Laughing, blue-eyed girl
Reconciled to fate
Ermine laced with pearl
Elizabeth The Great
Laughing, blue-eyed girl
Reconciled to fate
Ermine laced with pearl
Elizabeth The Great
On the news they warn: the city’s now a combat zone
Turned off the TV and went outside to be alone
Some I know are marching, mostly peaceful, others not
Strangers now are asking me if I’m a patriot
Sitting in my garden, how I love the peace and quiet
I’ll fight for a cause but I’m not brave enough to riot
Everyone has history, the grievance lists are long
Who gets to decide whose version’s right and whose is wrong?
Our multi-coloured tapestry is starting to unweave
Can we not live together? Were we just being naive?
I come into my garden for the colours and the light
A joy I’d miss if flowers only came in black and white.
But somewhere, somehow Judas turned
And walked away from all he’d learned
So, when the two men dipped their bread
They both knew one would soon be dead.
We’re not sure how it came to this
Why he betrayed him with a kiss
To bring about the earthly end
Of someone he had called a friend.
Arrested, tortured, hung to die
While soldiers laughed and women cried
His friend collected his reward
And hoped the cause had been restored.
But this betrayal had a price
Which cost poor Judas paradise
He lost his friends then lost all hope
And wound up swinging from a rope.
Where is he now? God only knows
Good people pray for his repose
In hope our own friends keep us close
At those times when we need them most
At Cana, water turned to wine
Delighting all the guests
And showed the world The Great Divine
Considers all requests.
Although some question Was it prayer?
Or did a son discover
The force behind a mother’s glare
Is unlike any other?
Take me to that fabled time
When destiny was more sublime
When noble quests were blessed by God Himself
Where crones intoned prophetic rhymes
While wizards read the stars for signs
And deep within each hollow hid an elf.
Take me to a time before
When magic could unlock a door
And conjurers cried out Abracadabra!
Where every frog tried to convince
Young maidens he might be a prince
And sonnets were composed by candelabra.
To play a brazen game with Death
One leap beyond the dragon’s breath
Dispatching ogres twice the height of men
And then, to lay beneath a tree
While my sweet Lady sings to me
For as she does, my soul’s restored again.
Take me to that fabled time
The course now clear
No more to roam
Astraeus, chart the stars for home
I have a friend, Mr Dearden
Statistics say he’s one in ten
Who lives at Number 2-2-3
Look for the house that has a tree.
His job is fixing old machines
Throughout the night, by any means
Days off, he reconditions cars
And meets his mates in select bars.
Devoted uncle, brother, son
He always calls before I’ve rung
To wish me all the very best
Before my family’s even dressed.
We’ve different circles, different pasts
And yet this quaint connection lasts
For out of nowhere he’ll appear
If only once or twice a year.
As for this figure: one in ten
I’ll need to look at it again
For should I know one million men
I could not meet as dear a friend
On her rounds every night
She’s a curious sight
With her trolley and crushed velvet hat
As she shuffles in shoes
Lined with yesterday’s news
Through the town like a wayfaring cat
Where are you from, Crazy Annie?
What have you done, Crazy Annie?
Now and then she will stop
To peer into a shop
At a world where it never grows cold
Where the ladies dress up
And take tea in a cup
Framed in windows of crimson and gold
What don’t they know, Crazy Annie?
How is it so, Crazy Annie?
They shared kids, a nice home
Worked themselves to the bone
‘Til he left without saying a word
As she started to sink
So she started to drink
After that everything becomes blurred
Have you no friends, Crazy Annie?
Where does it end, Crazy Annie?
At the end of her walk
Near a derelict block
Out of sight, she beds down on the floor
And should anyone ask
It’s hot soup in the flask
Which she’d share if she only had more
Try not to cry, Crazy Annie
It’ll pass by, Dearest Annie
Should I love you?
Take hold of you?
Our first kiss would be your last
Taking more than I had asked.
This lifeless life out of the sun
Exiled from God’s own plan
Its beastly feast that’s fit for none
Was not how I began.
Still, you near me
Don’t you fear me?
I can suck you into hell
I’ll leave you
Let me grieve you
In that place where monsters dwell
Father Marc assumed his usual seat in the front pew of St Jude Church and unfastened his collar. Each evening after mass the old Jesuit liked to collect his thoughts for several minutes before extinguishing the candles and clearing the altar. His church had a cheery interior by day but sunset draped a grey cowl over the building which he didn’t like, entombing everyone and everything inside. Now peering into the shadowy recesses around him, he decided he’d turn on more lights for evening mass, even in summer.
In a grotto to the left of the altar stood a life-sized statue of The Virgin Mary, illuminated by several rows of red offertory candles. Earlier in the day an elderly parishioner had brought in a dozen crimson roses from her garden and asked if she might lay them at the statue’s feet. In the flickering candlelight the carefully arranged blossoms created a dramatic effect against the white linen which he now believed merited closer inspection. Genuflecting before the altar, he followed the raised marble railing which led to the grotto.
Father Marc gingerly lowered himself onto the wooden prayer kneeler before The Virgin. He could remain thus only briefly before his knees locked and he leaned forward to transfer some of his body weight onto the wooden book rest. The solitary figure studied the statue’s expression and thought she looked more melancholy than he remembered, while The Virgin’s gaze never wavered from the front entrance to the church. Reaching over the rows of offertory candles, Father Marc selected one of the roses to enjoy its scent but discovered it had none. Disappointed, he replaced it and began counting the number of offertory candles lit that day by the hopeful.
Nineteen… no, twenty. Will there be $20 in the donations box, I wonder? I doubt those three little monkeys threw in anything.
A deep, sinister chuckle rose from within the shadows behind him at this last remark. Father Marc tensed and the hair stood up on his arms; he was not alone. For a moment he thought he’d unknowingly locked in a straggler but dismissed the idea just as quickly. Every instinct told him this was not a believer. The laugh was not human.
“Let me blow those out for you, Father,” came the low, menacing snarl. “You know me… I prefer to work in the dark.”
This time the guttural growl came from much closer yet he’d heard no footsteps. His blood froze and his knees were now on fire as he tried to stand without success. Bracing his arms against the book rest, he looked to The Virgin for guidance but her gaze was fixed upon what was now approaching.
Help me, Blessed Virgin. What has come into my church?
“She can’t hear you, you fool!” the voice snapped angrily. “But I’m listening to your every thought.” It then softened in tone but couldn’t conceal an underlying rage. “Don’t be afraid. I’ve journeyed a long way to find you.”
In one final effort Father Marc managed to get to his feet and turned around but saw no one. The church appeared empty but he knew this was not the case because every nerve in his body screamed he was in mortal danger. Whatever was hiding was playing a game. Waiting. Watching.
“I need to make a confession,” the voice whined mockingly. “I’m about to revert to my old ways and you wouldn’t want that, now would you? Won’t you come in and join me? I really don’t want to have to come out there and get you,” it hissed.
At that moment the light above the confessional door lit up, giving the cleric a start. It was in there waiting for him. Father Marc took a tentative step towards the confessional then stopped. As a Jesuit he’d been trained not to fear evil and although every instinct was telling him to flee this was not an option. Whatever had entered his church had no right being there and he grew angry, not only at this act of defilement but its sheer audacity. As his anger grew, so did his resolve. All the years of training now took over and he advanced slowly forward.
Blessed Mother, stay with your poor servant.
“It’s only you I want for now, Father,” the voice threatened. “I’ll deal with her later.”
Father Marc was no longer listening to the demon behind the door. Whispering the Act of Contrition, he was imagining what God looked like. He hoped his creator would be forgiving and reward him for what he was about to face in his name. The priest also wondered where God was at this very moment. Was he watching events here on Earth? Was this a test? Was the plan to intercede at the last moment and then reward him for his faith? His mind now racing, he hadn’t noticed that the sun had now set, plunging the church into total darkness except for the candlelit grotto and the ominous light above the confessional door.
His knees no longer hurt and he’d regained control over his breathing. The only sound was the loose change in his pocket which rattled with every step. He tried to visualise the demon that lay in wait for him and how best to fight it, fully aware the odds did not favour an old man. Martyrdom seemed inevitable and the priest accepted his fate as many others had before him, while his mind continued to release thousands of memories, one of which was a prayer his grandfather had taught him:
Aronhiate, onne aonstaniouas taitenr
“You don’t know which gods to call upon, do you?” the fiend tormented him. “How pleased do you think they’ll be to learn you’ve been playing them off against each other all these years? If you’re afraid now, wait until they get hold of you…”
When Father Marc arrived at the confessional the light above the door went out. Maintaining his composure, he pulled a plastic lighter from his shirt pocket and flicked it. He listened for any type of sound coming from inside the confessional but the church was shrouded in silence as if every living thing was hiding and holding its breath. His left temple ached and his stomach was turning.
God have mercy on my soul.
He reached for the door handle but his right hand stopped short and hovered above it, shaking, while the small flame from his lighter continually rose and fell, threatening to abandon him at any moment. Scarcely breathing, he silently closed his grip on the door handle and was about to turn it when he had a revelation.
It’s behind me.
Before he could turn around Father Marc was set upon. The old cleric was seized from behind and hurled across the church, landing in a broken heap beside the grotto. Disoriented and bleeding badly, he was again raised off the ground and slammed face down into the prayer kneeler before The Virgin. He clung onto the book rest with the last of his strength, realising this was where his enemy wanted him. Daring to open his eyes, he tried to focus but all he could make out was a pool of blood at the feet of The Virgin where the roses had once been.
“We need to talk, old man,” rasped the voice, its breathing now heavy and laboured. “It’s coming and I know you feel it too which explains that prayer.”
Father Marc couldn’t speak but he knew his thoughts were no longer his own. He also knew these were to be his last moments on Earth, a prospect which now filled him with joy because he was ready to meet his god.
You thought it was me, that’s why you came here.
“Yes, I now know you were only a diversion, a fatal mistake on your part.”
We all have roles to play and I’ve played mine.
“I’m getting closer each time, Father.”
Time is against you. It’s started and you can’t stop it. No one can.
“I can make one night last a thousand years,” the demon reminded the Jesuit, “or have you forgotten that?”
Raging it had wasted time pursuing the wrong quarry, the fiend had nonetheless gleaned vital information in its race to find answers, but it didn’t like being mocked and Father Marc would pay dearly for his defiance. All promises of mercy were now forgotten as the demon snapped the priest’s head back, breaking his neck, before bearing down for the final, frenzied attack upon Mary’s poor servant.