Desperandum

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This one was written a couple of years ago as an entry to a poetry competition which, needless to say, I did not win! Thought it was nonetheless a good one to share for Halloween, see what you think:

The doors are locked and bolted, the shutters all made fast
Not even the soughing wind can persuade its cold way past
The house is made all darkness, each candle flame snuffed out
But for the candles in the parlour, casting shadows all about

The cat curled on the cushion is not asleep, as you might think
It has an amber eye wide open; it gives a languid wink
To the figure by the fireplace, seated patiently as fate
As dry-eyed and as brittle as the kindling in the grate

There is a rattling at the windows, the shutters hold their own
An unseen nail rakes the wood, there comes a mournful moan
Shadows flit by unbidden, but the figure does not stir;
The cat stretches out its spiteful nails, gives a muted purr

There comes at once a knocking, insistent at the pane
The moan becomes a wailing screech; a soul in dreadful pain
It worries at one window; shifts to seek passage elsewhere
There is a moment’s respite; then a footfall on the stair

In the chair beside the fire, the figure gives a blackened smile
To show not fleeting happiness, but intent to defile
Spirits, urgent at the window, pull the shutters free
Claw flatly at the slickened glass; hammer uselessly

The parlour door swings open wide, a draught comes sweeping in
The witch’s rictus widens into a malformed grin
There is a sound of sobbing; of helpless, lost despair
It comes as if from distance, though it fills the cold night air

The candles gutter; threatening to die a violent death
Caught as they are suddenly, in a gale of rotten breath
The house, besieged, joins the fray; its’ old frame bends and creaks
But all falls still and silent, when at last the old crone speaks

“There is no use you beating or pounding at my door;
Nothing to be gained from dragging chains across my floor
Curse you for being unwary! You should have learned to look about;
For now that I have you here, I shall never let you out!”

Silence falls heavily; sharp and hard as the headsman’s axe
But there is no solace offered here; no pretence at pax
The witch settles by the fire again; the cat coils and sleeps
As they slink away, defeated; those captured souls she keeps…

S.P. Oldham

 
 
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