Stagness - rough-hewn from a western isle's
farthermost reach, lashed by Atlantic gale,
quite neighbourless for twenty bleakened miles
of tortured gorse, condemned to writhe and flail
wind-dried arthritic fingers at the wail
of hooded gulls. Stagness, where wreckers plied
their ill-starred trade, where echoes tell the tale
of broken ships, drowned ghosts, of men who died,
throats cut by fiends who lured and pulled them from the tide.
Here in this weary place a castle stands
high on the cliff, though crumbling to the west,
prey to the sea's insatiable demands
for ransom. Lumps of castle are the best!
(A gothic joke - I hope you're well impressed).
The eastern tower is habitable still
though failing fast the unrelenting test
of time and tempest. Through the cracks the shrill
wind skirls like some demented demon piper's reel.
There in the tower a lonely maiden dwells,
Eve of Stagness, a prisoner by choice
for even when she flips her lid and yells
for help, there's none to hear her silvery voice
(the wind and sea make such a lot of noise).
And how by choice? Alas, she cast her shoes
into the raging sea, which wasn't wise
since twenty miles of gorse is sorry news.
Enthroned alone she sings her barefoot beauty blues
And eats the fungus that a kindly fate
causes to burgeon beardlike from the cracks
around her prison walls. It tastes like late
bottled chianti laced with carpet tacks
and gingerbread. The only thing she lacks
is human company. "Although I sowed
the seeds of my unhappiness, this smacks
of overkill. Perhaps I'll kiss this toad?"
She did. It turned into a frog and hit the road.
So perished all her plans, until she came
to that abyss that marks the end of flight
from reason, hope and virtue (can you name
another liquidation? well all right,
from sanity to boot). She'd lost the fight
and would have yielded to depression's call
but for a dream that came to her by night
when she was sleeping. Must I give you all
the sordid details? She had taken - alcohol ...
It seemed to Eve that as she lay asleep
a radiant being appeared beside her bed
proclaiming, "Gee, what funny hours you keep,
it's half past ten. Wake up you sleepy head
and hear my words - oh, you can call me Ned"
Startled, she turned. Her covers fell away
and in her lovely nakedness she said
"What bloody man is that?" but Ned was gay
and hadn't time to quote from Shakespeare anyway.
"This very night" he said, "(Oh do keep still,
you make me dizzy when you oscillate)
The lover of your dreams most likely will
attempt to set you free. I shouldn't wait
awake for him, he'll probably be late.
Excuse me now, I've got to disappear".
He did. And Eve was left to contemplate
the meaning of his words. She wasn't clear
if Ned had meant the toad or Wullie from last year.
Another day went by. (The wind and rain
raged as they raged in stanza one, OK?
This epic repetition is a pain
we well can do without.) Another day
of agony for Eve who couldn't say
with anything resembling confidence
if, all in all, she wouldn't rather stay
incarcerated than perhaps commence
imperfect futures with a less than perfect tense
feeling inside. But what will be will be
and Eve succumbed once more to healing sleep
trusting in Ned because it seemed that he
surely had more to do than tell a heap
of lies, so after counting ninety sheep
she slipped away in line with nature's laws,
cares drifting free like ripples on the deep
for angel promises can show no flaws -
At dawn she wakened in the arms of Santa Claus,
or so he said, and certainly beside
the bed she saw a neatly folded pile
of fur-lined scarlet rags. But when she tried
to picture Christmas cards and reconcile
the beard, the ruddy face and happy smile
with this ill-shaven youth, it wouldn't do.
she said, "Hi Wullie. Here's a fine surprise.
I guess it had to be the toad or you.
Now, rescue me and then we'll have a glass or two".
"What, now?" said Wullie, who had other plans.
"Aye, now!" said Eve, "I've been here long enough,
the food's all gone, I've finished all the cans
and had to live on fungus. It's been tough."
"There's gratitude!" said Wullie. "You can stuff
your castles!" As the cruel words were spoken
a bolt of lightning struck him on the scruff
melting his very bones. Was Eve heart broken?
Not much. He'd left behind his sneakers as a token.