face-in-water

I was warned to be wary in water,
especially when swimming with the sharks.
But those were the boys I always liked best,
with their slick-backed scalps, sharp smiles,
and eyes like bottomless pits.

I recognize them by their restlessness,
the subtle gleam as they cut through the crowd,
the shimmer of shadow in a clear sky.
But others also watch them prowl.
Deadly beauty attracts admirers
seeking the sharp taste of fear.

I watch mermaids flirt through a mirror’s lens
as they pout full lips and flaunt dangerous curves.
Scales shimmer in a practiced seduction
as they comb hair perfect for binding men.
The shark boys just laugh, teeth bared.

The sirens’ orchestrate a counterpoint,
chaos conjured from the deep, dark places.
They measure out the notes of seduction,
drowning the protests of the waves
relentlessly breaking upon the rocks
– a requiem for the dead.

My selkie sisters and I know better
than to venture out of reach of safe shores.
We cinch our seal skins tight around our waists,
watching for the warning signs,
the scent of blood on the waves.

But every time one of the shark boys turns,
gliding out of the gloom with graceful ease,
I can’t help but wonder how it would feel
to shed my skin, press flesh on flesh,
smother in a crush of deadly kisses,
falling into the abyss.

Carina Bissett

The Trouble with Snowmen

December 7, 2016

snowman

‘The trouble with snowmen,’
Said my father one year
‘They are no sooner made
than they just disappear.

I’ll build you a snowman
And I’ll build it to last
Add sand and cement
And then have it cast.

And so every winter,’
He went on to explain
‘You shall have a snowman
Be it sunshine or rain.’

And that snowman still stands
Though my father is gone
Out there in the garden
Like an unmarked gravestone.

Staring up at the house
Gross and misshapen
As if waiting for something
Bad to happen.

For as the years pass
And I grow older
When summers seem short
And winters colder.

The snowmen I envy
As I watch children play
Are the ones that are made
And then fade away.

Roger McGough

ars-notoria-magical-book

A GOLDEN chalice, like those used in Catholic rites, but having three linings, was given to me in my sleep by an Angel. These linings, he told me, signified the three degrees of the heavens – purity of life, purity of heart, and purity of doctrine.

Immediately afterwards there appeared to me a great dome-covered temple, Moslem in style, and on the threshold of it a tall angel clad in white linen, who with an air of command was directing a party of men engaged in destroying and throwing into the street numerous crucifixes, bibles, prayer-books, altar-utensils, and other sacred emblems.

As I stood watching, somewhat scandalised at the apparent sacrilege, a voice, at a great height in the air, cried with startling distinctness: “All the idols He shall utterly destroy!” Then the same voice, seeming to ascend still higher, cried to me: “Come hither and see!” Immediately it appeared to me that I was lifted up by my hair and carried above the earth. And suddenly there arose in mid-air the apparition of a man of majestic aspect, in an antique garb, and surrounded by a throng of prostrate worshippers. At first the appearance of this figure was strange to me; but while I looked intently at it, a change came over the face and dress, and I thought I recognised Buddha – the Messiah of India. But scarcely had I convinced myself of this, when a great voice, like a thousand voices shouting in unison, cried to the worshippers:

“Stand upright on your feet – Worship God only!” And again the figure changed, as though a cloud had passed before it, and now it seemed to assume the shape of Jesus. Again I saw the kneeling adorers, and again the mighty voice cried: “Arise! Worship God only!” The sound of this voice was like thunder, and I noted that it had seven echoes. Seven times the cry reverberated, ascending with each utterance as though mounting from sphere to sphere. Then suddenly I fell through the air, as though a hand had been withdrawn from sustaining me: and again touching the earth, I stood within the temple I had seen in the first part of my vision. At its east end was a great altar, from above and behind which came faintly a white and beautiful light, the radiance of which was arrested and obscured by a dark curtain suspended from the dome before the altar. And the body of the temple, which, but for the curtain, would have been fully illumined, was plunged in gloom, broken only by the fitful gleams of a few half-expiring oil-lamps, hanging here and there from the vast cupola.

Anna Kingsford
Clothed with the Sun

seat

Prose is not to be read aloud but to oneself alone at night, and it is not quick as poetry but rather a gathering web of insinuations which go further than names however shared can ever go. Prose should be a long intimacy between strangers with no direct appeal to what both may have known. It should slowly appeal to feelings unexpressed, it should in the end draw tears out of the stone…

Henry Green
Pack my bag