Bats, crows, monsters, it must be Halloween. Buried bodies haunting the woods, it is definitely Halloween. Excellent and enjoyable poems, as always on Keep Poems Alive.

We will accept poems in any form of English and related languages if they fulfil the pre-publication requirement. This time you have one in Scots. Here’s a link to the best Scots-English dictionary, should you require it. http://www.sld.ac.uk

Also I hope you can’t count, because I had five poems ready for Halloween and another one came in, so it’s here too. The poets are Andy Jackson, David Costello, Angela Topping, P.C. Vandall, Alexander Hutchison and Rona Fitzgerald.

A few favourite poems to read every weekend. Come back next week!

KPA Under-the-Bed-300x200

Andy Jackson
An Assumption Of Monsters

He told her there was something underneath her bed,
a fiend in slumber or a golem made from dust.
He promised to protect her, with no thought beyond
the flowers and the vows. She coupled with his ghost,
cooked dinners for the shape of what he’d been.
She loved a slasher film but sat and cursed
through all his arty flicks. She smoothed the bristles
of his fur, imagined poison pumping through his chest,
and wondered if his coat concealed the bludgeon
which would one day beat her skull until it burst.

She recognised the tightening of his jaw, the subtle
clicks and tics below his voice, the way he pursed
his lips before a kiss, as if the act of mingling their spittle
could pass her sickness on to him. This was not the worst
– his tongue would burn his symbol on the mantle
of her flesh, and she would squirm and twist,
denying him again. It wasn’t always possible
to tell the demons from the humans they possessed,
or to look the monster in the eye until the final
frenzied reel, with its unmasking of the beast.

First published in 2011 in New Writing Dundee.


KPA horseshoe bat

David J Costello
Horseshoe Bat

It must have been a keen blade
that eased you from night’s heart.
God’s own shrapnel
creasing the dark.
Your convulsing fragment
pressure-cracking the brittle black
like ice.

Transfixed beneath I watch
you stitch yourself
back to the sky.
An invisible repair
as I acquire your blindness.
The whole world dissolving
around you.

You are the dark moon.
The nocturnal crescent
orbiting unseen.
The flung shape
that always returns.

The above poem won the 2011 Welsh International Poetry Competition and was published by Ponty Press  in the anthology “Welsh Poetry Competition – The First Five Years”, 2011, and on the Competition website.


Angela Topping
Maggoty Johnson

In Maggoty Woods it’s dark and grim.
The worms crawl out and the worms crawl in.
Maggoty’s buried six feet deep.
He rests his eyes but he’s not asleep.

Maggoty Johnson loved to dance.
with his cap and bells, he used to prance
and caper up and down on stage.
Now he’s at the skeleton age.

In Maggoty Woods there’s no church near.
The ground’s unholy, it’s dark and drear.
Maggoty chose it specially
as the sort of place he’d like to be.

Maggoty Johnson was called Lord Flame.
Now he goes by a different name.
He haunts these woods and he haunts them well.
Sooner or later you’ll be under his spell.

In Maggoty Woods it’s dark and grim.
The worms crawl out and the worms crawl in.
Maggoty’s buried six feet deep.
He rests his eyes but he’s not asleep.

Note: Samuel Johnson (1691-1773) not the Doctor, was Britain’s last professional jester. He is buried in woodland near Gawsworth Hall, Cheshire, on Maggoty Lane. A legend says that if you call his name 13 times on Hallowe’en, he will rise up and perform for you. Everything in this poem is true.

Highly commended in the Cheshire Prize for Children’s Literature and published in their anthology Wordlife (Chester University Press 2011)

KPA Workshop

Full of Crow

She packs crows in her freezer.
Wounded black soldiers hard pressed
in crosses and rows. In spring,

a flurry of crows take flight
in her kitchen where she divides
them into piles. She slices

off soft plum heads, plucks violet
washed wings and snaps beaks and claws.
She slits the knife down, glides it

to the anus and pulls out
innards, entrails and gizzards.
With ice chests open, she spoons

out rich blackberry centers,
mashes bits of pulpy flesh
into mason jars, preserved

in pectin. Crows taste best on toast,
bagels, hot cakes and honey
buns. They migrate to her. Flocks

of children, women and men
cloak a highway in a plume
of smoke crooked as swan wings

yet black as mail. She serves out
a murder of crows made just
right from that paltry roadside

stand. They chew bitter sweetness
from the white picket fences
of their dark ravenous mouths.

Shortlisted for the Freefall Poetry contest, Calgary, Alberta, 2012, and published in Freefall Magazine. IMage: Earlshall Platter, Wemyss Pottery, Fife


Alexander Hutchison
Aince Wuid, an Aye Waur

The dreary boys, the weary boys,
the boys that canna go –
Scrunty hens roon but-an-bens,
the quines that winna show.

Nae lowpin jauds, bit driddlan
slaw – wi skeel an skilp agley.
Mochie, moosy, mizzelt for nowt
fan aa the jaa gings by.

It’s hit the bar or hit the fleer –
(“By Christ, this sawdust’s nice, eh?)
It’s stirks an stovies: “Stookie, yer oot.
Nae need t’ speir ye twice, eh?”

Aa yon thirled, bunsucken crew
that quidna cock an crank it:
wid raither jook, or mooch a fry
– or draw yer bleed an bank it.

For dreary boys an weary boys
nae wappens in the schaw –
An aul wanthriven carlin, chiels,
is aa ye’ll clip an claw.

Scales Dog: Poems New and Selected (Salt: 2007)


Rona Fitzgerald
Samhain/All Hallows Eve

I feel your loss more at this time
with the gathering of the dead.
I wonder if you are at the doorway
waiting to move on, still.
I remember how you loved this season
with its abundance of colour – ioldaite
the last traces of our own flowering
as we head for oblivion.
Today I watched the final venting of autumn leaves
draining colour from my world
the wind raged with a ferocity that matched your own
as you fought to live and then, to die.

First published in the Dublin based Stinging Fly magazine, July 2011