Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lena

Conjuring Owls



Lena



I remember Lena
grey crone powdered corpse white
with smeared cherry juice lips gone
wrong, unthickened, loose and 
puddling in her flat pieplate face.
She pushed the stroller
round and round the estate circle drive
talking to the dead doll
cradled inside, stopping to pull
the shade further forward
over its face, crooning a sing song,
mumbled pieces falling
like rotting leaves
on its face.

Lena was always cold
and so was her dollbaby, in two
ragged red sweaters reverse cross-buttoned
one to the other muffling and protecting
in the high summer sun she
walked round and round avoiding.
I watched from the coachhouse window
holding my son she was not supposed
to see, because she might, they
said, "do something." Round and round
her breastsacks clutched to her ribs
carried empty in her stick arms
never suckled but once
by the child that died.

I remember feeling
sorry for her
till the day she hissed
and showed  me her
bloodstained teeth.




April 2012

 Posted for   Poetics   at dVerse Poets Pub

Blue Flute is hosting today, and the prompt is Vampires.
Pub doors are open till midnight Sunday EST. 
Open your poetic vault, set the Undead loose and join us.





Process Notes: Based on a true story, (though 'Lena' was only insane, and not a vampire) from a summer spent in haunted New England many years ago.




Shared under a Creative Commons License

28 comments:

  1. Oh the poor woman, (the real one, not the vampire), unhinged by such unthinkable loss. This is fabulously written, and adding the vampire aspect is a cool twist.

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    1. Yes, well, I'm thinking she had a hand in that loss, and she was vicious, so don't feel too sorry for her, Sherry. (She tried to injure my son, so I may be a bit biased.)

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  2. holy crap....this has too much reality in it....cause i can so see her...and the frickin baby doll...and wondering whether she just lost her gourd or is she for real...you gave me shivers hedge...good....

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  3. Oh wow, what a terrifying story, i have goosebumps... I'd be haunted forever by that too... I won't be able to get this image out of my head.

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  4. oh heck...i was feeling sad for her...until that last line...great build up of tension hedge...love your take...

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  5. That is seriously scary.
    The coronet of teeth on the doll's head doesn't help. I was hoping it wasn't a real story.
    The vocab you chose is eerily suitable. I hope she is totally out of your life.

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    1. Oh yes--this was long ago and far away. Over thirty years ago. Thanks for reading, aprille.

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  6. I knew you'd have a killer piece for this prompt. :) Great job. The bookends are fantastic here, love the imagery and especially the initial descriptive section. Very, very cool. Thanks Hedge

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  7. good grief this is freakin' spooky ... I love it! Glad it's long in the past since it has real-life aspects ... but it reads with authenticity and that's probably why ... very cool

    http://thepoet-tree-house.blogspot.ca/2012/04/on-paris-night.html

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  8. Scary! You know though, when one has a child - one becomes more protective in all kinds of ways. Almost superstitious, mean! But that's how it goes, protective.

    I had a very hard time with mine, but finally. I wanted to tell you that you have been a great support this month. Your comments are so kind and thoughtful, and they've really kept me going through this challenge. I've had a super busy month workwise, and it was just great to know that there were others doing this poetry thing--and you've kept the bar so high, that it's been truly inspiring. I really appreciate your efforts both with your own poetry, and to be generous and thoughtful to others. K.

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    1. Thanks, Karin. I've enjoyed having the company on this poem a day voyage--(and I just can't do the NaPoWooWoo thing!) so the feeling is more than mutual. It's a true pleasure to read your work, even when the subjects are difficult, and I wouldn't want to have missed one of your poems.

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  9. What a scary story, and the part at the end really brought it out. Then to find out it was based on a real story (minus the literal vampire)...

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  10. One of the things that makes the mad so unsettling is their unpredictability. We grow to expect certain responses, and from them, we may get anything, and it may be shocking and physical and
    jarring. Kindness may be met with attack; solemnity with giggles. I think it is this strangeness that throws us off and creates fear and unease. There *is* the bloody smile at the baby thing, though, too!

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  11. This struck me, like she was capable of Munchausen by Proxy or worse, so frightening, and as ever told through immaculate imagery.

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  12. Came here straight away when I saw the prompt! This had cinematic feel to me. The old horror/drama flicks that left lots to imagination and made you afraid of potting sheds, tire swings or baby strollers for decades. I'm properly creeped!

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  13. That is an incredible, breathtaking story that I can scarcely believe stems from real life. So chillingly written, so effective in its detail - "the dead doll/ cradled inside", "bloodstained teeth" - that my jaw dropped, and stayed there.

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  14. Not easy to write about vampires these days without sounding silly, but this poem struck a real chill in my bones. Your physical description of the hag had much to do with that, her repetitive action and the evil hiss at the end were the clincher.

    These lines will haunt my day:
    her breastsacks clutched to her ribs
    carried empty in her stick arms
    never suckled but once
    by the child that died

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  15. Gothick indeedy ... Fear is such an old, cold shadow, perpipheral to psyche, stealing up from behind gravestones and up from floorboards. The ability to read faces is part of our species survival, especially when it comes to our own kind, for if we cannot spot the danger we are complicit with the outcome. (Pity, of course, autistics. And indomitable optimists.) Usually just a reek will do, a gap in the teeth, a certain look in the other's eye, but sometimes the whole caricature floods forth as in this so-damaged other (trapped in undead psyche), and the observer is still not quite sure of the danger until the choppers open wide. Always there's a bit of Persephone too trusting of the tulips even as Hades' horsies are erupting from below. Maybe all the vampire culture now is because so much interaction is digital now snd the danger can't be seen? Nor, evidently, as well imagined as this, which plays us like a snake, coiling cozy round us til we're comfy only to spring the jaws right at the end. Yikes. - Brendan

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  16. I found this darkly beautiful. Quite extraordinarily so.

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  17. god, I cannot believe the beauty that is coming out via this prompt (have read only a few before bed but they are all great)! With this poem, Joy, you wrote an entire play and roles that two accomplished actors would die to portray.

    How quietly powerful...and beautiful.

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  18. What is that piece of your gut that tightens up and flies to your throat? Viseral response to this incredible poem.

    This is so powerful for being so simply observed.

    You have such a knack for the dark souls amongst us, Joy. Belies your name, LOL!

    The things you observed in this poem out Poes Poe.

    Masterful. Shivering still.

    the juxapositon between the observer (narrator?) cradling her son and the ghoul outside (though 'just' insane) gives a particular frisson that goes beyond the observed details.

    Haunting, Joy, and I'm glad I am reading this in the morning and not at night.

    Jane

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  19. Scary, scary! Love this, Hedge.

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  20. This is really scary indeed. While we await the notion that she's a crushed shell of a person into whose hollow husk we can pour our pity, that strangeness of the posdible awaits. I think that is what attracts us to the victims of circumstane, whether spiritual, psychological, or physical. Thatbis, that this is someone we might become, given different circumstances. Is it the threat from the old cronish woman that the narrator fears, or perhaps the fear that many mothers have of hurting their children in some terrible way, either by chance or in reaction to events. The vampire fits these human concerns quite well, where blood symbolizes in such a rock-bottom concrete way all that gives life meaning, since without it life withers to dust. In a similar vein, this is why blood is used in sacrifices to gods, symbolizingbthe most orecious thing we have to the powers that animate nature itself. Hence, when we see the bloodstained smile, we are caught up in the repulsion of what circumstances might perpetrate on us, and yet aware that sacrifices must be given for life to continue, scapegoat to attach our sins and failures to.

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  21. My my..the harsh truth revealed that killed sympathy...engaging piece.

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  22. I think I knew that lady
    and you described her to a T!
    Love your closing stanza.

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  23. for real based on a true story??? I am swimming in chills right now. Lena will never leave my mind.

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    1. She was an old employee of the people on the estate where I was renting the coach house for the summer--they took care of her instead of having her committed. There was a tragic story involved, but I never got much except that her child had died violently, and she'd flipped out. But they were right--it wasn't a good idea to let children near her, as I found out. Thanks for reading Sheila.

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'Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance' ~Carl Sandburg