Harbour End — a Gothic sestina

Darkness lengthens as short days end;

A painful chill that floods the veins.

But night is certain creatures’ love —

Monsters that are cloaked in shadow,

Motivations dark and gloomy.

The help of strangers turns suspicious.


“Don’t read my interest as suspicious:

I come to you from harbour end.

The water’s turmoil: eddies gloomy,

Rippled patterns like water’s veins.

I met a man who cast no shadow

Wailing for his drownèd love.


“She came to him eyes full of love

Yet glossy sheen made him suspicious.

Followed closer than his absent shadow,

He led away from harbour end

Through streets thinner than children’s veins.

Her airless gasps turned his face gloomy.


“Thinning clouds lifted skies from gloomy:

A mottled skin dappled the face of his love.

The tears stood proud ‘gainst flattened veins

And rippled neck he thought suspicious.

He watched her breathing draw to end.

She dropped to floor like drying shadow.”


Yet stranger why my steps d’you shadow,

Impress my thought with stories gloomy?

What of this woman’s tragic end?

I am but young, I know not of love,

Yet compulsion thus I find suspicious.

And why stare you such at my veins?


He laid a gentle palm on my veins

As I noticed that he cast no shadow.

My mind was calmed, felt not suspicious,

Despite the evening dark’ning gloomy.

His eyes locked mine and burned with love.

His teeth, my neck; a pleasant end.


He took veins’ contents ‘til their end.

His absent shadow I filled with love.

So listen not suspicious, though my tale be gloomy.

Harbour End — a Gothic sestina

Le Roi en Jaune (fragment)

This has been translated from a French collection of lays. Originally written in a freeform structure, I’ve taken the liberty of corralling it into rime royal. The second half is lost.

Inside the palace crypt Cassilda sings
A mournful song of lost now in Carcosa,
Such as the recent passing of our kings
From living to the lake-side land Carcosa:
Beneath the baleful suns of far Carcosa.
Yet time upon our city now to mourn;
Bid patience ’til successor be inform’d.

Swiftly from the tomb Cassilda steals
And to the waiting arms of her Diego:
A close embrace then at her feet he kneels.
“Do tell me that Camilla does not know.”
“Neither of our love nor poison, no.
The secrets of his murder with him rest;
No need that talk of treason be suppress’d.”

Yet the late king’s illicit lover waits
And hears the dialogue admitting guilt:
Lucrezia stands hid behind crypt gates.
Initial thought of confrontation wilts
To better guard her safety ‘gainst swordhilt.
“I’ll shed the falsehood at the masquerade
And that the coronation might be stay’d.”

While edge of town a tattered stranger knocks
With vivid hand cowl’d under yellow shawl
And cover’d face as though to shield a pox.
The door opened by royal chef full tall
Who in but a breath is under stranger’s thrall.
The stranger he invites into his home.
Then feastly preparations to be done.

For now the lights are dim, the wine is set:
The guests arrive in rich excellence clad.
Despite disguise all as a king are met.
Among the throng the yellow robed nomad.
So look upon the dance as one near-mad
And hear the conversations overheard
Regardless of who took intended word.

Come midnight bell the call to then unmask
And all but one reveal smiling delight.
All but one — the stranger he — “I wear no mask.”
Camilla from him turns her face in fright
Surveys the scene all pallid in moonlight.
Cassilda from the room has turned and fled.
Camilla’s husband: lying, twitching; dead.

The nobles clutch their stomachs full of pain.
The stranger tall he stands amid the scene
Looks on while gore and bile from faces rain.
The toxin wine gone from decanter clean
Absence brighter than yellow tatters sheen.
Into the street fleeing Cassilda thrust:
“Not upon us, oh king! Not upon us!”

Le Roi en Jaune (fragment)

Broken Conflicts

This started as the word CONFLICTS, which my year sevens and I treated as a string of letters from which to make other words. We then put these words into a poem.

It started with a bunch of coins –
A silly thing not worth the stress.
I stopped before he reached for foils
And struck his jaw hard with my fist.
He came one night and held a slit;
An angled dagger in his hand.
The dagger rests now in my neck
I sleep beneath a sheet of sand.

Broken Conflicts

A Volunteer for Gustav May

Please take my hand, ascend the stage,
(The lights are warm, the platform bright)
You’ll help to shape our show tonight:
Allow your sight to wander cross the page.
A word will fix firm in your mind –
Just lock it there and hold it tight,
Against your limbs don’t try to fight
But let them seize as sockets start to grind.

Put yourself in my control and
Make a PRISON of your soul;
Sit still, I’ll fill your face with ants.
The Hive will take you in its fold
And nurture you, and make you old,
The Queen will hatch her children in your brain.

A Volunteer for Gustav May

Angry Red Tears

I’ll often start beside my thumb,
Ignore the pain and wish it numb
As I bite careful into flesh,
Or else pick at it with a nail
Bring to the surface hint of tail
To grip and pull it back.

These lines of red, they mark the wound
But injury real is hid within:
Their minds, their musks, their souls, their grin,
Live comfortably beneath my skin.

I ask you tear and claw my back,
Hardness spiking with each pain;
But really it’s to let them out
Before their selves full crush my brain.

In better times I like to think
It’s not my skull that starts to shrink
But more my brain outgrows its nest
And ranges forth at their request
Alike the wand’ring hermit crab – that brave crustacean
Bold enough to live in homes not of its own creation.

I envy that. Its simple choice.
My mind is torn between two poles.
From far, potential stalks my thoughts
With slavering jaws not quite like wolf.
A mind to conquer, hold and bite and push my fingers through your hair and pull at it and hear you moan and feel that pleasure mixed with fear.
Yet near an apathetic tide sweeps in and drowns the beast beneath the flood.

I should want to give it air but yet I don’t.

Angry Red Tears

Classroom Aggression

The sounds across the corridor echo through the hall
And children crowding noisily are crushed against the wall.
The teacher roars and tears his way through children large and small.

The door flings open, off its hinge, he bounds into the room.
The action stops: the fighters didn’t expect him here so soon.
One’s on the floor, another stands above him with a broom.

“It wasn’t me, Sir, honestly, he made me do it so.”
“I don’t believe you, little runt, from school you’ll have to go.”
Upon the floor the other child smiled a grin as pure as snow.

Classroom Aggression