In Sotto Voce

If you’ve read my rune today on “My Life In Runes”, you’ll know I’m feeling a bit uninspired. So I’ve decided to share a few of my older pieces and record myself reading them for you. I’m borrowing my husband’s high quality microphone, so there should be much improvement on the last post. I hope you enjoy them.

Kathleen

At Villa Diodati 

At Villa Diodati
I wish I’d been there,

(a bug on the wall—
a cat on a chair),
with Mary
and George,
John,
Percy and Claire,

Telling tales by candle,
passing a smoke;
conjuring ghosts—
sharing
a joke.

That delerium-place
filled with shadows,
unveiled,
from the dark,
to each face—
where the whitest cheek paled.

Claret, and laudanum
perhaps, were poured out;
muses, abounding,
all having
their shout.

Fantasmagoria,
birthing anew-
thrill-making creatures—
a fabulous crew!

Would kill to have been,
aloft in the air—
a mere wing’ed witness
to those monsters spawned there,

or pussycat curled
at the top of a stair—
in their Genevan lair,

at Villa Diodati.

Kathleen Mortensen©2012

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January Open Mic

Thanks to Crow at Words and Feathers (click link to join in!) for hosting this terrific platform for sharing our creativity. Here is my contribution. It is rather bleak, but when I look out at the miserable day outside here, it seems very appropriate. The quality is down to my HP laptop and  Windows 10. I apologize for this.

Ice Men

A soul-compass, something inside—
(sane, or insane?)
drove them down
to the bottom of the world.

They would glide in their hard-hulled boats—Astrolabe,
Discovery, Endurance
until the ice locked them in.

Damned, on guano-beaches;
the sun (that infernal sun!) bleached their skin—
their lashes. The ashes of dead fires
told sad tales of meagre feasts.
Black and white sea-beasts broke the ice,
eager for their next meal.
Was it all real?

They waited: sheltered,
from the blowing wind,
and snow,
and sun,
under the belly of a life-boat—
surrounded by bloated seals, blood and after-birth,
squawking skua-survivors—
cold Hell.

Only the ghosts can tell us why they had to go;
how that drag, on the compass-needle could draw
them south to their destinies
or doom.

I wonder, do modern ice men
hear their voices in the gloom,
when they lie down
at night?

Kathleen Mortensen©2012

The Ghosts of War

At Ease

Perhaps,
The Ghosts of War
annually arise
in camaraderie
to make a toast
to lost limbs and senses
and battles never won.
They raise a glass
of whiskey or stout
as they lie about on grass
between the stones
that bear their names.

Ten hut!

They march in time
(for old times’ sake)
as medals clink
like bottles
at a bar.
A few may even crack a smile
or laugh, but all the while
the haunted looks they
keep well hid
cannot be far.

Dismiss

And when the party’s done,
they slap each other on the back,
blow a kiss to one,
and all who miss them,
then sleep again.

Kathleen Mortensen ©2016

Unidentified

The female feline, ghostly white,
Gazes up at the swirl-swept ceiling.
Fills us with uneasy feeling;
What does she see, a wispy sprite?
(There’s no one there, whom we’d invite.)
I feel a chill run through each bone;
Blanche* stands stock-still—a pale tombstone.
I find the spot, she’s fixed upon;
Was something there? For now, it’s gone.
Were we perhaps, too impolite?

Kat Mortensen©2010

Our cat, Blanche, passed away that fall, maybe now she’s the ghost at our former house.

Detritus

It’s not pretty—
what we leave behind;
though we were beauties,
our rinds flake off
into a million tiny pieces,
our hair dams the drain.

We move from place to place,
day to day, year to year—
we unwind, and traces of ourselves
remain.
A coppery stain—
wax and mucous—all remain,
though faces crease and die.

We release those pieces—
they compose the galaxies,
uniting finally
to manifest as ghosts.

Kat Mortensen©2011

Daddy Sends The Banshee

Those nights,
when the wind is bashing
the window-screens
‘til they bone-rattle
(charnel-house choppers
in a glass by the bed
).

As I lie awake,
in that nowhere-world
of memory and tomorrow’s plans,
I hear her cry
through the neighbouring birch,
and the pinnacle of pines that lines
the cemetery wall.

It is then I recall,
my Irish father’s
witch-cackle of glee,
as he caught me off-guard
(jumping out from behind the turret at that castle;
masking up and knocking at the front door
).
He snickers yet
in my soft wet ear.

My head holds firm to the pillow,
plastered to the plumpest spot,
where I find small comfort
from the wail of Daddy’s banshee
coming for me,
but the wood-frame windows
hold her out.

She’s very cross now;
her pitch is high and shrill,
as my pillow
swallows me whole,
and I go to a better place
where lambs frolic in the afternoon sun
and blades of grass
are there
to be whistled.

Kat Mortensen©2010

Ice Men

A soul-compass, something inside—
(sane, or insane?)
drove them down
to the bottom of the world.

They would glide in their hard-hulled boats—Astrolabe,
Discovery, Endurance
until the ice locked them in.

Damned, on guano-beaches;
the sun (that infernal sun!) bleached their skin—
their lashes. The ashes of dead fires
told sad tales of meagre feasts.
Black and white sea-beasts broke the ice,
eager for their next meal.
Was it all real?

They waited: sheltered,
from the blowing wind,
and snow,
and sun,
under the belly of a life-boat—
surrounded by bloated seals, blood and after-birth,
squawking skua-survivors—
cold Hell.

Only the ghosts can tell us why they had to go;
how that drag, on the compass-needle could draw
them south to their destinies
or doom.

I wonder, do modern ice men
hear their voices in the gloom,
when they lie down
at night?

Kat Mortensen©2012