Her womb does not wander, but her heart
wobbles like a planet. Since Cardiff’s moved
to London overnight, even sky’s slipped
bogward. So, no one really blames her
when she sighs, “I won’t get up,”
and draws the musty bedclothes
Even Vesper can’t be bothered to object
now its feathers have turned purple from neglect
and spleen-burst temper.
Without Victorine, its tantrum might be moon flare
or poof for all Herself takes notice,
and Scritch is busy poking mortises
in hip to fix its rotting carcass,
so, Hob, alone, is left to mind the script
of blue-vein pattern that marks her wrists,
like marbled alabaster.
Too quick to cast indifference as disaster,
Hob’s lizard skin burns white in calcination
that might be worry, love, or even consternation,
Indignation is its only mood,
self-interest its only obligation
though it doesn’t mean to kindle conflagration.
Soon, a cushion starts to sizzle,
then a tassel of her hair;
a titian braid goes up in Guy Fawkes fashion.
She’s a sparkle-bloom, a Leonid,
a candlestick cum whirligig,
and though Scritch knocks (by accident)
the washstand’s pitcher, empties it
upon the carpet, she will not crispen more than this
for flammability of skin
is offset by those drams of tinctured arsenic
mixed with antimony.
She’s more than bony in complexion.
She’s more or less immune to firing,
scald, suttee, and spontaneous combustion.
But, her temper isn’t proof against such unctionless behavior.
Scritch will not cease its ill-advised palaver
while Vesper rails against the window pane
like gravel, hailstorm, migraine.
Hob cannot be found, which is a loss for artful science
as odes on expiring gargoyles could be the rage in literary violence.
She never thought she’d say it, but “that child is missed.”
Herself can but admit that patience
with refractory gargoyles is a gift she lacks,
while Victorine was all but martyr-cast
when it came to wayward crossbreeds of anatomy and temperament.
She could keep them pent with mollified suspense
and even grim amazement.
Now, she’s gone, Herself is left to fend off polymorphous boredom,
from that happy state of mindless mutability that preceded story.
She’ll have to think of something—else conclusion could get gory.
It’s bad enough when boudoir’s made a lizard’s crematory.
As Scritch, like mandragora’s root, keeps up its rib-cracked shrieking,
and Vesperbird makes hummingbees seem fast as dodos breeding,
Herself restores the bed that’s left and Hob’s red eyes flick, blinking
from in between the andiron dogs
like expectation piquing.
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.