Perfume

“Love is whatever you can still betray. Betrayal can only happen if you love.”  John le Carré

I smell something in the air

A soft delicious scent

Like floral, herbs, or spice

To me it’s heaven sent

I step a little closer

Into the confines of our space

The odor is beguiling

And yet, it’s foreign to our place

So I venture further still

And I see you there

You’re smiling

With tender words you welcome me

But the odor is beguiling

An essence does distract me

Unfamiliar to my senses

It floats on air and lingers there

And I think of past offenses:

Of little slips of paper

With words that whispered love

To those who were not me

To those whose flesh you loved

And the fragrance still is stronger

And I’m reminded of a lie

Of a promise that you made

But that you did not abide—

I smell betrayal in the air

And things do seem amiss

As you stand and start to tremble

In the wake of my soft kiss

And the essence is now bitter,

It’s becoming vile

I look to you and I do see

That you no longer smile

I know then your heart is heavy

With the burden of your guilt

And the pain that you’ve inflicted

In the name of selfish pleasure

In the name of your addiction—

The fragrance is a murmur

That tells the simple truth:

You’ve brought another to our bed

And the smell is her perfume.

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. © ELIZABETH MICHAUD JOHN

 

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The Naming of Her

The night begins with darkest spell

She calls forth demons from deepest hell

She sends them out to do her will

They venture off into night’s chill

 

They set about in secret search

Upon the shadows they hunch, they lurch

But their mistress’s wish they do fulfill

And bring to her much treasured ills:

 

A pint of blood, a pound of flesh

A heart ripped from a tender chest;

Screams of innocents bottled tight

And eyes bereft of all their sight…

 

With incantation now complete

While black cat purrs at her feet

The evil bidding stirs her soul

Intent as dark and black as coal

 

She chants her words for all to hear

And one by one, they fall in fear

Her whispered words consume them all

She stands, she laughs, she lets them fall

 

With her curse her victims writhe

Her spell a scourge by which they’ll die

The night is pierced by screams and pleas

But their wretched souls are hers to seize

 

And with her bounty of skin and bone

With withered souls that moan and groan

She steals her way into the night

And cackles oft with all her might—

 

To her dark prince of down below

These bloody gifts she does bestow;

For evil’s trouble he grants a wish:

He calls her hag, trickster and

Witch.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. © ELIZABETH MICHAUD JOHN

The Wind is His Messenger

photo credit: june atkin studio

 

Wind howls at my window

And shrieks a little more

It rattles against the window pane

An ill and frightening score

 

Night cloaks its intentions

Darkness is its friend

It screams its way through the trees

I sense my time at end

 

The wind is his apprentice

It does as it is told

It whips a message through the air

And makes my blood run cold

 

The wind will do his bidding

And call out my name

It seeks for me this horrid night

It knows my guilt and shame

 

It’s building up a fury

It’s angry—don’t you see?

Its screech is strong  and high with might

It’s coming after me

 

So I dig a little deeper

‘Neath the blankets of my bed

I wish for some assistance

With this sense of fear and dread

 

‘Cause the wind is a suggestion

It hints at something more

The devil comes for me this night—

The wind blares his great horn.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. © ELIZABETH MICHAUD JOHN

Ghost

What would the Halloween season be like without a ghost story?  Or in this case, a ghost verse

Moan and wail, clank of chain

Smell of death, recall pain

Haunts this hall, brings on fright

Shackled man who lurks this night

Smoke and mist, trick of light

Floats on air, a ghastly sight!

Behind the glass, through the door

Children, hide! And look no more

Obscure face, unknown soul

Wanders past, wanders slow

Sudden chill, horrid gasp

How long shall this terror last?

Rambles through, seeks to find

Passage to another time—

Bloodless spirit forced to dwell

Here on earth, a ghostly shell

Shimmers dark, shimmers light

Brings on fear, shrieks at night

Children, flee! Run and hide

‘Lest your wish too is to die

Beast and fiend, man no more

Soul is lost, love abhors

Anger stirs, hope is lost

Demon creature will accost

Children, please!  Heed this cry

For this is no lullaby

Rage abounds, fury too

Care that he comes not for you—

Moan and wail, clank of chain

Near the end of terror’s reign

Takes a soul, guards it well

Floats them both on down to hell.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  © ELIZABETH MICHAUD JOHN

Let the Sounds Be a Warning

 

Listen, children, to this night

It bears a warning of great fright

The boom of thunder is fanfare

To night’s terror:  Hark! Beware!

Hear not you the demons stroll?

With menace creep, with menace roam

Lightening cracks—oh children see!

Horrid things will come for thee!

Sounds abound and pierce the dark

Creatures come to leave their mark

Phantoms wail and monsters too

A wolfhound howls—

It honors moon

Tombs do open:

Hear scratch and scrape!

Untold horrors make quick escape

Groans emit from these undead

It brings forth fear

It brings forth dread—

The witch’s cackle is oft heard

And black crows caw

Their sound absurd;

Death is inferred—

Ghouls and goblins swear and hiss

Evil’s night is their sweet bliss

But behold this night song’s end

Do take heed of word I send

The final sound we’ve yet to hear:

A scream of death

A scream of fear

Run, run children! Flee and hide!

Before the sounds do you they find.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. © ELIZABETH MICHAUD JOHN

And because I wanted to have some fun, here’s the “video” version of my poem.

It’s poetry in motion.

Sort of.

Mwah hahahahahaha….

Saying “Boo!”

As a writer, I love to write.  At any moment, at any time, whenever the inspiration hits me.  In the springtime, if it’s raining and the rain splatters on the rooftop in just the right way, I may write a poem.  When it’s hot and muggy outside and the mosquitos and the flies are buzzing around, I might grab my pencil and turn out a lazy bit of prose to match my summer day.  I’ve been known to tweak out a verse or two based on lyrics of a song that intrigued me.  And bearing witness to an act of kindness or malice has often demanded that I make my way to my computer and adapt my testimony into words of warmth or tales of woe.  On my phone I have a note pad app that allows me to tap out a line or two when I’m in my car and a bright idea hits me (when I’m stopped somewhere, of course!), and in my purse, I have a small, spiral-bound writing journal that I always keep handy so I can write when I take the kids to soccer or to Barnes & Noble (I mean, it’s Barnes & Noble, for Pete’s sake!  How can you not find inspiration there???)

Yea, I’m always ready to write, and lots of things move me to do it.

But nothing so much like the month of October.

October signals the time for witches and goblins, ghosts and ghouls.  It’s time for scary movies, horror specials, and dark novels.  It’s when the monsters in the closet seem a little more real, the creatures under the bed are more determined to get you, and that obscure shadow in the corner is not really a shadow at all…but something far and significantly more sinister.  Friday, October 13 is the ominous date on the calendar, and crossing the path of a black cat is a little creepier.  When the window is open but a crack, you hear the wolf howl at the moon and in the light of a fire—campfire or other—flames dance and prance the steps of the wicked.

October marks the time for fear.

As any horror writer will tell you, October is the month for our craft.  This is the season when people are not as afraid to take on the dark; in fact, they challenge it, consequences be damned.  We allow ourselves to fear with both amusement and trepidation, with both giggles and shudders.  We squeal with dark delight at the terrors that flicker across our TV screens in the safety of our own homes, but at night, we shake with anguish when the floorboards creak and the windows rattle.  And it’s this curious mixed acceptance of fear that horror writers thrive on and makes it easier to write than any other time of year.

Ah, October.

It’s the beginning of the celebration of the macabre.

In the mind of the horror writer—at least mine, anyway—this month is almost sacred.  There is a heightened sense of terror during these four weeks, and I am keenly aware of the darkness and treachery that is lurking.  Things speak to me during this month and I find inspiration everywhere:  from the little old lady hanging giant spiders on her porch to the dime-store monsters on sale at the local drugstore to the pint-sized ghouls that roam the streets forever in search of Halloween treats.  Michael Jackson’s Thriller plays on a loop on the radio and its spooky beats help set the mood for thirty-one nights of chills and thrills.

October.

Terror abounds in this corner of the calendar, and for those of us who like to pen dark, twisted tales, it’s ripe for the picking.  Sometimes the ink in our pens spills a classic story of evil witches looking to dine on naughty children.  Other times our pens will speak for the dead, recount their haunting, and deliver their revenge.  At still other moments, our pens scribble the random, incoherent thoughts of the insane, only to leave the sane wondering, bewildered and terrified.

More than any other month in the year, I am inspired by the whispers that float on the air, the undertones of death that waft on the breeze, the stark, bleak silhouettes of bare trees backlit by the ghostly light of moon and the owl’s haunted hoot.  They are stage and prelude to a symphony for the damned, where the screams of innocents and the slippery slide of blood upon the walls are the grand overture.

And I am inspired to write.

But more importantly, I am also even more inspired to share.  Because let’s face it, who doesn’t like to share the fear?  Who doesn’t like to go into the haunted house with friends so we can all scream together, laugh together, be scared together?  Who doesn’t like to sneak up on their best buddy and say “Boo!”?

Because really, that’s what horror writers do—certainly that’s what I like to do.  Writing horror is about sneaking up on someone and saying boo!—in the grandest way possible—and the month of October makes it both legitimate to do and lots of fun.

Yep, yep, I love October.  It motivates me like no other time of year, and despite all that I have going on and the troubles that plague me, October is calling me, winking at me, telling me it’s time to write.

There is inspiration everywhere and it’s time to say…

BOO!

EMJ

 

Writing Black

As some of you may or may not know, I’m Haitian-American.

I’m black.

I don’t make this proclamation to be facetious or sarcastic.  I make it as merely a statement of fact:  I’m black.

It is what it is.

But I do bring it up because when I write, my race is not always evident.  The person that I am is not always easily seen.

I usually prefer it that way.

But it is interesting, because strangers who are just becoming familiar with my work and getting to know me have said to me on more than one occasion after having read my writing, they didn’t realize that I was black.

As if that’s a problem.  Thank goodness I have a thick skin, otherwise I might be offended.

I’ve written about this before, but I’ll say it again:  I don’t think my race should define my writing.  My writing should define my writing.  My stories should speak for themselves, and my verses should sing their own songs.  It is always my goal to tell a good story, as prose or as poetry, and I succeed at this objective as I can.  I try to leave myself out of it as much as possible.

However, every once in a while,  a little bit of me will peek through, and a little bit of my history, my person, my culture, my thoughts or my beliefs will make their way onto the page.  I don’t think that this is unusual.  I think it would be hard to write otherwise if I didn’t leave some of myself behind, exposed for the world to see.

But it is telling when someone reads something I’ve written, and make the connection between my words and my race, and they are surprised as a result.

I bring this up because my good friend, Francis F. Keating, (who, through two posts now, I hope you are getting to know), is also African-American.

Francis is also black.

But I think to the casual reader, many people wouldn’t know it by the poems he’s shared thus far.

In the work we’ve seen to date, Francis presents verses with an old-world, very classically structured styles and rhymes. In my opinion, they read like great literature and have a sense of timelessness about them.

Plus, it’s just a great voice that he uses to spin his verses.

I’ve told him on occasion that I expect to see these poems in high school English textbooks somewhere, being memorized and recited by thousands of students. He likes to laugh and disagree (he’s too humble to say otherwise) but I believe what I’m saying is true. His poems transcend race to focus only on a story, to speak only about the human condition, to espouse the many trials and tribulations to which we as individuals can all relate and understand.  What English teacher wouldn’t flock to that theme?

As writers, I think there is value at being able to write about a variety of topics in a myriad of styles that move beyond who you are in order to capture an experience common to everyone.  Following Francis’ lead, I’ve written many poems where I have tried to do just that.  I like to think I’ve hit the mark once or twice on that account, and certainly I believe Francis has it in the bag.

However, sometimes you have to write to share your unique self to the world, the common experience be damned.  Sometimes it is all about you, about sharing your story or your history and conveying those words that are an extension of you as a person.

In this case, I’m talking about writing black.

I don’t think this would be any different if I were Jewish or Hispanic or Chinese.  I believe this wouldn’t matter if I were a northerner, a southerner, from the East Coast or the West.  This would be the same if I my native tongue were English, French, Russian or Farsi, or if I were tall or short, fat or skinny, full of happiness or full of grief.  No matter what I could be, my own life experience, whatever it is, however I perceive it, would eventually appear on the page.  Of course, I have my own ideas about what I want to address when I write about topics that are afro-centric in nature, but that is the nature of the human experience:  it is unique to everyone.  Even when we share the experience, our perspectives will make it singular to who we are.

Certainly, I believe this is true when Francis writes; he has authored quite a few poems where he addresses his own experiences and perspectives as a black man, and creates a voice and a style to reflect that.  In one of his newer poems, Ghetto Smoke, he shows just how diverse and broad his range can be.  It speaks not only to the breadth of skill that he possesses with his mighty pen, but also to who he is and what he sees are problems and ills that our community faces.  Always literary, always poetic, but very raw and gritty, very streetwise and urban.

Ghetto Smoke is like that.  It flows almost like a song—a hip-hop anthem, if you will—but forever dark in both the reality it presents and the story he tells.  But it is as much as part of him as is the rest of his poetry—as it should be, since we all like to share a part of ourselves in the stories we write.

And as a black man, he sometimes likes to write black.

 GHETTO SMOKE

 

JoJo was born smokin’.

Soon as he come out his mommas womb

His daddy popped a cigarette in his mouth

And said,

“Smoke up mutha fucka

You ain’t got time for mother’s milk.

Hope you like sleepin’ on broken glass

Cuz we don’t know shit about silk.

The way of the devil is all that we have.

So buck up my nigga, hold tight to your brass.

The wheelin’ and dealin’ so thick

That the smoke makes you choke.

Our burdens a bitch on the yoke.”

So JoJo behaved like a young nigga should.

He smoked up dem smokes

And gave love to the hood.

By ten he was smokin’

Two packs of fuck you every day.

Young JoJo’s a player that way.

By twelve he was cuttin’ the yoyo for slice.

By twenty that nigga was rollin’ in ice.

The roll of the dice

The smell of the kill on the steel

Joe smoked up that shit with appeal.

Pop! Pop! In the head for a fool talkin’ shit.

Mad hate to his God for the fate that he spit

“No shame in my game”

Was the blunt that he hit with a smile

Ghetto style

JoJo smoked on that shit for a while.

In the cut

With a strut

“Gotta problem with me!

Nigga what!”

COPYRIGHT 2012 ©  FRANCIS F. KEATING.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.