Vicky & Uncle Bill

Copper mug

John drained the last drop of beer from his mug, turned it over and set it down on the stained wooden table.

“Right then. Who’s for a game?” He turned to the other three men but their response was slow, first glancing around to ensure no unwelcome eyes were watching. John dropped a pile of coins on the table beside his inverted mug, counting them methodically, “Eight shillings and sixpence. Anyone wanna cover that?”

Pete, the big guy to his left drew two shillings from his pocket and placed them on the table in front of him. Harry followed with three. Anton hesitated, but not wanting to be left out, proffered a single shilling. “Is that it?” John looked expectantly from man to man but none increased their stake. “That’s six shillings then,” he said, removing the surplus two and six.

With John’s mug upside down, a secret recess in its base was visible. This small compartment contained three, six-sided playing dice covered by a sheet of clear glass. John raised the mug and gave it a firm shake. The dice rattled about, coming to rest showing a four, a two and a three respectively, on their upper faces. When all four men had assured themselves that this was not a winning combination, John shook the mug again. A five, a five, and a two. The concentrating gaze of the four players froze, as an eerie silence suddenly overtook the noisy chatter in the public house. No need to look up, the men instinctively knew what this meant. A Police Constable had entered the room and this could spell trouble! They instantly swept their money from the table and John, with measured haste, lifted his mug and headed for the bar. There was no need to ask; the barman began filling the mug almost before it had left John’s hand.

“Good evenin’ officer,” greeted the barman as the constable approached, “and what’ll you be drinkin’ this fine evenin’?

The constable growled darkly, “You know right well I don’t drink on duty. I’m come to check for gamblin’. I ‘ope there’s none of that goin’ on ‘ere.”

“Look for yourself officer. Like you well know I run a respectable tavern. Won’t tolerate nothin’ illegal.”

John shifted nervously, lifting his mug but not so high as sharp eyes might see beneath, “Your good health officer. Sorry you’re unable to partake.” With a nod, he moved away to rejoin his friends. “That was close,” he said, smiling slyly. “Drink up lads for tomorrow we play again!”

Prohibition against most forms of gambling in England was still in force, but far from putting an end to gambling, these restrictions simply added to the excitement and the law was mostly disregarded. Devices aimed at thwarting these laws proliferated, fostering a lucrative cottage industry. John’s mug was made from rolled copper and in addition to the secret compartment beneath, it sported an additional subtle wink to anarchy. Set into the side of the mug were eight, one penny copper coins. The head on the coins looked like that of a Roman emperor and the inscription, Gulielmus IIII Dei Gratia, appeared to confirm this. The coins however were all dated 1831, disqualifying them from any connection to ancient Rome. So who then was this Gulielmus person?

 

“Where are you Uncle Bill?”

“In the kitchen, Vicky. You’ve caught me red-handed.” An open biscuit barrel stood on the table in front of him, “Now you must also have one. I hope your mother’s not lurking behind you in the shadows?”

“No,” squealed Vicky excitedly, running towards her uncle across the stone-paved floor, “she’s having lunch with a friend.”

“Wouldn’t have thought she had any friends,” muttered Bill under his breath, “Can’t abide the woman.” With restrained sarcasm, he continued audibly, “Oh what a pity; she’s such charming company.” He needn’t have bothered, children go deaf when their hands are in a biscuit barrel.

“Auntie Adi is such a good cook,” said Vicky, who’d deftly managed to extract two biscuits with a single dip. One biscuit was already in her mouth.

“We’ll both be in trouble if she catches us,” said Uncle, “She has me on a diet. My waistline’s increased alarmingly since I left the Navy. The constant movement of a ship keeps the stomach muscles in check, but those days have passed.”

“Oh I do love hearing your sailing stories uncle, I hope I can go to sea one day.”

“It’s an excellent way to see the world, but the job of the Royal Navy is to defend the country and many good men die in battle.”

“You two should be ashamed of yourselves,” chided aunt Adi as she strode into the kitchen. “I thought I’d catch you here William, but fancy encouraging Vicky.” She turned to the girl whose eyes were wide with feigned innocence but betrayed by cheeks stuffed full like a hamster. “Come here you,” she said suddenly laughing, “and give your aunt a big hug.”

Vicky raced towards her. “Oh auntie, they’re so delicious, we just couldn’t resist.”

“Now you’re trying to blame me, are you?” She attempted to look stern, but it was no good, her face broke out in another big smile. She had lost her own children in childbirth and loved having Vicky to visit. “And what are we going to do today?”

“The park please. Pleeeez! I must see the baby deer.”

“Well you’re in luck then. I’ve bunches of flowers from the garden to take to the church and the shortest route is through the park. Will you be coming with us William?”

Bill shuffled uncomfortably. He was officially the Park Ranger and knew the moment he stepped into the park, he’d be accosted by anyone with a problem. In reality, he rather enjoyed such interactions, but this excuse could now prove useful to avoid walking with two chatterbox ladies. “I’d love to go with you,” he said, “but…”

Auntie cut him short, “But me no buts William. We understand we’ll be going alone!”

William’s house was no mere gamekeeper’s cottage; it was a many roomed mansion. William had ten children by his former partner so had need of a large house. He’d never married the good lady who finally tired of domestic life and had left him to resume her former career as an actress. Being in need of someone to restore stability to his life, and not least some additional money, he had married Adelaide. She did indeed fill both of those requirements and their marriage was a happy one.

“Here you are Vicky, you can carry this bunch,” said auntie Adi as they made their way across the vast lawn and into the adjoining park.

It was a beautiful summer day and almost immediately they encountered a small group of young deer prancing about, chasing one another. They were quite unconcerned by the proximity of humans, as many people walked back and forth through this park.

“Aren’t they gorgeous,” cooed Vicky, making a move towards them.

“Now be careful Vicky, best not get too close.”

Vicky stopped, but the deer had noticed something she carried and began edging slowly towards her. She stood transfixed, “Ooh look auntie, they love me!”

“Vicky, come back. It’s not you they love, it’s the flowers. One of them is already beginning to munch on them!”

“No, no! Stop that!” cried Vicky, backing away as fast as she could, “Oh how disappointing. They’re so beautiful, I desperately want to stroke them.”

They continued along the path that provided a link between hamlets at either end of the park. They were not alone on the path, and Vicky couldn’t help but notice how women they passed often did a slight curtsy, and men would doff their caps.

On reaching the church, they were greeted by a jolly, rotund woman with bright pink cheeks, “Good mornin’ milady, so good of you to come, and brought with you flowers from your garden I see. An’ who then is this young lass also bearing nature’s sunshine?”

“She’s my husband’s niece Victoria, but we call her Vicky.”

“I’ll do likewise then Vicky, and a warm welcome to you in this humble house of the lord.”

Vicky blushed as she handed over what remained of the deer’s feast, “Sorry some of the heads are missing, we encountered a small problem en route.”

“They are lovely, and yours too milady will make a fine display beside the alter. Tomorrow we host a wedding, and the following day the church will once again be packed for Sunday service.”

On leaving the church, Vikki turned to her aunt and asked, “Auntie Adi, why did that woman keep calling you ‘milady’?”

“It’s likely on account of your uncle,” she replied, “your mother must surely have told you that uncle Bill’s brother is the king of England, and so that also makes Bill an important person.”

“But he’s not like that,” continued Vicky thoughtfully, “When I visit we have fun, he’s not all stiff and formal like those people my mother mixes with.”

“Yes you’re right, he’s far more down to earth. He’d much rather share a pint with his Navy pals than go parading around in fine clothes. Unfortunately though, his brother is not at all well and Uncle Bill may one day be required to take over from him as King.”

Vicky took a while to digest this, “Oh,” she said.

A horse drawn carriage stood outside the house as Vicky and her aunt approached. Vicky groaned with disappointment, “It must be mother come to collect me.”

But Uncle Bill’s beaming countenance as he strode towards them belied this assumption, “Good news,” he said, “Vicky, your mother has sent word asking if you might like to remain here overnight. She is detained in town. I have not yet replied to her request, but feel sure I know what your answer will be.”

“Of course you know! Of course I want to! I’d love to stay! I can think of nothing nicer than spending the night here. We can have such fun!”

Bill and Adelaide smiled broadly. It was lovely to witness such youthful enthusiasm.

Early next morning, Vicky banged heavily on the bedroom door, “Uncle Bill, you must wake up, there are men here that say your brother has died, and you are now the king.”

The door opened a crack and in a bleary voice her uncle mumbled, “My dear girl, you may be my favourite niece but fancy waking me up at this ungodly hour. Tell them to go away. I’ve never slept with a queen before and I’m going back to bed!”

 

William, now King, could no longer remain living in his secluded suburban house but was compelled to take up residence in the city. Adelaide was less reluctant to move, for as Queen consort she had the opportunity to entertain many interesting visitors.

“Where have you been for so long Vicky?” enquired auntie Adi, as a rather glamourous teenager entered the room. “Its ages since we last saw you.”

“Mother insists on dragging me along with her whenever she visits fusty old friends in the country. It’s all so horribly boring.”

Uncle Bill burst into the room smiling broadly, “Ah Vicky, you received my message. Are you ready for that carriage-ride I promised?”

“I certainly am, uncle. Will you be joining us Auntie?”

“No thank you Vicky. All that smiling and waving exhausts me.”

“Come on then Vicky,” said Uncle, “Our carriage awaits!”

The carriage was an open horse-drawn landau with driver and a footman to help them aboard. Vicky and Uncle Bill sat facing one another grinning like a couple of naughty children. William might now be the King, but he loved going out amongst the people. He was equally proud to be seen showing off this sparkling young Princess.

London was alive with the sounds and smells of a busy capital. People thronged the streets going about their daily business. Many looked up and waved as the king passed, but were not surprised to see him. His regular appearances did much to endear him to the people.

“Driver, stop the carriage!” the king commanded suddenly. “Look over there at that man Vicky. Someone walking with a gait like that could only have been a sailor.” William turned towards the man calling, “I say good fellow, were you not at some time a member of the Royal Navy?”

“Ay, sire,” he replied nervously, “I trust I’ve done nothing to offend?”

“Of course not. Come here and ride with us for I’m sure two old seadogs have much in common to discuss.”

With assistance from the footman, the anxious seaman was helped into the landau and took his seat beside the king. Any foreboding he had was quickly dispelled as the two men became lost in eager conversation; reminiscences of past adventures at sea. Vicky sat enraptured, thrilled to be party to such enthralling tales.

“Oh auntie,” she said on their return, “We’ve had the most wonderful day.”

 

Because William, now king of England, had not previously married the mother of his ten children, they were considered illegitimate and thus not eligible to succeed him as monarch. Attention then turned to the next in line, this being Princess Victoria, daughter of William’s deceased younger brother Edward. Because Vicky was still a minor, her mother had been appointed Regent, which meant that should William die before Vicky turned eighteen, her mother would effectively become the ruler of England. This was the last thing William wanted to happen, for if anything his dislike for her had increased. Now, seven years after becoming King, William’s health had deteriorated rapidly and he was forced to walk with a stick. At what turned out to be his last birthday gathering, he declared to all those present, “I trust to God that my life may be spared for nine months longer. I should then have the satisfaction of leaving the exercise of the Royal authority to my niece Victoria and not in the hands of her mother, who is surrounded by evil advisers and is herself incompetent to act with propriety in the situation in which she would be placed.”

His final wish was granted. King William died just a few days after Vicky turned eighteen!

 

John, Pete, Harry and Anton still gathered regularly at a table in their favourite pub for a pint and game of dice. The head of Gulielmus, better known as William, had been shaken many times, and now the man himself had passed on.

“Before today’s game gentlemen,” began John, “should we not first drink a toast to the memory of King William IV. A good king and man of the people.”

The other three nodded in agreement and raised their mugs. “To William,” they chanted in unison.

“And now a toast to the new queen. Long may she reign!”

“VICTORIA”

 

Julie’s New Shoes

“Would you like me to wrap them for you?” the sales assistant asked.

“I’ll keep them on thanks,” replied Julie, dropping her old pair into the bag with the rest of her shopping. She should have noticed a look of concern on the face of the assistant, but was so excited with her latest purchase, she chose to ignore it.

The assistant however felt duty-bound to pursue the matter, and made one final attempt, “Are you quite certain they’re the correct size? You did say you were an eight, and these are seven.”

What did size matter when shoes looked this good? “No, they fit like a glove, and I love them!”

“Will that be cash or credit?”

Julie offered her card. To discuss money matters at a time like this would have appeared vulgar.

She floated from the shop in an enhanced state of elation. The train station was less than five minutes’ walk away, and for the first of these minutes, she was buoyed on a fluffy white cloud, convinced all eyes were upon her gleaming new shoes.  Rapidly though the cloud transformed, changing to an angry storm-surge, firing bolts of jagged lightening into her tender feet. Her happy smile melted, to be replaced by a furrowed brow and increasingly alarmed eyes.

She reached the station, but the platform was one level above the street, and facing her was a flight of stairs resembling a wide-open mouth bearing a set of sharp white teeth.  She began the perilous ascent. “One, two, three . . . Why am I counting,” she thought. “It won’t get me up any easier. If I hear the train there’s no way I can run for it!”

Luck however was on her side and conquest of this barrier coincided with the arrival of the train. Thoroughly drained, she flopped onto a vacant seat beside the window. Her feet were killing her. This new pair of shoes that had looked so appealing in the shop, now conspired to squeeze the last drop of blood from her throbbing toes. The doors closed automatically and the train pulled slowly out of the station. “This is your guard speaking,” came a hollow voice from the speaker above her head. “Will passengers please report any unaccompanied packages or anything else suspicious to me. I can be found . . . “

“Yea-yea, heard it all before.”

Julie dropped her bag onto the floor, pushing it partway under the seat in front. “Now to get these shoes off!” She leaned back, digging the toe of one shoe into the heel of the other. The pain was excruciating, but it yielded. One down, one to go. With similar painful action, the second was also removed. During this operation, both her shoes and shopping bag were pushed even further out of sight under the seat in front.

Clickety-clack, clickety-clack. “Trains don’t make that noise anymore,” thought Julie, “Such a pity; it’s a comforting sound.” Clickety-clack, clickety-clack. The rhythm played in her brain as she screwed up, then unfurled her toes in an attempt to encourage life back into them. As the feeling returned, the toes of her left foot began to explore a soft object on the floor beside them. Idly, she caressed it, then prodded it, but either way received no positive feedback as to what it was. She peeped through the gap between the two seats in front of her. Both were empty. Whatever it was couldn’t belong to someone who wasn’t even there. She shut her eyes. Clickety-clack, mind the gap.  Her toes continued their unconscious examination of the mysterious object.

It wasn’t an alarm bell, but alarming enough to cause her eyes to snap back open. “What was that he said, ‘unaccompanied’, ‘suspicious’? Surely not this ‘thing’!”  She glanced desperately around for reassurance from fellow passengers.  No help here. Her pleading eyes were met by the expressionless stares of people hypnotized by little glowing screens held in their hands.

As thoughts of ‘suspicious’ swirled through her head, the train rounded a corner and the carriage lurched sideways. The object shifted, coming to rest against her foot. She froze. “I’m trapped!” she thought, sitting dead still and hardly daring to breathe. Seconds passed, then minutes, but nothing happened. Even the vibration of the train had not provoked the object any further. “If there was anything dangerous in that packet it would surely have exploded by now.” Cautiously, she withdrew her foot and took a deep breath.

The immediate crisis having passed, her paralyzed brain kicked back into action. “I’ll go find the guard. Where’d he say he was? Middle of the train. Which way is that?” She made as if to stand up, then stopped, “This is stupid. What will I say? My foot’s been attacked by a rogue package! He’ll think I’m demented!”  She remained seated, trying unsuccessfully to relax.

There was no one sitting next to her, so she leaned sideways for a better view beneath the seat in front. “Ah-ha,” she thought, “Just as I suspected; what a cunning plan. The package has been disguised to look exactly like my shopping bag. This might fool someone else, but not me.” She sat up feeling very pleased with herself, but now what? This time she definitely must tell the guard. The moment he learns of a suspicious package masquerading as her shopping bag, he’ll be spurred to action. She’ll be declared a heroin for saving the train and her photo will feature on the front page of all the newspapers! She jumped up, but with such enthusiasm that she hit her head on the overhead luggage rack. Stars burst before her eyes as day changed to night. Dazed, she fell back onto her seat.

A sore head and an interval of calm, before the sound of a distant police siren reminded Julie of her hazardous predicament. “Suppose this thing has a timing device, set to go off when . . . . . . ?  In the movies, you see numbers counting back towards zero, at least you then know how long you have. This package is not only hidden under the seat, but worse still, it’s playing footsie with my tootsies!” The only thing now preventing the package from exploding, was Julie’s formidable willpower.

She was panic-stricken. A race against time. A nightmare. She cried silently for help, certain she could hear it ticking. “Where does a girl find a big strong fireman when she needs one?”  Rivulets of fear trickled down her face, whilst beneath her armpits, clammy fingers of perspiration played a wild concerto. Which one should she have used this morning, deodorant or anti-perspirant? How could that matter when she was involved in this life-or-death situation?  Time to consider the children!  What would happen to them if their mother didn’t make it home tonight? Who’d be there to feed them, tuck them up in bed, read them a story?

“OK, so maybe I don’t have any children, but what if I did?”

She stood up, marched purposefully to the end of the corridor and passed through the interleading door into the adjoining carriage. It was empty, totally empty; not a soul to be seen! Where is everyone; my saviour, a knight in shining armour? They must have heard about the bomb and abandoned the train. An anguished cry stuck in her throat, changing moments later to a self-conscious giggle as she noticed the sign on the window, ‘First Class Only’. “Silly me, first class passengers don’t travel at this time of day,” she thought. She skulked back to her seat, desperate for an encouraging sign.

The sign arrived sooner than expected. A piercing scream!  Not human, but metallic. She froze. A voice inside her head wailed pathetically, “You’ve got to get me out of here. I’ll be good, never swear again, give up smoking, anything!” The screaming noise faded as pressure on the brakes was reduced and the train slowed to a stop. The carriage doors slid open and Julie ducked under the seat. She made a frantic grab for her shoes and shopping bag, and sprang barefoot from the train!

“Damn this PMT !”

 

 

Bluebells

 

Awakened by the warming sun,
Shy crowns of blue have just begun
To frolic and to entertain;
Roused by drops of quenching rain.
 
All season long they slumbered low,
Hiding from the frost and snow.
Waiting for their chance to bloom,
When light dispelled the Winter gloom.
 
An azure blaze of colour spreads,
As Bluebells raise their lovely heads
Amongst the trees, along the street,
Rhythm-of-life pulsates to their beat.
 
They cast a spell upon my shoes
To wash away those winter blues
And dance in breezes soft and warm,
Uplifting soul. . .  A new Spring born!

 

Dormouse

In dead of night, a little mouse
Strayed a long way from its house.
This creature small, a tiny ball,
Had dared to climb a stem so tall.
 
But ghostly shadow in the gloom,
Alerts it to approaching doom,
As hunting owl from darkened sky
Swoops low, emits a frightening cry.
 
The mouse to peril is no stranger,
Acutely it perceives the danger.
Terrified, it turns to run,
The owl draws near, the race is on.
 
Claws spread wide, with open beak,
It dives upon its prey to keep.
The mouse speeds down towards its nest;
Safe at home is always best.
 
From many such encounters past
It has escaped, but luck can’t last.
This time too slow; the night has come
For mouse to end, in owl’s fat tum!

 

Coffee culture

Cappuccino, large or small,
Chocolate muffin, Latte tall.
Hot Panini oozing cheese,
Orange juice, freshly squeezed.
 
Small round table, leather chair,
Americano, poured with care.
Barista turning up the steam,
Patrons staring at small screens.
 
Pain au raisin looks so good,
Can’t resist but know I should.
Espresso in a tiny cup,
Not enough to get revs up.
 
Girl alone, empty plate,
Invite her for a twilight date.
Body language said she might,
But all she wanted, was Flat White!

 

Spirit of the vault

Phantom spirit, ‘neath shroud of green
tangled ivy, wrapped in strangle-hold
around your form unseen.
 
What lurks hidden until the light
of fading day is by the earth consumed
to welcome spectres of the night?
 
Can your dark visage be so vile
that you should cower like some clandestine soul
condemned to haunt this vault with artful guile?
 
Furtive form, reveal yourself so
eyes might see the nature of your being,
or skulk forever with them that passed below.

 

Close encounter

A gentle breeze brushed through her hair,
Lifting it with jaunty flair.
She raised a hand to pat it down,
Causing me a puzzled frown,
For I mistook it for a wave,
And cheerfully waved back.

 

She seemed surprised;
Enchanting me with glowing eyes.
Upon her face a radiant smile
That did me so beguile,
I cast aside my shy reserve
And eagerly smiled back.

 

Then panic struck. I turned away
Like someone fleeing from its prey.
Perplexed by my reluctant stance,
She fixed me with an anxious glance
That caused me to reverse my turn,
And nervously glance back.

 

Perceiving that I harboured fear,
She bid me softly to draw near,
But I, unsettled by her grace,
Blushed and took a backward pace.
Then in a daze did I submit,
And timidly pace back.

 

Overpowered by her scent;
Unrecognised portent,
Her body moved in close to mine;
Souls together tight entwined.
She placed her hand upon my shoulder,
. . .  and stabbed me in the back!

 

Sweet dream

dreaming-02

Damn the dawn that stole from me, sweet visions of the night.
Oh heartless sun, could you not wait until my dream was done?
Like a knife you cut the cord that bound me to her breast.
Reverse at once your climb, cruel thief, so I might slumber on.
 
Spiteful light, do not allow this precious picture fade.
I grasp her hand, it will not stay; pleading eyes, forlorn, dismay.
Allow I beg, one final chance to plunge back into sleep,
Before this dying dream of love is torn from me away.

 

 

The Underworld

(A narrative poem based on Greek mythology)

 

underworld

With backward glance they slipped from his hand.
Like tears they fell, and lay on the sand
Piled in a mound above your head,
Over a coffin containing the dead.

He walks away, you are left alone,
Tender words on a cross made of stone;
Never again to see the sky,
Your body in its grave does lie.
So to The Underworld your soul must go
And be judged by The Three, who wait below.

hermes

Hermes is your guide appointed;
On wingèd feet you’ll be escorted
Swiftly from this mortal state,
Your transition he’ll facilitate.
But first, before he bears your soul in haste,
A coin upon your lips is placed,
Ensuring you can pay the toll
To the man with eyes as black as coal.

No returning is there now,
No final message be allowed.
Down winding paths and tunnels deep,
Along the way, you hear men weep.
Ghostly shapes ahead you see;
Gaunt faces stare vicariously
Through haunted eyes, abandoned years,
The endless crying of dry tears.
Dark clouds and thunder overhead;
You’ve reached the place where they greet the dead.
Your guide no further can proceed,
He’s not allowed to intercede.
Hermes leaves whilst you await
That fearful voyage your soul must take.

charon

“You’ll receive no charity whilst down here,”
Charon the ferryman says without cheer.
With pole in hand, he stands in his boat,
“Your time has come to cross this moat.
Spit out the coin from between your lips,
If you want to be carried across the Stix,
Or wander in limbo twixt living and dead,
Forever on the banks of this riverbed.”

The toll is settled, the boat moves away;
Few are so foolish as not to pay.
The Stix is wide and uncontrolled;
Souls borne over since times of old.
Through blanketing mist and swirling fog,
You listen to Charon’s monologue . . .
“Cerberus the dog, guards the gate,
All worldly possessions he’ll confiscate.
Three heads he has but have no doubt,
He won’t be trying to keep you out.”
Charon’s face twists with a knowing grin,
“His sole intent is to keep you in!”

cerberus
You disembark on a foreign shore,
The track you follow is well-worn.
Up ahead at the iron gates
Your journey briefly terminates
Whilst Cerberus sniffs the air
With all six nostrils wide aflair.
Eyes ablaze, mocking smile,
Insincere and drooling bile.
Extravagantly, he says to you,
“All are welcome, please enter through.
Many souls pass this way
But remain on the path and do not stray
Until a fork ahead you see,
Then stop to be judged, by the panel of three.”

Compliantly, you do as told;
Contorted branches crackle with cold.
Heart pounds fast as you try to stay strong,
The going is steep, twisting and long.
Abruptly you halt, as one path becomes two
And a glow on the left beckons to you.


With faltering steps you attempt to proceed
But your ankles are locked in a tight snarl of weed.
Dense black smoke descends like a screen
Too dark for the path on the right to be seen,
When a flash reveals cliffs that encase
A heaving dank chamber where souls are erased.

Out of the mist, three judges appear,
Countenance stern; no humour here.
Rhadamanthus, Minos, and Aeacus,
To begin your review, fair and judicious.

underworld_judges
“We are charged to appraise your life above ground.
By the laws of Hades our king, we are bound
To seek honour and valour in the tales that you tell,
Or evermore in suspension you’ll dwell,
Existing in misery, your soul in disgrace,
Fading to nothing in a dark barren place.”

Aeacus raises his sceptical head,
The very sight of him fills one with dread.
Guardian of keys fixed to a chain,
Signify agony, horror and pain.
“Say what you’ve done to deserve our respect;
Answer with candour, don’t let us suspect
You are gilding the truth to disguise your fears
Or torment endure, for the rest of your years.
Dispensation was granted Persephone our queen
To leave in the spring and in meadows be seen,
But you for eternity, shall remain down here,
Accompanied by souls that do not reappear.”

persephone
In the stillness that follows, you shake with alarm,
Surely some way of avoiding this harm?
The judge on the left looks less severe,
You hope he finds your soul is sincere.
Rhadamanthus radiates an air of mystique
As you listen intently to hear him speak.
You can be spared from that joyless hell
By avoiding the pitfall others befell,
But first convince us before end of day,
If, in the Fields of Elysium you’ll play.
Happy and blessed would be your life,
Indulging in pleasure, free from all strife,
There in a heaven of blossom and trees,
Petals are carried on soft scented breeze,
Transforming in wonder that magically grow
Into fountains of flowers where waterfalls flow.
In this world of perpetual spring,
Music plays softly and songbirds sing,
So prove now your worth in a manner concise,
And be invited to Paradise.”

Your mind spins about, recalling the past,
Desperately grasping for what was the last
Good deed that you did, kind word that you said,
To remove this Damocles sword from your head.
Impassive the eyes of the judges remain
As you stammer and stutter whilst trying to explain
How sorry you are for hurt you have caused,
When without warning, the hearing is paused
By the hand of Minos, to signify
The judge’s decision is now to apply.

Rhadamanthus looks pleased, Aeacus is stern,
If the vote goes against you, in hell you would burn.
They cannot decide; it could go either way,
No further pleading, this judgement will sway.
The balance is primed, how will this resolve.
Should entry to heaven favour the bold?
Minos, the arbiter, must finally choose.
All ears strain to hear his views.

A bell tolls on a distant hill,
The portals to Paradise are open still.
Your fate is sealed, no more can be said,
The law is clear in this realm of the dead:
To accept without question where it will be . . . .

Elysian Fields  .  .  .  .

heaven-hell

.  .  .  .  or Purgatory.

 

 

Open book

open book
Forlorn it waits, though time does age
That open book; an empty page.
Lashing rain the seasons blow
Scorching summers, winter snow.                  
 
Years pass by into neglect,                          
Decaying mould spreads unchecked.
Dream of a renaissance gone,
Colour fades into the sun.
 
Inscribed atop the facing leaf,
A name and loving message brief
From those that did remain and wait
‘Til they themselves should lie in state.
 
But what befell the family who
Had planned their father to pursue?
What caused him now to lie alone
Bereft of words on fragile stone?
 
As leaves change brown and turn to dust,
Likewise too this gravestone must.
Transcendent souls endure sublime,
Abandoned book consumed by time.