Category Archives: Creative Writing – Poetry

All pieces of creative work in poetic form published in MUSE Magazine.

A Mother’s Ordeal

Image: Wheat Field with Crows (Vincent Van Gogh, 1890). SourceCC License

Author: Antonino Mangiaracina

I

Cities have strict demands that rule the men
With blind reality they act, and more!
A Man must pray to God and say Amen.
A Man must hold his faith and start a war.
In a family order has no joys;
A Man must honour and respect his Father.
As soldiers shall behave the dutiful boys;
A Man must love and look after his Mother.
The picture of a man’s girl now is dim,
For good he chose to sacrifice his pearl
But an empty clam is all is left to him.
After all, a Man reveals to be a girl,
Whose only weakness was to be too good,
Because her world was no place for childhood.

II

What does it mean to be a flying bird?
Is it to feel the wind beneath your wings?
Perhaps, to say, there is no way or word,
But over you, no one: skies with no kings.
Then why do men imprison birds in cages?
From down below they hunt and grab the prey,
In rapid moments that persist for ages;
Attracted by such high splendour were they.
What does it mean to be a happy kid?
Is it to play with friends and whom you trust?
Perhaps, she does not know, since what he did,
A man in school there was who taught disgust.
Amazed I am to know how strong you are;
Thank you, my sweet Angel, you are my star.

III

So rare, a diamond’s beauty seems unreal;
So clear, its purity bewitches the mind;
But still we must remember its ordeal,
Too often is its value left behind.
It has endured the pressure of the world,
And time for long a while has passed it by.
Its lines and soul, carved from the underworld,
Now form a nature that could never lie.
As precious as a diamond is my mother,
She is the kindest I ever met:
Her love, sincere like no other.
For her, I promise to never forget.
O’ diamond mine, I wish you all the best,
May your clear eyes reflect from east to west.

(no title)

Image: Lighthouse at Stora Bält (Anton Melbye, 1846). SourceCC License

Author: Antonino Mangiaracina

No hut, in life and fear, except reason;
And yet men voted other ways, by choice;
They turned themselves in painters each season,
Their never-ending lines cover the voice.
A whispering blank canvas with a truth
Too hard to hear is coated in lies;
The bright colours pursue mercy and youth,
Delusions all, since everybody dies.
It may appear untrue, but all is real;
Afraid is every man of the unknown;
So he shapes what he sees to his ideal,
As beliefs builded not to feel alone.
People must learn luxuries are no need
And put an end to rules we never agreed.

Poems by Guy Da Costa

Image: “Footprint” by Conal Gallagher. SourceCC License

Author: Guy Da Costa

Christmas Spirit

I am not a poet and never will be.
I lack rhythm. My rhymes are poor and so is my poetry.
Scroll back up or down to the last or next prodigy.
Although you shouldn’t, you keep watching into me.
Outside I wrote my cleverest mandalas in pee
Spring blew them away. We could not agree.

Tracks and remains are deeper in the snow
And better kissers under the mistletoe.
It is Christmas and I have to let you know
That with all this fondue you should pray to a crow.
Your car has drowned and they’d help your child grow
In a world of funny fumes and they will never have to row.

As you join your hands thinking about Crow-Jesus
You ask yourself why Santa and his circus
Offer life while they’re as sterile as a cactus.
Black feathers snuggle to Mount Olympus
The crystals who now sleep in a hot bubbly mattress.
You alone and happy saved the whole world and us.

Snow is dying so I get in my car
And waste some gas hoping to outlive
The Greatest Addressee banned from any bar.
I sit, change my seat again, drink and try to dry heave
my pale songs of pee, bad even with a guitar.
I forgot to put on my licence what to believe.

Snow melts and I want to be drunk Penguins.


From Ludlow to Eternity

I have never been fond of fancied worlds
So imagine how I feel about the outside one.
On the way from Ludlow to Eternity
My shoes went flat between
Dixville Notch and Millsfield
Because I kicked a cat. He cried booze and moonshine.

My nails started bleeding and my feet
were shrinking. I fell and the hairy sky
swam in red feathers hanged by its handy ankle.
I ate a lot of plums hence my blues could see
A veteran elephant and a bold donkey.
Concerned by my situation, they cut my legs off.

The elephant threw me on his back.
His feet wounded by grey feathers
weighing heavily on the ground.
He was protective and carried me
To an even older elephant cemetery.
He crawled in a hole. I drilled the donkey.

They would talk loudly about circles and lines and repeat again.
I met all their donkey-friends that would guide me to Eternity.
My mechanic arm would stretch and once I saw a ditch.
They were so obnoxious and never noticed the gap.
Instead of a final leap, I beheaded this jackass
with anecdotal facts and only seventy dollars per year.

Laying on the ground I met a companion. His name was
Thunder Jr. and he brought me to Eternity.
As I waved him away, I understood that there will always be
an elephant waiting for a cemetery,
and in the shrewdest snow lost in the crowd another donkey.
Yet, I am still legless, hopeless and lonely.

Twitter Tirade

Image: © Corey Raymond Heimlich

Author: Corey Raymond Heimlich

Dude, this guy is straight up cre-cre…

All this got me like hey yo, this fool for real?

Dat one crazy gringo bra

oye ese güey está bien loco…qué desmadre

 

I’ve dabbled in everything, from real estate to reality TV,

I even founded a university giving phony degrees.

I’m not racist I own a few Harlem brownstones,

Can’t wait to take the White House and the joystick of drones.

 

I’m fed up with all this political correctness,

I’m white and I’m proud and you know it’s infectious.

I’m not afraid to call it by its name,

It’s Islamic terrorism and Muslims are to blame.

 

White men with ties, now that’s whom to trust,

We’re Christian and righteous and can turn you to dust.

I kill it with charm and law and order,

I’ll build a great wall along the Mexican Border.

 

Brought up by my bootstraps, I’m a working-class hero,

I’ll make everything great again, starting from zero.

All politicians lie, it’s part of this business,

I’ll make sure everyone has a tremendous Christmas.

 

Twitter them this and twitter them back,

Shovel them shit just make sure it’s whack.

I might add that I love a good artichoke,

The world isn’t warming it’s a ludicrous hoax.

 

Doesn’t my daughter have a “nice figure?”

I just wish her knockers were a little bit bigger.

I love women for everything they’re worth,

I mean at the end of the day, I don’t think I could give birth.

 

Did I leave anything out? sometimes I get sloppy,

The Mexicans at my hotels make great chicken teriyaki.

The media lies about me, it’s very unfair,

I’m the president for all Americans, I got here fair and square.

 

Of course, I’m all for the LGBTQ,

It’s a nice club they’ve got, I just wish it were true.

Of course Black Lives Matter, I listen to Tupac,

His star’s next to mine on Hollywood’s sidewalk.

 

And one last thing about the KKK,

I don’t see a problem and I don’t wear a toupee.

Putin and I will be the best of buds,

We’ll rid the world of these terrible thugs.

 

Can you believe it they voted for me?

We’ll be lucky to be left with a pile of debris.

What’s wrong with me this sounds like Dr. Seuss,

A Grinch and a conman is on the loose.

 

It is with great sadness that I bid you adieu,

I must head downtown for an important rendezvous.

Pondering all I’ve said from the top of Trump Tower,

I plan my next tweet over a tremendous whiskey sour.

Poems by Miljan Micakovic

Image: © Miljan Micakovic

Author: Miljan Micakovic

 

Inside and Outside

 

Marshall went to the shop,

To by some milk and meat,

He even ate some Pop-

Corn while starring at the cashier’s tit-

 

-le, yes, she was “cashier in chief”.

Marshall was greatly surprised

For her face led in disbelief,

Indeed, lacking an eye under the left lid.

 

He tried to makes sense in vain.

He paid the goods and, outside,

As he was peeping again,

He perceived what was blackness inside.

 


The Eraser

 

The woken claim a piercing speech

Crossing, cutting the morning glass

How long will it take for each

To realize away they pass,

 

To see that the sleeping never cry,

Nor that any sound drifts in the air

And yet all throw far away an eye,

With the other at themselves they glare,

 

With the never-ending question,

“But what is my name?”

Out loud and fishing for attention,

They shout with no sense of shame.

 


A Light-hearted self

 

To feel like a monster, a common fate,

Falling on the head completely unprepared,

Seizing all, mind, hands and eyes

Forcing all to follow a soft voice:

 

The inner one, the one that comes along

That is familiar but to you alone.

Yet a pleasure flowing everywhere

For an instant so real yet so true;

 

At last, pulling you down from

Where all aroused, you shall see

That you’re flying back and away.

Perhaps, that wasn’t the wrong way.

 


The Mess

 

Oh boy, my paper’s black,

The ink even got to the back!

What a mess I’ve done!

All that work made for none.

 

Okay, Okay let’s do it over

Again, but this time no shower,

No diluvian rain of chemical

Texture, baby, let’s get clinical!

 

Precise and neat, straight and clear

Like an athlete throwing a spear

Throw, throw my thought throw

On the paper that must be hollow.

 


The Smoky House

 

Among others around it,

Almost identical; same number

of floors, same wideness and height,

All having little flames burning in

through the windows, none but one,

This house, pours the grey smoke.

 

Among those lights, it perfumes

The air without invading, harassing

The senses, yet distinguishable and ironical.

The fire, alone, becomes the father.

 

Childless, bright and clear, fires

burn, consume the smoky air.

 


___________________

 

A straight line above another, those rails Stop where the page ends, although no pages are the same, nor the paper, nor the ink And the words look odd because none are Thought but from the white alone.

“Sir Gawain and the Green Dragon” by Kit Schofield

Image: © Creative Commons, link here

Author: Kit Schofield

 

Sir Gawain and the Green Dragon

Great deeds were done during Arthur’s reign,

Many battles were fought and great Knights slain,

Many demons downed and Vikings vanquished,

Many fabled foes of their heads relinquished.

 

None battled braver than gallant Gawain,

Who always returned fresh from a war,

Never he bled, nor his armour stained,

No wiser a warrior I ever saw.

 

On the greenest day in years,

A peasant man came pleading to Sirs,

He told a tale of a vicious snake,

Arthur discarded his fears as fake,

But great Gawain took up his spurs.

 

Immediately he rode at full speed,

Sought out the farmer’s golden field,

But mounted on his splendid steed,

The only gold in sight was his shield.

 

He asked the man the meaning of this,

Where are his famous fields and flocks?

They had been burnt by lizard’s kiss,

That scaled beast born out of the rocks.

 

Our hero hastened towards the mountain,

Determined to slay his fiendish foe,

And at the summit he saw him waiting,

Surrounded by the melting snow.

 

What began as mere a drop,

Came over Gawain a mighty wave,

A crushing cascade that never stopped,

A trick played by the nasty knave.

 

This liquid onslaught did not dampen his heart,

He was overcome by a different blast,

Nothing could block this flaming dart,

Gawain was swift but the flare too fast.

 

Having for this final time,

Put himself in the line of fire,

He’s stolen from us in his prime,

Burning in Nature’s funeral pyre.

 

Momentous – Poem by Olena Danylovych

Image: Mountain © Olena Danylovych

Author: Olena Danylovych

Momentous

 

Is this a mountain that I see before me?

So vast and powerful its face.

It rises from the earth below me,

Cemented in history’s trace.

 

In summer when the weather’s fair,

It flourishes with life and leaf.

In winter when its front is bare,

It stands resistant to insidious grief.

 

Sunshine and blue sky are best

For mirthful and sweet disposition,

But earthquake is the final test

Of mountains’ sturdy disposition.

 

In shrieking gales and howling rain,

When lightning splinters our soft core,

The mountains stand to entertain

This bleating that they’ve heard before.

 

The solid stump is evidence

Of many centuries of pain endured.

Yet sharp and creviced stony peaks

Attest to readiness for more.

 

But rains will end and sunshine come

And hardened face will turn from stone.

And tender greens will whisper out,

Breathing new life to hardened bone.

 

While frozen evils strike the land,

And petrify each living thing,

The inner stump will surely stand,

Awaiting warmth for flowering.

 

It’s no small wonder, then, to turn

To these great palaces of rock;

Through times of ravages and mourn,

And other feats of absent luck,

They’ll shed like feathers their adorn,

And still maintain their stalwart stock.

“Winter is Coming” by Kit Schofield

Image: © Deviant Art Bianca Masnikac, link here

Author: Kit Schofield

Winter is Coming

 

I feel its bite upon my face,

At first it merely nibbled my nose,

But now this hound begins to race,

Through all my spine, my head and toes.

 

The mountains are the first to fall,

The springs grow cold and cease to trickle,

We must retreat to fire and hall,

Escape this killer, oh so fickle.

 

As its chill extends to our home,

We hide inside our stone-made keeps,

This cold assassin continues to roam,

Surrounded! All around it creeps.

 

Our roses have long since faded,

The birds forgotten how to sing,

Our colourful trees appear so jaded,

It’s almost here. Winter’s coming.

 

 

Poems by Miljan Micakovic

Image: The Red Horseman, © Carlo Carrà. Image available here.

Author: Miljan Micakovic

Poems

Under the Olive Tree

(After Babel’s rabbi Osii)

My life earned treasure offered to my sons,
Hopes and fears invade my weary mind,
Will I see their success while turning blind?
Betrayed, shunned, and burnt solely by my suns?

A passionate heart to my woman I gave.
Not only wife, nor life-long living friend,
She pumped, for I survived until the end.
How I could be the man I am so brave?

To you my Faith, my Hopes, Oh, all have gone.
Although I called; Although I’d almost lost…
I wrongly wondered God, you wouldn’t spawn.

The soil that raised, the state that brought me up,
I served, I paid for rights and liberty.
I own myself and drink in my own cup.

All of this, All around; I won’t be free.
I’ve just a place under an olive tree.


 

Red Blacks

Taken, broken, chased, beaten
Sold, bought, traded, whipped,
Raped, killed, bred, shipped,

Betrayed, burnt, shut, stolen,
Judged, used, kept, crushed,
Shot, locked, hit, robbed,

Lynched, arrested, sent, shaken
Stripped, accused, mocked, mobbed,
Bent, corrupted, tricked, fucked,

And lived.


 

The English Professor

(For Digby Thomas)

Neat and clean, a handsome bear.
Arrived on time, and set his mind.
Plain and strong was his speech,
while standing fierce and bound
to the ground, to the stage of sounds.

Not a word too fast, not a sign too loose,
He could whisper, yet all was bold.
Even silence made us change our thought.

And yet, the awful end had to come,
Shrill ringing made him stop;
His eyes fixed, and ready to leave,
While we always longed for more.


Rhetoric

Nothing has to do with being right;
Neither you nor I decide it.
What then does set the light?
Asking questions, watching not to spit?

Damn those Greeks, giving their Δόξα,
Drinking wine; inventors of the lounge
Where the laziest and cruellest drinks vodka,
Tasteless, hollow fluid, making you scrounge.

Then fights, so proud of his moves,
leaving the victim, living the dream,
Marching like a needle in the grooves,
As sweet as taking a child’s ice-cream.

The birth, the child, the parents behind them,
All know there’s something out of rhetoric’s stem.


The Student at the Window

She had a pale face, blond hair;
Sitting, she looked at the bad weather,
Despite the rain, she offered a glare.

It was as strong as her will,
‘Cause she wanted a day without rain,
Movement without sound, light in her heart.

Then, slowly, the dark clouds disappeared,
And her face became warm,
And like the dawn her hair was shining.


A Humiliation

Let him beat the shit out of me,
Put me in his mould of depravation
And I, barely breathing under his fists,
will only passively face my injury.

Let him command and rule all the space,
Pour concrete on my bare skin,
A raging glare writing his strength,
while I offer my face, a white page.

Let him set dawn, dusk, light, and darkness,
Crease my skin with his red eraser,
Decide my wakening, the last beam of light,
I’ll wander, yet with no feet under my head.

For I do not abide by time and space,
My only kin is the metal of a Calder.


Eye Contact

How interestingly walking down the streets
Brings nothing but a constant breeze,
People, wind, pass by looking away,
Yet near and firm around your gaze.

All the sudden, as your eye beams
A darker shade, a black hollow ring
Around its frame, All the sudden,
Straight as thunder does everyone glare.

There true faces, such glimmering balls,
Bouncing from side to side, Breaking
The shimmering glass of indifference,
The distance that makes us individuals.

No longer every move blows its air,
But all is centred on our share.


Computer Writing (more or less)

Typing, typing down the screen,
Fingers push not an inch of ink.
Words are formed, regular and bold,
But who’ll give them a soul?

I see, you sit, proud of your bright,
Shining fruit, proud of nothing else,
But sharing a common, colourless tool.
Are you only a shape in the mist?

When at school, your small lines desired,
Round and straight, folded with your art,
Such unique were these tiny scribbles,
Were you ashamed, or else betrayed?

No led, no screen will belong to you,
While you vanish under the computer writing.

Sort of Poems

Image: © brewbooks on Flickr.

Author: Céline Stegmüller

Despite knowing you for many years

I rushed into your life like

a comet rushes through the sky;

Like a comet, driven by its fire.

 

I rushed into your life

maybe too fast, maybe too much. Light or fire?

I rushed into your life

supposing you’d be happier.

 

Like a comet driven by its fire

Light, like sudden realization.

It seemed to me only right

that I should rush into your life.

 

I’ve been here silent,

watching you from far away

And suddenly you looked at me

And I fell from the sky.

 

You had me falling for you

But am I burning too bright?

?

*****************

People around

 

I have people

surrounding me

stories

mixing, twirling, screaming

a whole lot of silences

dying to be heard.

Thoughts drowning in ink,

paper hugging lives.

 

I follow the wind

I drink sunset light

reflection

on the lake’s mirror.

Of Her – Poems by Edgars Mezaraup

Image: Painting © Anete Mezaraupa

Author: Edgars Mezaraup

“Of her”

 

Lipstick Red

 

Even drunk

I think.

 

Arousing shapes in disco shades

Tempt my eye and shake my mind,

Still I sit and still I languish

For the crimson red and, yes,

I think.

 

I don’t think.

I never think of you

I only dream of you,

Sweet as a sweet dream

Are you.

 

Little Clouds

 

To where the mushrooms grow

I shall go

Forget the world as it is.

 

Too much of imbecile is being done

Too many a hope – forlorn.

 

Naught but red flows in the heart,

Naught but red on the lips and puffy eyes

Make me lost.

 

Truly, if cuteness something means, it means

Those little clouds when you smile.

Poems by Elvis Coimbra Gomes

Image: source

Author: Elvis Coimbra Gomes

INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS

I remember how I got here,
How it surrounded me with fear.
Its mesmerizing texture,
Smooth layered dust luster,
Appealed my curiousness
To a certain excess.
The sun’s sweltered light,
Blinding and melting my sight,
Shined on the uncracked mud’s crust,
Tannish sand’s rust.
Eager to examine
This deep sludge-filled basin,
I plunge my hand
Into the surface of the sand
And lost my balance
Along with my prudence.
Sinking down into the unknown,
I feel how it wrings every single bone.
Now stuck in the dense viscosity
Of flabby, pulpy, mushy consistency,
Compulsively,
I try to get out of this trap
But liquefaction fills the empty gaps.
It stifles my body
With a breathtaking anxiety,
And I see no other solution
Than freezing my body’s motion.
The more I fight,
The more I sink
Tight.
Captured in this thick scare,
I see myself in sorrow despair.

 

WAKING UP

His feet are dragging on the floor,
I stand up and I applaud loudly in response to
This scrubbing sound (which) is raping my ears.
This girl, who cheated on me; she is aware of how
My sand filled eyes glimpse a tiny ray of light. Too bright.
She tore my heart. I’m stuck with this image where
The door handle is turned to the right. He leaves the room.
Two tongues sway the betrayal dance on saliva ground.

Silence surrounds me again. And I –
I’m pregnant! I feel an inner pressure against my testicles.
The door opens. His feet…The comeback.
Cut my belly with a saw and give birth to this being!
The noise! My dried mouth can’t yell at him.
What is that? Not human! This Xenomorph crawling
The water bottle, rustling plastic,
From the inside of my belly and grasp your face ferociously.

He uncaps it, drinks a Nano-gulp, followed by a sigh of relief.
I see people dropping down from the skyscrapers.
Hhhhhha… The sigh of great achievement.
The fall decays their bodies and their rotten odors invade
My nose! It burns. A reeking smell in the room.
The entire city! A virus! No adults survive, while
Chemical beauty is in the air; substances interact with skin and hair.
Childish anarchy is spread like fire. Power and chaos!

He arranges his hair in front of the mirror.
The reflecting surface is waving liquid silver. Suddenly, a bony hand
Goes out of the room and closes the door.
Springs out of it and seizes my neck with
His floor sweeping steps fading in the corridor…
Its flesh boring, long fragile fingers. I’m screaming in the crimson stream:
Good morning! I’m awaken with abused senses.

 

 

AH DERRIDA…

The more I understand
That I don’t understand
Your philosophy,
The more I understand
That it’s impossible
To fully understand.
However,
This understanding
Of misunderstanding
Brings me further
To understand.
But then again,
I will misunderstand
To understand again,
That it’s always already
In understanding
The misunderstanding.

 

 

YOU ARE THE FIRST, THE LAST, MY EVERYTHING

In this clear night,
I took you in my arms.
Touched you.
Felt your smooth body.
Slid my hand on your sexy curves,
Up to your neck.
Pressing my fingers on stimulating points
And sweeping my other hand
On your thick straight, smooth soft hair.
Your sound…
You like it.
I like it.
Harmony.
I will make love to you
Under the eager voyeurs’ sight,
And we will resonate our passion
Through our rhythm.
Maybe tonight
Is the night
You will touch my soul.
Again. Skin shivering.
As you know
Performance anxiety persists
Every single time,
Pounding my heart
Out of my chest.
This fear of unexpected failure
You don’t care.
That’s why I love you.
It’s not worth to imagine a life without you.
For eight years you’ve been there,
Picking up my pearly tears,
Filled with untold secrets. With pain.
I’m completely naked in front of you.
Shameless.
You will never cheat on me, never hurt me.
Though sometimes I hurt myself
When I go too hard on you,
When passion boils in our bodies,
From our chest, down our spines.
But you like it, as I like it.
The lights are on.
The crowd is yelling.
The stage is ready for us.
I will rock your body.
Let’s make harmonious love
All night long…

Speaking With Birds

Image: © Flickr.com

Author: Elizabeth Leeman

Speaking With Birds

1869

~

The small metal gate creaked open as I pushed it inward and walked onto the Dickinson propriety for the first time. I took a step on the small stone pathway that led up to the Homestead house. The garden surrounding it was plush green, filled with small stout bushes and tall thin trees. There was a rose bed to one side with yellow and red roses in bloom. I looked up at the house, it seemed rather grand to me. The pale yellow façade and dark green shutters stared down at me. I could see white curtains behind each windowpane. I saw one of the curtains move suddenly and I realized it was not a curtain at all. A women dressed in white had been standing behind the glass watching me.

I was still looking up at the first story window from where she had disappeared from when a Nightingale began to sing. I turned to look for the source of the melody. I followed the sound of his song with my eyes trying to find him. I saw him perched in a large lilac tree by the main entrance. I walked up to it. The smell of the tree’s flowers was overwhelming. I stroked the strap of the bag I was carrying. I could feel it getting wet from my moist hands. I walked up the steps to the main entrance; my bag felt heavy all of a sudden. I swallowed hard as I looked at the white door in front of me.

‘It’s only temporary,’ I said to the Nightingale who chirped at me in response.

‘Oh, shut up.’

He flew away singing louder than before.

‘You’re probably right,’ I said and knocked on the large white door.

I heard small quick footsteps approaching behind the wall. I imagined it must be the woman in the white dress. I caught my reflection in the window next to the door. My frizzy black hair was pulled tight in a bun but a wild strand had gotten loose. I tried to tuck it back but it refused. My freckles and big blue eyes stared back at me, mocking my attempts to look presentable. The door swung open, making me jump. A short woman who was out of breath and wearing a dark blue dress looked up at me. She had round blotchy red cheeks and big brown eyes with long lashes. Her eyes seemed to sparkle as if she had just plays some mischievous prank on someone and was waiting for them to find out about it. I thought she was quite pretty.

‘Hello, my name is Margaret, I’m your new-‘

‘Ah you’re here, good, good,’ she said cutting me off and still gasping for breath ‘well, come in, come in.’

She ushered me into a narrow hallway. The wallpaper was a silver white color with a fancy design on it. It looked so rich I felt my hand twitch. I wanted to reach out and touch it but the woman was walking away quickly, her small heels tapping against the wooden floorboards as she went. We turned right in front of a staircase going to an upper level. There was a dark carpet on the stairs and a white bannister to its side. We turned again, went through a kitchen and into a washroom. She led me up some stairs into a dark hallway. As we walked she explained what my main chores would be:

‘As you can see the house is big and requires a lot of work. You are our only maid. You will be required to clean the house of course, do the laundry, the ironing, make soap, do the dying, press the laundry, hang it, do the dishes, the dusting, the mending and the cooking. But not the bread mind you. Emily bakes the bread. Make sure you stay out of her way when she does. Oh and you’re also responsible for feeding the cats and chickens.’

We continued up the stairs and I saw three doors lined against the wall.

‘The one at the back is yours. Here are your keys. This is the one for your room.’ She said, pointing at a large key with a small pink ribbon attached to it.

‘The others are for the rest of the house. This one is to the main entrance.’ She finished pointing at a key with a blue ribbon on it. ‘Leave your things in your room and follow me.

I did as I was told. I did not even think to look at my new room. My mind already thinking about the amount of work this house would generate. I followed the mistress to the front of the first floor.

‘I’m Miss Lavinia Dickinson. You can ask me any questions you might have. You will also be working for my sister Miss Dickinson as well as my parents Mr and Mrs Dickinson. You won’t see much of Mr Dickinson, because he travels a lot.’

We passed through a small passage and were back in their part of the house. The white wallpaper called out to me again. Miss Lavinia turned to me and brought one finger to her mouth showing me to be silent. We walked passed a door that she pointed at without saying anything. I looked at the door. There was nothing special about it. It was just a white door with a white doorknob. My new employer did not stop in front of it but continued down a flight of stairs.

Once we had made our way back into the kitchen, she turned to face me.

‘The door, you saw it?’

I nodded, my eyes widening.

‘That’s Miss Dickinson’s room. You are not to disturb her when she is in her room. When she comes down to bake bread, you will have time to clean her space. Be careful you leave everything as you find it. If you pick up a pen to clean under it, then you must put it back exactly where you found it. Do you understand?’

I nodded again.

‘Good. Emily – Miss Dickinson to you, I mean, is very particular but that’s none of your concern. You may not ask questions about that. And under no circumstances must you perpetuate the ridiculous rumors that circulate about her in the town. Do I make myself clear?’

I nodded again.

I heard footsteps coming towards the kitchen and turned to look at its owner.

‘Lavinia I’m going to the market. Would you like to join me?’

A tall woman with strict features was in the doorway. Miss Lavinia introduced her as Mrs Dickinson. I was afraid of the old woman then and there. She seemed stern and cold. I did not know it yet, but my path would hardly cross hers during the time I would work at the Homestead house. When it did, she usual ignored me, as I was the help.

When Miss Lavinia had left I began preparing the evening dinner, my mind full of questions about Miss Dickinson I knew I could not ask or have answers to.

The next day I was preparing lunch when she walked into the kitchen. I had not seen or heard her walk in and when I turned around from the stove I shrieked with surprise at the sight of her. The butter I was holding flew out of my hands and splattered on the floor at Miss Dickinson’s feet. Startled, she flattened herself against the kitchen door. There was a long silence in which we both caught our breath.

Then, we looked up at each other. I could not control myself. I was submerged by a fit of giggles. I slumped down onto the cold dark red tiles of the kitchen floor and felt tears run down my cheeks. On the other side of the room, I saw her clutch her stomach and kneel down trying to control herself.

I noticed her white dress and dark brown hair pulled into a tight bun not dissimilar from mine. She had the same brown eyes her sister had, but hers seemed more alert, more awake. She didn’t have plump rosy cheeks though; hers were flatter with higher cheekbones. It was a very pretty face.

‘What’s going on?’ Miss Lavinia said, coming into the room. ‘Miss Maher! Do your chores, now! Emily are you alright?’

I hurried back into the washroom still laughing. I grabbed the cleaning kit and went up to Miss Dickinson’s room to clean it still trying to control my laughter.

I placed my hand on the white doorknob but did not open it straight away. I felt as if I was trespassing or stealing something that did not belong to me. I heard Miss Lavinia’s tapping footstep’s on the ground floor and shook my head. I turned the handle and stepped in.

It was as remarkable as the white door that led into it: unremarkable. There was a bed, a nightstand, a washbasin, a hearth, a commode, a table and chair. I kept looking around the small space expecting some strange object to catch my eye, but there was nothing. I walked to the window and looked out. The front garden was just as green as ever and stretched out from the house to the main street in front. I turned around back to the room and hit my thigh on a small writing table. I swore under my breath and tried to rub the pain away.

I began cleaning the small table. I moved the gas lamp and pen that were beside it. It was a very nice table. The wood was smooth and I guessed it was probably cherry. It had a small drawer with a little round golden ring handle. I dusted and polished it before carefully placing the two objects that were on it back to where they had been. I remembered the lamp had been right at the edge of the table, the pen had laid diagonally to it, the pen’s point angled towards the right of the lamp.

After that I carefully dusted every other item of the room, but there wasn’t much in the room. A small basket on the window sill caught my eye. I looked inside hoping to resolve some of the mystery surrounding the room’s owner. I found only needlepoint in it. I shut the weaker basket with a bang and continued dusting.

Then I began scrubbing the floor carefully. When I moved one piece of furniture I used my foot as a marker so I could set it back exactly where it had been when I had finished.

Finally, I finished cleaning and dusting the room. I noticed Miss Dickinson had left a small tray with a teacup and saucer on the commode top in front of some pictures. The porcelain cup had a gold rim running along its edge but the rim was slightly chipped near the handle. I picked it up and noticed the word “Sèvres” engraved on its bottom. I left with the tray, closing the door behind me.

The smell of bread filled the house by the time I left her room. When I reached the kitchen, I was surprised to see that she was not there anymore. The door to the back garden was open and I went to shut it when I saw Miss Dickinson outside. I stepped out, curious to see what she was doing. She was standing very still looking up at a tree. A Robin was singing.

Miss Dickinson closed her eyes and I saw her sway slightly form one foot to the other. Fearing she would fall I took a few steps toward her but a hand came out of nowhere and grabbed me. I turned to see who was holding me back and saw a gardener.

‘She’s fine. Leave it,’ he said in a thick Irish accent that reminded me of home. He did not look at me while saying this but kept his eyes on Miss Dickinson.

I looked back at her and saw she was reaching one hand out towards the bird who was still singing. The bird flew out of his nest down onto the walk in front of her. I realized she was offering him a crumb but he did not seem interested. He was eating something else but I could not see what.

‘Probably a worm,’ the gardener said, answering my unasked question.

The bird ruffled its feathers and flew away. Miss Dickinson got up and walked off towards the back of the garden near the apple orchard.

‘Ah good, she wasn’t too long today, bless her,’ the gardener said and picking up his tools started walking away.

I ran after him and asked him about Miss Dickinson’s strange behavior.

‘If you thought that was strange, you probably won’t last long in this house. She was just playing with the bird, that’s all. I don’t see why some folk find fault with that. I always give her room when she walks through the garden. She doesn’t need me clipping around her when she is speaking with the birds.’

‘She speaks to the birds?’

‘Not to them, with them.’

He told me she talked with everything, the birds, trees and anything or anyone else that would listen. She just didn’t use words to speak.

‘How can you speak without words?’ I asked him.

‘Did you not just see her?’

I felt more confused and decided to stop asking the gardener questions. I was not aware of it yet but his name was Dennis Scannell and I would come to know him well in years to come.

I returned to the safety of the kitchen. I looked around at the bright yellow casements and the pale green walls. I definitely felt like this was the best room in the house. I started cooking and sang an old tune from home to keep me company as I worked.

As evening approached I began preparing dinner. I was singing an old tune again while Miss Lavinia’s cats Gaspar and Pumpkin watched me cook. I heard a noise from the main part of the house but didn’t stop to worry about it. Perhaps I should have because I jumped with surprise when Miss Lavinia and Miss Dickinson both came rushing into the kitchen. Miss Dickinson banged the cupboards open one after the other.

‘Emily, tell me what you’re looking for, please.’

I froze and watched as Miss Dickinson pawed through the washed dishes. I saw her remove the chipped cup from the lot. She showed her sister the dish and without a word exited the room.

Miss Lavinia was holding on to the counter and breathing hard. She picked up Gaspar and stroked him from the top of his head to the tip of his tail.

‘Did you remove the cup from her room?’ she said to me but kept looking at her cat.

‘I’m sorry. I thought it was to be washed. I-‘

‘Next time, leave it exactly as you found it.’

‘Yes M’am.’

She left with her cat. I sat by the fire for a moment, not sure how to understand either of the sisters’ attitudes.

The next day while I was dusting in the library, I heard someone at the door. When I went to open it, a Mrs Jameson asked to see Miss Dickinson. I tried to hold back a grin, unsuccessfully.

‘Just tell her I’m here, will you?’

I ran away feeling her stare bore into my back.

When I was in front of Miss Dickinson’s door, I hardly knew what to do. I wanted to knock but was afraid too. I was just about to when I heard her voice:

‘I’m coming.’

I was surprised to hear her say she would. I left without a word to fetch Mrs Jameson tea. I then headed back towards the library to finish my dusting but I saw Miss Dickinson come down and head for the North Parlor.

‘Ma’am she’s waiting for you in the South Parlor.’

She nodded in response but went into the North Parlor all the same. Perplexed, I stood still a moment. I heard the sound of her voice greet her friend. I was sure I’d left Mrs Jameson in the South Parlor and poked my head through its doorway again to be sure.

Mrs Jameson was seated on a small chair next to the large red curtain separating the two parlors. The curtain was closed and I could hear Miss Dickinson speaking to her friend from behind the curtain. I was still watching the guest speak to a closed curtain when Miss Lavinia came into the hall and shut the door to the parlor in front of me.

‘It isn’t polite to listen to other people’s conversations.’

‘I wasn’t, I just, I mean- the curtain’

Miss Lavinia told me to return to my work but she did so with a smile. I think she saw the confusion on my face and understood my perplexity. I returned to my dusting, wondering about Miss Dickinson’s strange habits.

The days passed and I saw little of my employer. I did the laundry, fed the cats and chickens. One day, after spending the morning figuring out a particularly complicated recipe for cookies, I went to the market to buy meat for supper. When I returned, I saw the cookies where gone. I looked around the kitchen, scanning each countertop looking for the culprit. My eyes landed on Peppercorn, Miss Lavinia’s fattest cat.

‘Hello Maggie,’ I heard someone say behind me as I lunged for the cat.

I turned around and found my two young nephews, William and James each holding one of my cookies.

‘Where did you get those?’ I asked, my eyes popping out.

They told me a woman had lowered them down from her first floor window in a basket.

‘She was really nice. She said we could have as many as we wanted,’ Will said, smiling.

I looked at him, surprised. Even though she would not come out of her room, she still found ways to please those around her. Although the cookies were difficult to make and I had planned on serving them that day at tea, looking at my nephews chocolate stained faces, I felt they now had served a better purpose.

I continued cleaning the house and saw the seasons slowly change from the bright sunny mornings to the cold and wet afternoons. The leaves in the apple orchard turned gold and red. Puddles started to form around the kitchen door, making it impossible to get through to the vegetable garden and chicken coop. Slowly though the wet turned into cold, the leaves blew away leaving the trees naked and snow started to fall. Miss Dickinson didn’t go outside anymore, preferring the warmth of her room or of the kitchen when she baked.

Still, I wondered what she did when she was locked in her room. Wasn’t she bored? I did not feel bothered by her habits or that it was necessarily strange. I was just curious to know what she did with herself.

One day, Lavinia and her mother had both gone out to call on some friends. It was just Miss Dickinson and I in the house, and curiosity got the better of me. I had been sweeping the landing of the first floor when I stopped in front of her door. I looked at it up and down and up again.

Then, I thought ‘no’ and walked away and headed down the stairs to the entrance hall. I had made it as far as the second step when I turned back and went to the door once more. I stared at it for a full minute and walked away again. I made it to the third step this time before turning back. I gazed at the door longer this time, unsure what to do. I laid down on my stomach trying to see through the crack of the door. All of a sudden, the door creaked open. I looked up hoping that the grin on my face would suffice as an excuse for my behavior.

‘Would you like to come in?’ she asked with a smile.

‘Uh’ was all I could answer.

I got up and fixed my gaze on the hem of her white dress. She ushered me into her room. I noticed, for the first time, the intricately made the floorboards.

As she shut the door, her movement caught my eye and I looked up. She had bent down over the keyhole and made a gesture as if to lock the door. But she held no key. I looked at her, my brows furrowed so far together that when she looked at me she laughed.

‘Welcome to my Prison.’

‘Prison?’ I asked and was sorry she felt this way.

‘No, no it’s a good prison. It helps me understand what’s out there better,’ she said, looking out the window.

I went and stood next to her but did not understand what she meant. How could being in a prison, as she called it, help her out there? I did not understand and she must have seen my confusion.

‘Do you miss the birds?’ she asked me, still smiling.

The birds had migrated south for the winter. I missed hearing them sing when I went into the garden. I liked hearing them when I picked apples in the orchard or pulled vegetables in the garden for the daily meals.

I nodded.

‘When the war was on, did you miss peace?’

I nodded again.

‘But did you miss it before the war?’ her eyes pierced mine when she asked me this.

I fell silent. I had not thought of peace before the war. I hadn’t really appreciated it before the war because I had not known how terrible the war would be. How many men would never return home and how many more should not have returned in the state they did.

I shook my head.

‘When I’m in I can remember everything out there more clearly. I can see them better from here. I appreciate what’s out there more, from in here.’

I nodded again.

‘Its as if the more you go out there the more difficult it is to see it. The more you have to look at it through a filter or a lens. From in here I have perfect eyesight. Its magic,’ she said and laughed.

I laughed with her although I wasn’t sure why we were laughing.

I turned around and saw her small cherry writing desk was covered with papers. My gaze wandered further to her commode. A drawer was open and overflowing with papers.

‘I have a trunk in my room. It’s empty if you would like to use it?’

She looked at me in silence for a while.

‘That would be nice,’ she said and then asked me to leave.

When I was back out in the safety of the hallway, I felt air fill my lungs again. I had not spoken to her in the five months I’d been working in the Homestead House. Apart from saying ‘hello’ or ‘excuse me’. For a first real meeting it seemed a little too intense for my liking. But in the next few days I kept thinking about what she told me and especially about what she had taught me.

1870

~

I was preparing lunch one morning in April when Miss Dickinson came in. I excused myself and made my way to exit the kitchen.

‘Maggie.’

I turned around and saw she was handing me something.

‘You said you had an empty trunk?’

I nodded and took the papers she was giving me. I left quickly through the back of the kitchen. Once I was in my room I looked through her notes. They were, as I expected, poems. I was happy she had decided to trust me with her work. Each packet she had given me was composed of about twenty poems hand-sewn together with some string. I wanted to read them but I didn’t dare. She had trusted me with them and I did not want to break that trust. I put them safely in my trunk and went to clean her room.

I deliberately took too long cleaning her room in the hopes that she would return and we could talk more. She did not come however. I eventually made my way back to the kitchen, dragging my feet. She was not there but I noticed she had left some notes lying on the counter. I grouped them together and set them under a jam jar so they would not fly away if someone opened the door to the garden. I went out to pick Thyme that I needed for the evening meal when I saw her kneeling by the rose beds. I was happy to see her going outside again.

As I was watching her I saw a carriage come by. Miss Dickinson straightened as it neared the house. The driver was an old man hunched over. He was bald and had a pointy nose. He was well dressed but wore all black, which I thought made him look sad. His horse seemed as old as his master, if not older. He dragged his legs and the rhythm of his clip-clopping hooves seemed out of tune.

The carriage driver held a long whip at his side that he looked more likely to drop than to use on his horse. When he saw Miss Dickinson, he tipped his black hat to her smiling and drove slowly onward. His smile seemed more like a grimace to me and I was glad he had not greeted me in this similar, disturbing manner. After the carriage was out of sight, I watched my mistress shiver and return inside. When I went back into the kitchen she had removed her notes from under the jar and was writing fast on one of them.

A little later in the day, a Mr Dwight Hills came to visit the family. I let him into the Parlor where Miss Lavinia and Mrs Dickinson welcomed him. When I’d returned to the kitchen I heard Miss Dickinson’s bell ring. I went up to her room curious to see what she needed since she never rang her bell.

When I arrived on the landing, I saw a small note in front of her door addressed to Mr Hills. I took it down the stairs to the guest who read it directly.

‘She isn’t coming down I assume?’ he asked me with a wink.

‘I’m sorry sir. I-’

‘You must be a strange bird yourself if she trusts you so much. How did you get in her good graces?’

‘You may go, Maggie,’ Mrs Dickinson ordered me.

I tried to relax my shoulders and exited the Parlor as fast as my feet would carry me. When I was back in the safety of the kitchen I realized Mr Hills had a point. Why did she like me or trust me? She didn’t know me and I was only a maid in her house. I smiled

‘She trusts me.’

A few days later another man came to visit. He was tall and had a little moustache I quite liked. When I let him into the Parlor I did not bother to return to the kitchen but went straight up to Miss Dickinson’s room to see if she had left a note for the visitor. As I reached the first floor landing I saw her exit her room. I asked her if she needed anything but she said she did not. She was wearing her usual white dress but had also put on a pretty blue shawl. I wondered why she felt the need to wear an extra accessory for this visitor. She went past me down to the first floor. I expected her to go into the North Parlor but when she headed to the South Parlor my mouth opened in surprise.

Lavinia walked into the hallway holding Tangerine.

‘Come on, Maggie,’ she said stroking the orange cat’s long hairs.

We waited in the kitchen as the two conversed in the Parlor. Seeing my anxiety for my mistress, Miss Lavinia explained that the guest was Mr Higginson, a publisher from the Atlantic Monthly. Miss Dickinson had written him several letters and he had been eager to meet her to discuss her writing.

When we heard their voices more clearly, we knew their meeting was over. I followed Miss Lavinia who went to see the gentlemen out, hoping to glimpse him better myself. Miss Dickinson had already returned to her room when we arrived in the hall. Mr Higginson thanked Miss Lavinia for her kindness but said he had to leave right away.

‘I have no energy left after this meeting.’

I stood behind Miss Lavinia nodding. I remembered the first time I had spoken to her and how confused and more curious about the world I’d felt all at the same time after our first discussion.

The next day I monotonously went about my chores, dusting, sweeping, ironing. I sang songs from Ireland to keep me company while doing so. It made the time go by faster. I was cleaning the kitchen and singing ‘The Rising of the Moon’. I began to dance with my broom pirouetting around it. I picked it up and played it like a banjo for the benefit of Fig, Miss Lavinia’s black cat. I twirled a few more times laughing and singing when I heard someone else laugh as well. I turned around and saw Miss Dickinson in the doorway waiting to come in to do her daily baking. She clapped and congratulated me on my singing.

‘Thank you,’ I said taking a bow and was about to add that she should join me but all of a sudden she froze. Her smile left her face and she started looking around the kitchen for something. I asked her what she needed but she did not answer. Finally she found a pen and an old bill paid off months ago. She started writing on the paper fast and sloppy. I was not sure even she would be able to reread what she had written. I understood what she was doing and left the kitchen quietly.

As I cleaned her room that morning, I was sure we could become good friends even if her poems overtook her sometimes. The thought of her friendship made me smile.

1874

~

Mr Edward Dickinson was back. He travelled often for work and was only seldom at the house. He had returned two nights ago but already had to leave the next morning. I was in the washroom when I saw him and Miss Dickinson walking in the garden. They were talking and looked quite content. They spent the entire day together walking, in the garden or sitting talking in the Parlor. I must admit I was a little jealous of Mr Dickinson. I had only had a few conversations with his daughter but would have loved to have a few more.

That evening while I was cleaning the South Parlor I heard him and Miss Lavinia speaking in the North Parlor. Mr Dickinson said to his daughter how pleased he had been to spend this time with Emily and did not want the afternoon to end.

The next day however, he got on a train to Boston. Miss Dickinson seemed sad to see him go. When she went to bake the bread, she asked me to cook and sing at the same time to keep her distracted.

When, a few days later, a telegraph came in it was as if she already knew what had happened. I took it up to her but she did not open it directly. She asked me to fetch Miss Lavinia and they opened the note together.

Mr Edward Dickinson had died. He had been ill and the doctor had given him the wrong dose of medicine.

I wanted to hold them both close to me, but they told me to prepare for the funeral. I left without needing more instructions. I left determined to get everything ready so that Miss Lavinia would not have to do it herself. She seemed too sad.

When the funeral finally took place. I watched Miss Lavinia leave from the front of the house with Mrs Dickinson, her brother, Austin and his wife Sue, to go to the funeral.

‘She isn’t going,’ I said to Dennis.

‘Not surprising,’ he answered, leaning on his rake.

I was not worried or ashamed that she wasn’t going to the funeral but felt mostly worried about her. She would have to stay alone in the house while everyone else convened together in church. Dennis and I made our way to the church through the backyard and down a few side alleys.

That evening I was sitting by the kitchen hearth writing a short letter to my sister, Mary when Miss Lavinia came in. I stood to greet her and ask what she needed but she told me to sit down.

‘I came for the company and the warmth,’ she said smiling and I wasn’t entirely sure she meant the warmth of the fire.

‘How are things?’ I hesitated to ask but did anyway feeling that silence would have been more awkward.

‘She’s all right. She processes things differently than most people. That’s the problem. I always feel responsible for her because she’s my sister. I don’t want her to be in so much pain, but I guess that comes with being a poet.’

‘I didn’t mean her.’

‘I sometimes forget about myself,’ Miss Lavinia laughed. ‘I worry so much for Emily, I sometimes forget it might be worth worrying about myself.’

Parsley rubbed her long tail against the leg of Miss Lavinia, who picked her up. While stroking the grey cat’s short fur she turned to look into the fire. The light from the flames reflected on her round rosy cheeks. We heard a noise at the kitchen door; it was Miss Dickinson. She came and sat with us by the fire.

I looked at the two sisters who were physically similar but had very different minds. Miss Dickinson didn’t have Miss Lavinia’s round cheeks or the softness in her eyes. Her eyes were awake and sharp.

I realized how sad they both looked though. This would not do. I got up in one swift movement that made them both jump.

‘We’re baking a cake.’

‘What?’ Miss Lavinia said.

‘No what! We’re baking a cake.’

The two got up but did not seem enthused. I decided I would make them want this cake. I would make them both smile and laugh, at least for the next few hours.

I began singing O’Donnell Abu and taught them a few words so they could join in and sing with me. By the time the cake was in the oven they had learned the entire song and we were singing it to each other from different corners of the kitchen as loud as we could.

We collapsed with laughter by the hearth and I noticed Miss Dickinson had some flour on her sleeve. I handed her a cloth to wipe it.

‘Miss Dickinson,’ I said when she failed to see me holding the cloth out to her.

‘I think you can call me Emily, Maggie,’ she said wiping the flour off.

1884

~

The doorbell rang and when I opened it I saw Mrs Todd. I felt my face clench unwillingly. I admitted her into the house without a word. She was an unhappy women whose interest in the family, at least in my opinion, was only to further her own social advancement.

She came regularly, to play the piano for Emily. I knew Emily liked to hear the instrument being played, although she never came down to watch. She would open her door ever so slightly to hear the notes better.

Mrs Todd used Emily partly as an excuse. Her main interest in coming to Homestead was to see the young Mr Dickinson. It seemed quite clear that they were lovers, although Emily never noticed, staying in her room the whole time, she did not doubt what the woman’s real motives were.

When the young woman sat herself at the piano and began to play, I went up to the first floor landing to see if Emily had left her anything. There was a rose in front of her door with a note ‘for Mabel’. I took it down to Mrs Todd but when I entered the Parlor, I froze. Mr Dickinson was at her side. I had not even heard him come back from his office that morning. He was holding her by the waist and kissing her neck while she played. I left the rose on a small worktable next to the door and left.

I found Lavinia in the kitchen by the fire. I walked in and leaned against the counter without saying anything.

‘He owns the house,’ Lavinia said, staring into the fire.

‘I know. You don’t need to apologize.’

‘Yes, but I can tell it bothers you.’

‘Doesn’t it bother you?’ I said a little more forcefully than I’d intended.

‘Yes, but what can I do? The music makes Emily happy and Austin pays for everything. Without him we’d all be out on the streets.’

She got up and went out through the back door to the garden. I shook my head, unhappy with the situation. I felt that Lavinia had lost hope since her father died. She had doubled her attention towards Emily. She hoped that her constant presence would keep her sister from becoming too fragile. Perhaps it did help a little until the moment when Mrs Dickinson had fallen ill.

In my mind, her illness was brought on by the loss of her husband. The first time she felt unwell was on the anniversary of his death and since that time she had always been sick. She spent most of her time in bed unable to get up anymore. Lavinia tried so hard to take care of her but the pressure from taking care of Emily in addition to taking care of her mother had killed something inside her. I could see it. Her eyes didn’t sparkle like they used to.

When her mother had passed a few years ago, I had felt a little relieved for Lavinia. But her brother’s affair was weighing her down now and dragging me with her. I was worried about what the outcome would be, not only for Austin and his sisters but also for the entire house. Had I known what was to come I might not have worried so much about his affair. Emily’s was far more worrying.

The first time Judge Lord came to visit Emily a few years ago, I hardly knew what to think. He was much older than her and I therefore did not understand the nature of their relationship until Lavinia pointed it out to me.

It is true that when he came to the house she seemed lighter. But she seemed almost too light, I thought. It worried me. What would happen if he went away one day?

He rang the doorbell on a Tuesday and I let him into the South Parlor as I usually did. When I went to fetch Emily, she was already coming out of her room. She went straight down to meet him without a word to me in passing. They stayed in the Parlor for hours, talking.

I went out into the garden for fresh air. I was also hoping to run into Dennis again. He always made things seem less serious than I thought they were. I could not find him but tried to rationalize the relationship myself. Maybe she wasn’t too sensitive. Maybe they would get married and she would always be as happy as he was making her now. I walked around the apple trees trying to convince myself of this but in my heart I didn’t feel any of this would actually happen.

A few months later he died.

Lavinia and I took turns watching Emily. We made sure there was always someone with her when she wasn’t in her room. When she baked, I found an excuse to stay in the kitchen. When she went into the garden, Lavinia found a reason to go with her and talk about something.

What worried me most was how unemotional she seemed about his death. I was afraid she had reached some state beyond sadness. I went to see her in her room using a tray of tea and biscuits as an excuse to come in.

She was sitting at her small writing table looking out the window. I placed the tray next to the paper she had been writing on. She did not look at me. I looked out the window myself and saw a Nightingale on the windowsill. I wondered if it was the same one I had seen on my first day in Homestead. I stayed for a minute watching the bird, but when he flew away I gave up. She would not speak to me. I was almost at the door when she changed her mind.

‘What do you think hope is?’

I stopped. I did not know what to say to this.

‘Emily?’

‘I think it’s like a bird,’ she smiled, but the expression on her face worried me. It was not a smile that translated happiness. ‘A bird that’s inside you.’

I did not really understand what she meant and she must have noticed because she continued.

‘Imagine that hope is like a loaf of bread and all your soul bird needs to survive is one small crumb. You don’t need the entire loaf. Just a crumb is enough to keep hope alive. And your hope, your bird, never tells you to give it bread. You need to give it freely to keep the bird alive. To keep hope alive.’

I asked her if she wanted to come down to bake a cake with me.

‘In a little while,’ she answered and I left her.

I returned to the kitchen and found Lavinia. She looked at me. Her eyebrows arched so high she didn’t have to say anything else.

‘She said something about a bird being hope and crumb you have to offer it to keep it alive or the bird and the crumb both die. No wait it was the other way around, the crumb was hope and the bird was the soul, I think.’

I looked at Lavinia for help. She shrugged.

‘It made sense when she said it!’

I was now unable to explain her words myself but I still felt I understood, even if on paper it did look like I hadn’t understood anything about her.

When Emily came down we started baking and I tried to get her to sing with me but she would not. This was going to be a silent session. I was fine with it. The repetitive motion of stirring or rolling the pin back and forth over dough was sometimes soothing. I thought she might be feeling a bit better and I was about to suggest we bake cookies next when she collapsed on the floor.

‘Emily!’

Emily was lying on the ground unconscious. Lavinia who had been sitting by the fire hurried over. I ran out to find help, leaving Lavinia with her sister.

1886

~

I dried two gold-rimmed porcelain cups. I turned the chipped one, the one Emily liked, over to dry its base and saw the now almost completely faded mark of “Sèvres”. Only part of the word was still visible. I placed both cups on their small individual saucers and these on a bigger silver tray.

When I reached Emily’s room, Lavinia opened the door to let me inside. Emily was unconscious again. This was the third time this month she had passed out. Lavinia would hardly leave her bedside anymore for fear. However, she now asked me to stay while she went out. I took her chair and sat in silence until Emily woke up. She asked me about the trunk where I kept her writings.

‘I still have it. It’s almost full.’

‘Will you burn what’s in it when I die?’

‘What?’

‘Promise you will.’

‘I-I promise.’

I swallowed hard. I felt tears come into my eyes. I was about to tell her I could not do it, that I could not burn something that was such a big part of who she was. But she spoke again and I was unable to say what I wanted.

‘Where’s the fly?’ she asked looking at me straight on, her eyes wide open with worry. ‘The one that was buzzing.’

There was no fly or at least I could see no fly and I told her so.

‘But it’s time.’

She looked at me, her eyes filled with sadness. I did not know what to say. She seemed to implore me to find this fly but I was sure there was none. She began to cry. I held her but I could not erase her pain. I could not even really understand it. So, instead, I held her and sang ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’. The words seemed difficult to sing now:

‘Twas sad I kissed away her tears, Her arms around me clinging. When to my ears that fateful shot, Came out the wildwood ringing…’

She had fallen asleep but I kept singing until I reached the end of the song.

‘I wept and kissed her clay-cold corpse, Then rushed o’er vale and valley. My vengeance on the foe to wreak, While soft wind shook the barley.’

She died that day.

I never had a chance to tell her I would not be able to burn her poems. I went to see her brother Austin and asked him to not make me keep the promise I’d unwillingly made to his sister. He took the poems from me.

‘It’s all right, I won’t burn them.’

I knew he wouldn’t, but it was difficult to part with them all the same. It was the last piece of her I had. I prayed I was doing the right thing. I felt I was, because, although I had never read her poems myself, I knew their author well. If her poems were half as special as she was then they were worth saving even if she did not want them to be saved herself.

~

Choral Fantasy

Image: Medieval Town by Water by Karl Freidrich Schinkel. Source

Author: Benoît Rossel

Choral Fantasy

It was rising, the bleaching globe,
Under the steely deep blue sky.
The leafy path was bright and trod
Our feet across the winding aisle.

Early and Oh ! Aimless morning,
Leading two minds out of their homes.
And while hours were colouring,
we went below the hazy dome.

And as the pines lost their shadows
We felt the warmth, we heard the cords,
And as we went on, Ad agio,
Reeds played the wind without discord.

Then I saw them, piercing the air,
And knew the aim of my journey :
In this chancel I may wander,
And gaze at its roof, curved and fair.

*

With hopes, to the plain, down I went,
Eager, my longing had begun.
Meseemed the bells rang in my head,
As the belfreys did globe the sun.

To the asylum, I arose,
And the chalky columns did glow,
Thousands of pale moulded roses
Under the curved arches I saw.

And the stained glass, solemn and high
Coloured my mind and flamed my eyes.
As crumbled hopes were far behind,
I stood under light, mesmerized.

Then, I heard it! Many voices
Undisclosed from the chancel sung,
All in one solemn mass rejoiced.
From the altar it came,
From the altar it broke.

*

And harmony shattered into hundreds of shades, blinding !
Angels, angels ! Curved and marbled angels,
Came trumpetting down the grounds, and the cathedral tuned to life.
And I saw the trancept melt, and I saw the mother, singing,
Nearing ! Out of her frame she went, to gather the symphony.
I heard them, the horses and their marching knights,
From the rose they marched and spinned, spinned, spinned around.
But in my mind, as gravity, harmony died.
And all the choirs in my head spread far !
Glass crashed, and spread to unleash thin white arrows,
They pierced the vaults! They pierced the walls and thrones,
And turned this heavy shrine,
Turned it! Into a thousand-faces dream.
Visions, delusions, I fell into heaven, and lost it all,
I drank the chimeras, Oh ! Distant fears !
Ache and grief dissolved, in this elusive fantasy.

*

And all did spread, and all did collide,
In my own private ceremonial.
I left the altar with elusive pride
As stars sprinkled the Amarynth sky.

‘Hollow Birds’ & Other Poems

Image: John Tenniel’s illustration for Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark. Source

Author: Charlotte Courdesse

Hollow Birds

The void of the mind, trampled and crippled,
Is written with a typography of desire,
Unconsciously torn between urge and stagnation,
Saturation of shattered leaves and thinned-off glass.
Nothing moves, but drifts slowly towards a stillpoint,
That awaits the flood of lapsarian minutes.
Meanwhile, lasses perform Saint Agnes’ rites,
Lovers stand near the withdrawing sea of Dover beach,
And a Nicean bark flings itself away
In the ever-tossing waves of poetry,
Images of yore, fantasies of old,
Whose existence is doubtful, less coherent,
Expressions of the self, set up to coy and object
The imaginary real, and the nature of dreams,
Originate from, and head to,
the deep alloy of philosophical thoughts,
the proto-hotchpotch of humanity,
the syntagms, phonemes, lexemes of truth,
that evince inspired crackpot, literature,
borne by putative beams of historic tradition.
There they lie, surfaces of black pauses,
Awaiting to be picked down by the bleak hands
Of ravenous rovers.

Worship

Over the heel of multiple amber voices,
Feather-wise, trimmed with brilliant eyes,
Under the ponderous feet of gilded thoughts,
Leathered and trite in their burnished vagaries,
They plummet and dive, they rust and rot,
Salt of the hard core, the European gods.

Over the years of multiples ardent hooks,
Silver embroidered, weapons armed, and yet
Under the potent helmet of rigorous princes,
Sharpened but weak in their pitying squalor,
They flaw and dodge, they deny and dye
The tenure of their arms, the worldwide army.

Tis no run-in in the drawback of their battles,
They know what they are, defined, not altered,
Albeit the gallivanting pleas of the whirlwind,
They die and march, resurrection for a ticker-tape,
Strolling in mid-air, they defile the wrongdoings,
Awaiting no graces: capstone of the vanquished hassles.

In a Spencerian rhythm, they mount epic ravens of yore,
And speak in monolithic A the plosives and the loves
Of numerous languages,

In a burst prose of purple tinges, they slide along the heroic shores,
And address the question of Clarisse’s and Acteon’s soars,
For the sake of euphonious staves,

Over the clouds of multiple gone off verses,
They modernize and dovetail the fingers of our chronic past,
Under the studied cant of their immortal spirits,
They rehearse the eyewash limbs of our words,
A cut from above, a cerulean window splits open,
Watchers of old times, quenchers of nigh nights.

 

Temple of the Ancient

Fake statues, upright erected, winged and frail,
Made a half-stifled cry, marble vibration,
Casting to the pending sky a marvel of doggerel.

Fascination took us, with its quills brazen,
Scripturient and demonic: that was the initiation,
Flow spouts us astray, and the flood of hell.

Gyrastic columns, Delic acanthus leaves, solemn
Salutes: they murmur their names, critics of ancient cultivation,
And sound the ivory statements of Aphrodites of stone,

Frozen ecstasy, gullible to the brink of madness,
Ties up the esthetic shackles of tantalization:
They indulge in gripping the void, rosary of invention!

 

Cheshire Hostel

Chain of substitutions – was it only a fantasy,
Or something easily removed from the path of dreams?
Windows wide closed in the downtime of isms,
Doors tightly open for the throwback to begin,
Fleabags I know not, but to them I return, continuously,
My rucksack in rag and my ring disposed,
Looks of dismay on my face, and defiance ahead,
When I book a room, and a gallivant around,
Steps patch up the cracks, on the crushed ferns,
In the sounds of the drills, and forests away,
I am the frontrunner, the wanderer,
In whom every belief crumbles and soars,
I sell highlife and hobnobbing,
Sandbox of departure, sold-out from the beginning,
For a minute of frenzy, antics follow, disreputably
Vulgar, but meaningful, for the hearers of will,
For my cause is mighty, and good,
That transmogrifies the void, for good,
That glitters with nuclear sparkles and bombs,
That spurs the soldiers of fortune to try their death;
There I reign over thousands of kingdoms of dawn
Purple and gild, across the mind, plunged deep in sea,
Thick and fast they bid me to admonish torments,
Advices I give them, nonplussed they depart
To dingy motels and gasoline stations, to filthy closets
Of evenings much distanced,
They ask for a homespun redemption, in the squalor, in ditch,
They remember me not, the merchant of magic, the knight of nights
Half-lit but rich, verbose and profound.
They have forgotten already the Forthcoming for the Candyfloss,
The hunchback for the witch.