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Louise Peterkin: a poem

You are cordially invited to the home of Henry Phillips Lovecraft, on his 6th birthday

There will be jellies, huge as pavilions, in the flavours

of blood blister, ectoplasm, alien. Mother

piles the flufferrnutters on the table.

To compensate for my hideousness,

we must pull out all the stops. A grief to her:

the long, wrong bones of my face: sullen, viscous,

horsey in repose. It's why we don't step outdoors,

though the New England air is crisp as laundry,

asters blazing like galaxies. My party

shall have the taint of a wake;

scudding black drapes of mourning ladies

pushing chairs against walls – dissonant

Big Blink of space. In the dim room

pothos writhes round the frames, black roses

pucker to mouths. O, if they come

I will run up the stairs

to a rose-gold place where silence resounds like a bell

(I stand in the aftermath: tremulant, thrilled).

Grandfather's library – I have gobbled it up,

have found within doors

to unthinkable worlds: Grimm,

Ovid, Arabian Nights. Dripping into my sleep –

illustrations from Paradise Lost –

they make my brain throb like a meteorite. I dream

of a creature below our front porch, boneless,

white eyes roaming its circumference

like billiard balls, squelching, gaining slow,

sticky purchase in the perfumed dark. I dream

of the boatman plunged into water. He emerged

changed, a genuine Frog King; the river's providence

hanging off him in tendrils. I dream of the old one

at the foot of the ocean, his jade, outland mass,

tangled thrash of tentacles, his horrible patience.

I'm afraid of my visions. In this house

of shadows, death and insanity brush

against my cheek. It is inevitable

such things will come to pass. I remember

how Grandfather cured me of my malady –

I stumbled blindly from room to room

rehearsing an immunity to the dark. Very well.

Mother, when they come,

when they ring the bell, answer,

let them in: all the contemptuous gods,

all the old ones, all the terrible

jellies of the universe.

Louise Peterkin's new collection, The Night Jar, is now available to buy.

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