Nosferatu

© 2008 Caroline Raggett

As the waning crescent bleeds its rays on a frozen land,

Spilling its beams, lighting the breath on the air,

My veins pump fear as the night hangs like a dark shadow looming overhead.

It envelopes my body, my virtue is taken & my lips

Part to gasp as the chill takes my breath.

The light wanes with the moon in the sky,

And all creatures come to be in the dark,

Phantasms appear real, and vampyres seduce the living, like me, tonight.

I approach the demon trees with their claws and fangs,

And my blood drips on the earth as I walk to my death.

He waits for me cloaked and hypnotic

I go to his deathly embrace and he envelopes me

My virtue is taken & my lips part to gasp,

As the cold chill crawls down my neck and into my heart.

My blood is his blood, my soul is his soul, his kiss is my death.

About Poetry

This isn’t a critical observation or an essay about poetry, structure, timing and iambic pentameter. This is just a header to say that I last wrote poetry over ten years ago. Reading them now I can see incidents of my life reflected in the writing. Some good, some not so good and some just plain weird (and angsty if I go as far back as my teenage years!)

There are one or two, that I still love to read even if they aren’t the best things I feel I have ever written. So they will be here, but maybe not that many of them.

If you are interested in poetry yourself, I highly recommend familiarising yourself with Robert Burns (The Scottish National Bard), Percy Bysshe Shelley (One of the greatest romantic poets ever) and the ever hated by high schoolers everywhere Edwin Morgan and Edwin Muir. This gives you more to read than just Shakespeare 🙂

Scars and Stories

© 2015 Caroline Raggett

His face bore the scars of many a story.

It had long since lost its youthful look but retained glimpses of its younger glory. His eyes still contained all his character, gleaming when amused, cold when upset and shining with love when he was the doting grandfather. You could not describe his face without looking to his ears, which seemed to be the heirloom of his family. He had inherited the features from his father, and had indeed passed this onto his own son. His ears were large in every way – long and thick, heavy-looking ear lobes and large folds surrounded by deep-set wrinkles in front and in back. The slight hairiness gave an indicator of his age – that is, if you were to ignore all else.

His face bore the scars of many a story but none as damaging as the car accident in 1976, almost 40 years earlier. It was often recalled that the nurses attending him in the hospital refused to give him a mirror. His face met the full force of the windscreen, his leg crushed and almost severed by the cab of the lorry. His favourite way of bothering the children would be to show the large thick scar running around his leg from knee to ankle, almost 3 inches wide and still discoloured from the near amputation. If you looked closely you could see the scarring at his belly where the bone had been chiselled to rebuild the crushed limb.

The scars were much less visible now. It took some time to describe where they were to his youngest daughter, and longer for her to locate them in the now bald patch. Fine, silvery lines barely visible and many were hidden with the aged folds in his skin. One scar ran down the fold running from the crease at the right nostril, down the curve of his cheek before resting level with his lips. This was yet another story. Another scar from his short battle against skin cancer. The youngest again recalled seeing him lying on the sofa at home, his entire head wrapped, and him wearing an eye patch. The sight of him mummified in this way scared the child, who didn’t fully understand why he needed the flesh coloured wrap anyway.

His face bore the scars of many a story. But his large ears with thick folds and hair; his large ears he inherited from his father and gave to his son – they remained still and intact. Unscarred and untouched, as perfect as they were at birth.

A Mans Treasure

 © 2015 Caroline Raggett

It began with a sincere request from her brother after her father’s passing. They hadn’t seen each other in ten years but even now as they whispered a prayer over the wooden box that cradled their father; it felt like little had changed.

Johnathan had lived a life of freedom and fancy. Leaving home at 17 to travel and indulge his childish imagination with equally childish behaviour. The last time they had spoken was over a year prior when he had called from someone’s mobile phone amidst a street party in some faraway Asian country.

Marie was glad he had his comforts. He wasn’t just alive but living. Also she secretly envied him a small amount. She had never really gone off anywhere or explored anything further than Spain. But Marie did not think she would change it. She was happy with her plain and simple life, with her plain home and her plain job and her simple ambition. Her parents were pleased to have her still so near and she had felt a degree of responsibility to them at the time.

On hearing of his father’s death, he had dashed back home to be with his mother. Time was a relative thing. So the 36 hour journey was comparable to a drop of rain in an ocean of water.

He sat with his mother for days, and when the time came to visit the funeral home, he assured her she needn’t worry. That he could make all the arrangements and mother wouldn’t need to do it if she couldn’t face it.

And so this was how they came to be sitting, holding hands, praying over the coffin.

In the preceding days, they had talked. Quite a lot actually, catching up, worrying about their mother and discussing all to do with the funeral. Her brother had asked what would happen to their mother and the house. He was worried that she wouldn’t be cared for, or that mum would lose the house. Practical things that Marie hadn’t even considered, which spoke volumes to her about how much he had matured in his absence. Marie resigned herself to defer thinking until after the funeral.

This came sooner than she thought.

It passed in a tear filled haze, and after the funeral her brother had one request. To see a pocket watch that father had been gifted from his father. Johnathan had described to her the wooden box it was kept in, and insisted that he merely wanted to look at it and remember.

Marie was charged with helping her mother sort through his things which was a long, heart breaking task but after a time they soon came upon the little wooden box, stuffed in a larger shoebox, with many little pieces of broken jewellery and trinkets. Marie held it in her hands, feeling the smoothness of the wood and inhaling the scent of musk and tobacco. Gingerly she opened the box, un-fastening the small latch and lifting the lid. There nestled in a soft bed of crushed velvet was the silver pocket watch. The long chain was tucked underneath untidily, and the watch face shone in the centre of its filigree casing. The silver had lost some of its lustre but it was heavy and beautifully decorated.

Marie closed the box and went downstairs to her brother. Johnathan sat at the dining table with a small pile of paperwork, trying to figure out how much the insurance would take care of. Marie was still surprised to see her hitchhiking, free-spirited brother sitting with a pair of glasses perched on his nose and a cup of tea next to him. He looked so much like father. She said nothing, but handed the box to him.

He opened it and lifted the watch out, wrapping the chain around his fingers and staring at it. The memory of it seemed pale in comparison to holding it and seeing it in its unfortunate splendour. Johnathan turned it over, saying to Marie that he remembered there was an engraving on the back of the casing, which was smooth and untouched.

Marie watched as he read. He read for a long time. Reading it over and over before placing it back in the box, handing it back and asking Marie to ensure it did not get lost or sold. He stood and left the kitchen.

Marie’s curiosity was piqued. She picked up the watch to read what Johnathan had so intensely studied. On the back of the case, read the inscription in very small curved letters

“A mans

treasure is not

measured by

his trinkets,

Love always,

Mum and Dad”

1978

Ueno Toshogu Shrine

This piece was used as a first assignment in the creative writing class I started in April 2015. We were to write a piece on a place we had personally experienced. We are told to consider a lot of what we write in the class as raw material, but I was proud and received some decent feedback on this. Please treat it for what it is – a retelling of a life experience….and raw material 🙂

 © 2006 Caroline Raggett

The Ueno Toshogu Shrine of Ueno Park towered over the four of us as we wandered towards it. My three companions and I separated and began photographing different areas.

I was trying to absorb every standing stone lantern, every tree, every edge, cut and curve of the building. So much so, I almost ignored the memorial to my right. In fact I had walked back and forth three or four times before I really paid attention.

It wasn’t anything spectacular. It was a modern cut, smooth granite with shiny plaques in front. It was decorated with rows and rows of multi-coloured ribbons and feathers hanging from the stone. The colours caught my eye and I wondered why, in a small garden of flattened greenery and ancient statues there stood a giant, grey, granite block that seemed so out-of-place.

With my camera in hand I approached. Carved into the stone was a small bird which had a hollow recess where its belly should be. A glass window protected the contents of the birds’ belly – a single burning orange ember.

The ember was glowing so brightly I thought it had to be a fake, a special effect of some kind. It was a kind of toxic orange, like the colour you’d find in the eye of a volcano. I snapped a photo then turned to the plaque that stood in front of the structure.

It told the story of the Hiroshima bomb; of a man searching for his uncle in the aftermath. He found only a razed city and his uncles’ house reduced to a pile of burning timber and ash. The nephew carried a piece of the burning wood back to his own city, and kept the flame alive. At first this represented his resentment. But it soon became a symbol for peace. The flame of the atomic bomb had been kept burning since 1945, and in later years had been merged with a flame from the bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki. It was this merged living flame that was kept in the Ueno Park temple. Kept living and breathing in the belly of a dove as a reminder of the bombings but also as a protest against the futility of war.

I read this story three times standing there. The realisation of where I was, what these people and this country had experienced, and the truth of their history washed over me. I was overcome with feelings of sadness and of insignificance. I stared at the flame as though it reflected my own mortality burning. A tear escaped as I stood trying to understand this great loss of life, yet this culture could find hope in a poisonous flame.

No understanding came to me. No serendipitous moment. No sudden epiphanies that comforted me or helped me justify my own feelings to myself. So I simply cried. I shed my tears in silence and kept re-reading what was written to commit it to memory.