungles of fligger and beer

They arrived at the fum of the Veegas
And they chartered a cantifralite
Sulling soffish all day
Till the millig turned grey
Now they chungled together by night

In the land of the harbelling thunder
Now at last they would compo their quest
To the munkening hill
Marching dunka and dill
By the the nung time they crozzled its crest

Long they ganelled the majial wonder
With its snoddlecap wuffered in cloud
And together they crinned
Though the scroffeling wind
“You are mooky, but too ponting loud!”

From its vob-hole the hill whissened, “Sorry!”
And it promelled its tumpeter low
Clamming hoolious rahs
By the blickering stars
The old crobber and gangle did go

Now the thunder was tim as a torry
And it bimbled their bones nevermore
To their homes did they weef
And with presco relief
Soon they clummed to its shamadreen shore

They repungled and runtled the chumlies
Yumming winnerish tales to the stigs
And the city did yay
In its yambital way
With a fellicanester of figs

Now at home, as he puggled his umlies
Soon the crobber bambungled with glee
“If your plan-pot be right
Always wringle the fight”
And with figgans of trum in his tea
Dreamed of crobbers far older than he

The trick with a nonsense poem is this: strike just the right balance between nonsense and poem. If you get a vague sense of what is happening here, that’s probably all you can hope for!

Second trick: turn off the spelling checker!

Monday 3 February 2020

The Candles for the Lost

by Nick Gisburne

We light the candles for the lost
Each restless soul, each troubled shade
And wish that in our guiding light
Their hearts will find the peace of night
We watch the twilight fall and fade
And yearn for those who crossed

So long since they, our people, crossed
A dozen longships, all were lost
But memories refuse to fade
We feel their presence in the shade
And so, together, in the night
We lift another light

They took the tide by winter’s light
The stars would guide them as they crossed
But in the deadly fog of night
The sky, full hidden, veiled and lost
Brought down a dark and deadly shade
Where dreams must surely fade

The flames of courage never fade
They burn as strong as any light
So journeyed without fear of shade
Bold sailors of the North who crossed
Brave heroes, now forever lost
All taken by the night

A silver dawn dispels the night
Our candles turn to smoke and fade
And sorrow burns for those we lost
For those who did not see the light
We honour them, the souls who crossed
The spirits of the shade

In time the sun will fall to shade
And bring the everlasting night
And when the last of us have crossed
Then we from memory will fade
But while we live, we lift the light
The candles for the lost

This is the second time I’ve written a sestina, and the mood is intentionally very different from The Jagged Killing Knife.

The 6 end-words of a sestina repeat throughout the poem. They don’t usually rhyme, but I chose to use 3 rhyming pairs because I enjoy the way the poem flows when the rhymes move around in the stanzas.

The choice of words was not random. I chose 6 words which suggested a sombre mood, and from there, as it often does, the story simply told itself to me. Lost and crossed – that’s all I needed to hear. That reminded me of Viking ships crossing the seas hundreds of years ago. Inevitably some of those ships would be lost. How would their families mourn them?

For this form of poem, a sestina, there is supposed to be an ‘envoi’ at the end, a three-line ‘summing up’ of the poem. But not here. The story is complete, so I think anything added onto it would be out of place. I hope I understand the rules well enough to break them!

Saturday 1 February 2020

Forgotten Empires

by Nick Gisburne

Stolen from history, vanished from memory
Purged from their place in the annals of time
Empires and dynasties, rising in infamy
Conquer and kill in their glorious prime

Cities of wickedness, vicious barbarians
Tyrants and despots and merciless kings
Mighty, malevolent, fearless, invincible
Longing for war and the power it brings

See her, the sorceress, graceful and terrible
Leading her legions, delivering death
Daughter of violence, queen of depravity
Whispering witchcraft with venomous breath

Pounding the barricades, taunting her enemies
Murderous madness will fuel the fight
Engines of anarchy bludgeon the battlements
Deadlocked in daylight, but cometh the night

Twilight surrenders and blackens to ebony
Only the moon finds a place in the sky
Over the battlefield, gathering thunderheads
Summoned by sorcery, rumble and sigh

Dragging her chariot, spirited stallions
Find her a vantage point, high on a hill
Lifting a talisman up to the firmament
Conjuring chaos, she orders the kill

Rivers of energy flow from her fingertips
Surging and billowing, feeding the storm
Boiling with malice, the frenzy of thunderbolts
Tangles and twists in a turbulent swarm

Hurling the hurricane onto the citadel
Bursting, a holocaust, all is consumed
Splintering towers and shattering monuments
Bury the living, the dying, the doomed

Daylight reveals an inglorious aftermath
Smouldering ruins, the city is dead
Beaten and bleeding, a handful of prisoners
Soon to be crucified, cowards who fled

Pillaging scavengers savour the tragedy
Hunting for jewels and money, they thrive
Others have darker, despicable appetites
Raping and slaughtering all who survive

Striding triumphantly over the carcasses
See how the sorceress sneers at defeat
Death is her deity, brutal finality
Worshipping victory, certain and sweet

Slowly the glittering crown of the emperor
Turns to the touch of her blood-covered hands
Meaningless trinket, an impotent ornament
Quickly destroys it, returns to her plans

Empires and dynasties sang of her infamy
All did she conquer and kill in their prime
Nameless, the sorceress vanished from history
Lost and forgotten forever in time

I’ve been exploring different aspects of poetry for a while now. This one is full of dactyls – it is written in Dactylic Tetrameter, to be more specific. A dactyl is 3 syllables, long-short-short, or DUM-da-da if you prefer, so it gallops along nicely if you read it that way. Tetrameter means there are four of them to a line, although the second line ends differently, with a choriamb. You’ll have to look that one up, but I will be exploring choriambs shortly!

And, just because I cannot unlearn the following knowledge, I will repeat it here: this is the same form as the introductory verse to ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ by The Beatles. Yes, you can sing along using that tune with this poem. I discovered that halfway through the poem, which was not great when I wanted to finish it and couldn’t get the song out of my head! If I accidentally write something which can accompany ‘Baby Shark’, please promise not to tell me... ever!