Not even fox cry could be more supernatural than goat-eyed Scritch wuthering in drawing room.
Even skeptics retch
as, ever mimetic, gargoyle delivers watersong through phossy-jaw.
“The spirits of the charnel-house are with us now,” Herself croons.
Himself nods benignant, eyes cat-lit.
Lucifer flies on lamp glass snooze.
Sitters clench fingers as Hob, beneath table, rubs skull to shinbones.
Flesh is eel jelly.
They had not meant to raise sleep-crusted Scritch, meant housebroken spooks
who spelled names in Ouija.
Himself seems indifferent to lung-rot, smiles indulgent.
Not Barnum, Robert-Houdin, or even Hermes (Trismegistus) could look so bemused by crisis,
shambles, slaughterhouse as gargoyles lick, pinch, snap, chew till devotees gust into gloom
safer than inside.
Herself (abandoned priestess) is more ruinous blue than ever. Her skin: bruised
under eggshell. Arms, hands, even face craquelured.
By daylight, nothing improves.
Her spirits are oddly silent. What good are reliquaries without worshippers? Toe stub,
knucklebone. Her little saints—those almost daughters kept in bottles—
had never known
disbelief, hunger, hope. What could a gargoyle make of baby?
Which one broke bottle glass, gulped formaldehyde like eggwhite?
Scritch: transparent abdomen, dreg-clogged.
 Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin was a celebrated Victorian illusionist. A god of magic, Hermes Trismegistus escorted the dead to the Underworld in Greek mythology.
This week’s series of three poems comes from Brenda Mann Hammack’s neo-Victorian fantasy in verse, which revolves around a twelve-year old girl, Victorine, and her companion, a chimerical creature forged of cat, owl, and dragonfly. At the beginning of the narrative, the duo resides in a manse that is part museum, part mausoleum. Fearing that adult caretakers will make a morbid exhibit of the Humbug, Victorine decides that the two must run away. In her ensuing encounters with human children, the girl finds that the outside world is far stranger than she’d realized—and even her own nature is not quite as natural as she had believed. In the following selections, the residents of the manse cope with Victorine’s absence. The adult figures include: Herself, a spiritualist, who remains in perpetual mourning for her stillborn daughters, and Himself, a teratologist, or a creator of monstrosities. Scritch, Vesper, and Hob are a trio of excitable gargoyles.
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Brenda Mann Hammack is Associate Professor of English at Fayetteville State University where she teaches creative writing, women’s studies, and Victorian literature. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Toe Suck Review, Gargoyle, Mudlark, Caveat Lector,Otoliths, A capella Zoo, Bull Spec, Steampunk Magazine, and Arsenic Lobster. She currently serves as faculty advisor and managing editor for Glint Literary Journal. Her contributions to Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.