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.