29 February 2020

#29 Felis catus

I met a monster cat a normal cat
a great disdainful stare’s been introduced
and then you firmly knock down all my books
who hoots and scowls to keep us well away
a collar to prevent the spread of fleas
will hiss at nothing there and bite my wrist
the owl has lived here since the woods began
at night we both go slinking through the mist
because you are my favourite eerie brat
the owl must find a safer place to roost
I am a monster man a normal man
they leap from you to me like sprightly spooks
is this a feather in your litter tray
you need to tell me what you want for tea


28 February 2020

#28 - skindeep

The Bannik is a bathhouse spirit in Slavic mythology. The imagery it sparked led me to some interesting places. It's also the second sonnet in this year's cycle to (obliquely) reference Led Zeppelin...

We dig our claws so deep into each other
that life becomes an ecstasy of blood
the wordless canticle of heedless lovers
to raise a charm against the coming flood.

We prophesy in childbirth and in water,
equivocate through fantasy and pain
together we will give the world no quarter
but slide our claws under its skin again.

And when the levee breaks we flee in fire,
preferring to incinerate in style,
yet still the blazing folly of the pyre
provokes a sudden unexpected smile
some understanding born out of desire,
a whispered kiss for every lonely mile.


27 February 2020

#27 - Wait... what was the question?

This poem was supposed to be about the Chupacabra, a mythical dog-like creature sighted in countries in South and Central America, as well as parts of the United States. The poem ended up being about imposter syndrome and the limits of trying to predict the future. I don't know, go figure! Anyway, the name 'chupacabra' literally translates to 'goat sucker' - which is gross. So, there!

Don’t let the gods of fortune boss you round
(the Fates can take the piss a little bit)
disaster follows some folk in a crowd
and life can be an oyster, filled with grit.

Don’t let imposter syndrome grind you down

shrug off the jeers of “Fraud!” and “Hypocrite!”
Taking risks can lead to the profound;
there’s satisfaction popping every zit!

Uncertainty shouts in a voice so loud

to render optimism counterfeit.
Confidence, unfettered and unbound,
is like an STI. So, go! Transmit!

Ignore the voice that tells you not to fight;
it's potent as a Chupacabra's bite.*


This is a Nightjar (also called a Goat Sucker) 

*i.e. not very potent, coz Chupacabra's aren't real. Or, they're only as real as you believe them to be. A bit like imposter syndrome really. "Oh, clever! I see what you did there!"

#26 – A Matter of Interpretation

Neu: Materion Dehongli

The Gog Magogs is part of what passes for a mountain in Cambridgeshire, complete with a myriad odd tales – the nomenclature is suitably confusing, considering that a) the legend to which it appears to pertain is i) based in Cornwall or Devon (to do with the legendary invasion of the Trojans to found Britannia), and ii) probably a corruption of the Welsh for “Madoc The Giant”; and b) getting some precision over which bit is Gog, which Magog, and why they’re even called that is a thankless task that Wikipedia, for one, shuns. Then we tack on the whole Biblical thing about who even Gog and Magog are supposed to have been/ be, and three conspiracy tales later (this year’s theme has seen me visit a surprising number of them in my cryptid research and I can only imagine that the secret service agent assigned to my internet browsing history must be having a more interesting month than usual) sees me throw my hands up and pluck this mash-up from the depths of recent forays into online conversations in flexible tongues (with grateful thanks to the custodians of this particular rhyming dictionary, a ymddiheuriadau i unrhyw siaradwyr Cymraeg ma).

“The giants’ mothers came from overseas;
“Their father cast them forth for being bold.”
Their guide’s face twists, like talking of disease;
They shiver in the damp, persistent cold.

They root him out at last, curled up in sleep.
“Mound to men come forth!” they rattle, proud.
“It’s prophesied your death shall sain our keep!”
O dewch, come on, mae’n gynnar – not so loud!”

He sighs, his height unfurls, their heads reel back.
Hands tighten on their weapons, shoulders square.
Proffwydoliaeth? Nah, I’ll dodge that cac.
“You want this spot? Dim ots, I’ll move up there…”

Y Gwirionedd Hanes? Anodd iawn.
Mae’n amlwg weld nad yw ein wlad yn llawn.

– FR

Corineus or Jack? Pwy sy'n cymrawd bach hwn?

25 February 2020

#25 - The Pfeffel, The

The kishi is a two-faced demon in Angola. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. 

If you can think the mighty throne you’re sat in,
was fairly fought for, just as justly won;
if you can fool the plebs by riffing Latin,
the public schoolboy’s old sine qua non;
if you can state that Bloodline, Breeding, School,
is what keeps Britain great – and think it true;
if you just know those hallowed, ancient rules
apply to other people, not to you;
if you believe that lies and propaganda
are statesmanlike, and Kiplingesque to boot;
then Johnson, (Boris?) (Pfeffel?) Alexander –
fuck off, and suck a bag of dicks en route;
and when you make a heap of all your winnings,
remember that there ain’t a second innings.
Attribution: https://www.instagram.com/p/BwPsiSzlmbs/ 

24 February 2020

#24 - Call Me Rita

The Kraken is a legendary giant sea monster in Scandinavian folklore. In reality, it is deeply misunderstood...

Impersonating islands is my game,
according to the sombre lays of doom
my nostrils sit like caves upon the main,
enticing sailors to an icy tomb.

If that's a game, then it's not very good
who uses nostrils for nefarious ends?
Like many who have been misunderstood,
I've only ever wanted to make friends.

My list of names runs like a dreary jig
hafgufa, sea-mist, crab-fish, twisted one
but you can call me anything you dig,
as long as we have wild aquatic fun.

While fishes frolic on the foamy brine,
come waltz with me we'll have a Kraken time!


23 February 2020

#23 - I go where I please

The Beast of Gévaudan is name of a man-eating animal that terrorised south-central France in the mid-eighteenth century. Most descriptions from the period identify the beast as a large dog or wolf with 'formidable teeth and an immense tail'. These legends have influenced subsequent versions of Little Red Riding Hood, as well as stories of werewolves! Woof

Tradition states that ruin comes to those
who deviate from customary trails.
But don’t believe these cautionary tales:
injustice is a wolf in sheepish clothes.

And, luckily for me, I am no lamb:
I’ve bled and birthed and screamed my insides raw.
I am a warrior in tooth and claw;
I will not be confined for beast nor man.

“Don’t wander in the night! Don’t stay out late!
The creatures in the dark will come for you!”
I hope they come so I can demonstrate
my mastery of Judo and Kung Fu.

This is the surest of all certainties:
I am not tethered – I go where I please.



22 February 2020

#22 – Brown Willy, Rough

Or: Carl and Sigmund Have a Field Day

The Beast of Bodmin Moor is the most recent of the monsters I’ve been given for this challenge. However, since it predates the heights of internet-born mythological fecundity but doesn’t have the cultural weight of centuries behind it, every entry I’ve sourced on it is curiously short, and as bare-boned as the moors themselves: there were wild cats, there may be still. A myth that’s younger than me is odd to encapsulate. I was in a dry mood when I wrote this, clearly…

They say that there’s a Creature on the moor.
They say Luke’s uncle’s mate saw it at dusk.
They say that he was absolutely sure.
They laid on brandy for this trembling husk.

The nameless experts nod and stroke their chins.
They say that they believe it to be so.
I trawl through ugly sites and turn to sin;
Laugh, marvelling: this was so short ago!

Three pumas freed in 1978,
Exotic rug abandoned in a stream;
These opened up and propped that deep-down gate
That lets us populate the mists with dreams.

We’ll always need these beasts of our creation
So pour them now credulity’s libation.

– FR

COULD THIS BE IT?! scream the online article captions...

21 February 2020

#21 - The Djinn and I

So there's a massive Wikipedia page all about Jinn for you to read, but I was up too late playing boardgames so I haven't.

A thousand thanks for freeing me this day –
                No worries, mate! I’m happy to assist!
Don’t even ask what trapped me there, ok?
                I had some questions – but, if you insist…
I *s’pose* you’ll want some recompense or fee?
                Tradition holds that wishes would be meet.
How very novel. Fine – I’ll grant you three.
                Oh awesomesauce! Man, this is gon’ be sweet!

                I wish my friends and family health and laughter.
Okay, they’re fit as fiddles, filled with LOLs.
                I’d like a modest house – but in the sun.
Fine – here’s a Roman villa, much sought-after.
                I want to rid the internet of trolls.
Ah, sorry mate. You know that can’t be done.

After the first few centuries, it must start to get claustrophobic.

20 February 2020

#20 - Burden of Proof

The Flying Spaghetti Monster was created in 2005 as a riposte to a decision by the Kansas State Board of Education to permit the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in public school science classes. See also Russell's Teapot and the Invisible Pink Unicorn

A lonely teapot orbiting the sun
is unobservable from anywhere
created by intelligence for fun,
impossible to prove that it's not there.

She calls to us, and we cannot evade
the paradoxes into which we sink
a goddess out of naught and colour made,
a unicorn invisible and pink.

His noodly appendages reach out,
enfolding everyone in pirate cheer,
as he proclaims to circumvent all doubt
"Just tell me to my face that I'm not here!"

Three entities connected by one truth
it isn't science if it's beyond proof.


19 February 2020

#19 - The Reunion

In Medieval folklore, Blemmyes were mythical headless men who were rumoured to live in remote parts of the world. (Not to be confused with the real-life Blemmyes who were completely different.) I started thinking about whether Blemmyes might get bullied at school, given their slightly unusual appearance...

Now, everyone has one friend who they hate 
whose spiteful humour fills his mates with dread,
who tries his best to make his pals see red,
who needles, snarks, and all round irritates.

“Don’t lose your head! Oh no, you did! Too late!”
You wish you’d picked another school instead.
There’s part of you that wishes he’d drop dead
but he won’t quit, so everything stagnates.

You haven’t seen this guy for twenty years
and suddenly, he’s with you at the bar.
He asks you if your ‘armpits hide your ears’
Now, after all these years, he’s gone too far

He’s sleazy and he doesn’t pay for drinks:
“Just fuck off, Greg! No one cares what you think.”


Source: Schedel's Nuremberg Chronicle (1493) plus Photoshop

#18 – A Good Boy

Black Shuck is a massive, black, spectral hound who haunts the churchyards and winding lanes of Fenland, and made particularly memorable impressions on the churches of Bungay and Blythburgh on 4 August 1577. He is said to be a harbinger of doom – to see him is to know you’re likely to die within the year (apparently, if you hear him, you should close your eyes). With one theory being that Shuck is a remnant of Odin’s Wild Hunt, I wondered what that might be like…

I only want someone to call my name –
The one He gave, not scucca, Shug, or Shuck.
Abandoned in this marsh to untrimmed fame,
Without Him by my side, it seems I’m stuck.

These flatland folk can’t see me save at night,
And when they do, they’re never any fun –
They never want to play, or hunt, or fight;
They only want to whimper, freeze, or run.

But I was trained to hold strait to my course,
To stick and strive until the job’s complete.
If I can show I’m fast as any horse,
Then maybe He’ll return and give me treats.

Until He rides this way I’ll haunt this fen,
And howl alone until I’m Pack again.


The original, identikit picture of Black Shuck looks more like a ram than a dog. This is cuter, trust me. Source.

17 February 2020

#17 - Fashion

Gori is a city in eastern Georgia, known (amongst other things) as the birthplace of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.
A journey, interrupted, West to East;
eyes alternate, waiting tides from both.
Fear the tales of unrestricted growth –
beware the visions of a promised feast.
We stand in foothills where the land is creased,
freely we give, and solemnly, our oath,
for those to come alone assay our troth:
forgive the song, but don’t forget the beast.
The man of steel prepares the bed of ice;
the cloth is cut, the pattern customary.
We measure once, but know the cut comes twice –
what’s past is prologue to the ever wary.
Our fathers keep the gardens inundated,
our sons define the story, never sated.

Blame Russell. He picked the topic.

16 February 2020

#16 - Fourteen Doors

In Greek mythology the Minotaur dwelt at the centre of the LabyrinthThis sonnet was directly inspired by the Jorge Luis Borges short story 'The House of Asterion'

My house is infinite, and all its gates
admit to every temple, street and strand
a model of the universe, a plan
of unremembered worlds which I create
for wanderers, that I might lift the weight
of evil from their hearts and from their hands
where bodies rest, to mark at my command
the tangled lines of geometric fate.

But now my own redeemer stands without
these countless walls as sunlight falls to shade,
his lover draws a thread to comfort me
and gently still all traces of self doubt.
The princess prays, the killer slips his blade
to cut the cord and finally set me free.


15 February 2020

#15 - Do they make Nurofen for zombies?

A jiangshi, also known as a Chinese hopping vampire or hopping zombie, is a type of reanimated corpse in Chinese legends and folklore. Jiangshi can be created in a number of different ways, including through the use of supernatural arts to resurrect the dead. This poem is a cautionary tale: being a zombie isn't all it's cracked up to be...

Not every remedy is kindly meant,
and what is built to cure can wound instead.
I am the accidental revenant
since, after death, not all of us are dead.

The stiffness in my limbs is pain enough
without the throbbing chaos in my head.
My soul is dislocated, and it’s tough
to shop for analgesics when you are dead.

Who hasn’t wished that they could have more time?
That primal yearning passion to exist.
It’s tempting to outstay the final chimes
without a backward glance, but not like this.

No paracetamol will numb the ache
of being half asleep and half awake.


The characters for Jiang Shi mean 'stiff corpse'

14 February 2020

#14 – Met Josef, Ben Davar

The Prague golem is considered (by Wikipedia, at least) the classic version of the golem myth, which word is only mentioned in the Bible once. The tale is said to be apocryphal at best, and yet lives on in thousands of reproductions (including statues, comics, cartoons, horror films, novels  – Frankenstein, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Terminator? – wrestlers, restaurants, and poetry). I tried a technique to reflect the nature of hidden words and layered meanings – let me know how you thought I got on…

And at the very start, you rose in truth,
Light form wet-raw, and rough as recompense;
Effective ward against those lacking ruth,
Pauldron on the arms of innocence.

Healing isn’t what he made you for –
Likely you’re a goad to push back hate,
Aping what you witness in the law,
Made to make your maker curse his fate.

Emptiness consumes the hours you toil,
Darkness casts you into strong relief,
Hubris dogs you both in ash-damped moil,
Tantamount to beggaring belief.

As he withdraws his love you fade and fall,
Vain witness to how cruel loss makes us all.

– FR

Even altering one letter of the golem’s shem can render it lifeless

13 February 2020

#13 – Knight Ride

Jump to search
A brag or braag is a mischievous shapeshifting goblin in the folklore of Northumbria, and often takes the form of a horse or donkey. It is fond of letting unsuspecting humans ride on its back before bucking them off into a pond or bush and running away laughing.

As we begin to gallop, you’re my lord:
control is thine, the reins are in thy fist.
Commands are law that cannot be ignored –
to serve you is my reason to exist.
Then, later in our roving, there’s a bond:
our minds enleagued, a union transmundane –
where thought and movement nimbly correspond,
the night our fief, and speed our sole demesne.
But speed is ever governed by the slowest –
as we conclude our roaming, this is clear:
the tardy one is thee – I think thou knowest –
since thou imbibed six flagons full of beer.
So off my back I’ll toss thee, errant knight,
and hie thee hence into yon ditch of shite.

Cheaper than an Uber, I guess.

12 February 2020

#12 - Through the Looking Glass

I started off thinking about Grendel and Beowulf, then ended up falling down an Oulipo rabbit hole...

The mirror proves a hero in us all,
reflection of an archetype within,
our psyche magnifies that quiet small
desiring to escape from mythic sin.
Then recklessness inflames and sets the beast
on every paradigm that we hold dear
the mirror cracks as hubris start to feast.

The mirror cracks, as hubris start to feast
on every paradigm that we hold dear,
then recklessness inflames and sets the beast
desiring to escape from mythic sin.
Our psyche magnifies that quiet small
reflection of an archetype within
the mirror proves a hero in us all.