Notes from Workshop 7: Poetry Corner

To ease us into POVEMBER we covered various forms of poetry this week. Here are some of the notes and creations from one of our groups (Maria, James, Heather). If anyone else has stuff to share that they came up with, please email it to gucreativewritingsociety@gmail.com — we look forward to reading it! x

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We brainstormed around a colour theme before individually writing haiku. 
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‘Ode to Donald’ featuring a corn candy windmill (Trump hates windmills, and corn candy is obviously quintessentially American). 
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Some scrappy first draft ‘free verse’ – Maria
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Penny Dreadful: The Visitor

Gazing into the mirror, Meg powdered her face. ‘Not too pale, my love,’ she remembered the Madam had told her. ‘You have beautiful skin.’

Her foot tapped-tapped with nerves: awaiting her first client, her first victim. Setting the powder brush down, she glanced at the reflection of the vial nestled between two goblets. The routine was simple: poison. Seduce. And if the poison takes too long, slit his throat.

A nightmare had kept her up most of the night. She felt the spray of warm blood on her body. A knock at the door distracted her from remembering the taste.

‘Come in’. She calls out lightly. She walks to the foot of the bed and shifts the gown off of her shoulders.

‘Hello Miss. I’m Master Thomas. It’s very lovely meeting you.’

Oh no he’s so innocent, but he’s caught in her web all the same. She beckons him to her, gently removing his outer wear.

‘Good evening Master Thomas. You may call me whatever you like’. She positions them by the side of the bed. ‘Here, take a deep drink to calm your nerves. It’ll be better’. She smiles prettily as she lounges on the bed. Thomas smiled at her, politely declining the drink.

‘No thank you,’ he spoke softly. ‘I want to be fresh for this.’ Meg smirked; she would have to do this the hard way.

‘Whatever you please,’ she breathed sweetly. Lying upon the bed and rolling down her stockings. Thomas looked decidedly nervous. ‘Just relax,’ she smiled, letting the sheer lace stockings flutter through the air towards him. Thomas lay his coat upon the bed. Finally, thought Meg. Pausing, he took a breath and thrust his hand in to the pocket of his coat. When he drew back up, he glared at Meg with venom in his eyes. In his outstretched hand, he held a gun.

She laughed a blood-curdling cackle of a laugh that from such young angelic lips was made even more hellish and uncanny. ‘Foolish, foolish boy’. She grinned, her serpentine teeth glinting in the candlelight.

‘I cannot die. You cannot harm me. I shall have you, devour you, consume you, and you shall wish that you had never drank my poison. Now, I shall not spare you even a moment’s pain’. Nonetheless, the young man did not falter, and held the barrel to her tainted flesh.

‘I know about you,’ he stuttered, flushed with nerves and anticipation. His grip on his gun clenched and unclenched- obviously an amateur who has done nothing of this sort before. ‘You can’t scare me, I just want to talk-‘

‘Oh, is that why you decided to point a gun to my face?’ She said, reaching underneath the bed for the knife. She hadn’t had to use this in a while, and a pity too. She had looked forward to an easy night.

‘Don’t- stop moving!’

He fired the gun and she flew backwards, crashing into the mirror and crumbling to the floor. He moved slowly towards her, the gun still pointed at her.

‘I’m sorry’, he said, his voice shaking. ‘I didn’t want to do that’. In a flash, she flung herself up and thrust her knife into his chest. He fell to the ground, his blood seeping into the carpet. His veins ran cold as he saw the bullet wound in her eye completely healed of its own accord.

‘What are you?’ he said. She closed her eyelids and opened them to reveal yellow snake-like eyes. Opening her mouth, she revealed row upon row of sharp inhuman fangs. Her skin by her mouth parted into a Glasgow smile, and a metallic screech pierced his eardrums.

 

By  James Reynolds (& friends)

Penny Dreadful: The Fortune Teller

She didn’t have to wait long for a new customer today.

She felt it at the palm of her hands when she shuffled her deck of tarot cards. So just as she had predicted, the customer from last week entered her booth, her hand clutching another young woman’s arm. Our fortune teller smiled at the sight of this; the young woman was positively beautiful, skin glowing with life and blood.

“Welcome back,” she said, channelling all her magic to the sound of her voice. The young woman relaxed immediately, her eyes widening in fascination. Our fortune teller lit the candles next to her deck of cards.

She might have some fun with the girl before she drained some of her life force.

The young woman took the seat opposite, her auburn hair flowing down in curls. She was nervous, she was biting her nails and picking the skin off her fingers.

“Leave us,” the fortune teller ordered the old customer, who diligently obliged. Once she was alone with the woman, she flashed a kind smile.

“So what’s your name, my dear?” she said.

“Cassandra,” the young woman nervously whispered.

“Now what seems to be the problem?” she mustered all her energy to make Cassandra relax.

“I’ve been having these strange nightmares, I see fire, and disease, and death. I’m all alone. Oh God, help me! I’m afraid!” Cassandra’s voice rose in pitch exponentially.

“Relax, relax.” The fortune teller’s soothing voice filled the booth. “Don’t worry, I’m here to help. Now…” she coughed as she offered her hands. “Take my hands.”

The young woman reached out tentatively, and the fortune teller stifled a moan. Oh, she hadn’t felt such a vibrant soul in decades—so bright, so strong, so powerful…

“Close your eyes, my dear,” the fortune teller said soothingly, “and relax”, and Cassandra did, eyes closing and head drooping forward.

The fortune teller sighed, and smiled, and began to draw the power, pulling the brightness and the power into herself. And then Cassandra grip turned hard and strong and unyielding, and her eyes flew open, and with a voice like a steel trap, uttered one word.

“Stop.”

The girl’s skin was rapidly losing its beautiful, youthful texture, becoming ashen and cracked. The fortune teller still gripped Cassandra’s fragile fingers, draining every last spark. Cassandra’s now corpse-like form clattered to the floor.

Nonchalantly, our fortune teller flipped over the top card. Death. There was something pleasing about the skeletal figure.

“It was never going to end well, my dear,” she mocked the girl’s body.

“It’s unwise to mock the dead, sister. Even you should know that.”

Our fortune teller turned to face her older sister, half entering from the curtains.

Her face still held a certain glow, more from a good moisturiser than from a healthy diet of souls.

“What’s got your knickers in a twist? Feed on another coma patient this morning?”

It was irritating to watch her sister attempt morals.

“Let her go, sister,” her sister states calmly, “I don’t want to hurt you.” She laughed manically, like her sister would dare.

“I drew from the cards to decide her fate. I’m just a tool in the hands of a higher power.” She keeps an eye on the girl who had gained some color back. “There’s enough to share.”

“I made a vow that I will keep, sister, don’t make me hurt you.” Her sister takes a step into the room and the girl goes limp. “Stop now sister.”

“I can’t, I haven’t felt power like this in so long.”

“Don’t kill her then. Enslave her, let her replenish her power and come back.”

“Death has its place in life. She gets her power from somewhere, I will that find that.”

 

By Eugenia Lo (& MK, CM, H, JL, Z)

Penny Dreadful: The Surgeon’s Child

The scalpel dug in jaggedly to the lady’s cold flesh. It didn’t glide as it usually did with the live ones. She was a model subject, so demure in her nakedness. Her glazed eyes did not flash with wanton thoughts; she was pale, voluptuous and perfect. The surgeon drew another implement from the steel tray at his side. This one was encrusted with blood from his previous guest. His last guest was more vocal, she had been warm and fidgeting. Oh but she was complicit… they all were. A bulbous buzzing fly floated past his face landing on the work table next to his Madonna. He smashed it mercilessly with his cold steel saw before wiping the blade on his smeared apron.

“This won’t hurt a bit,” he whispered, gently caressing the angelic woman’s swollen belly. He dug the saw in with an uncomfortable crunching sound. The greying skin peeled back and a few black droplets of congealed blood flecked upon his forearms. Still he persisted. Such a pity to spoil such a perfect woman. Still the treasure lay within and he edged ever closer.

 

He prized apart the layers of skin, he could not help but remark upon the exquisite delicacy of it all, the mesh of tissues that had once teemed with life. Now the time had come for the more tender implements. He put down the saw and took up a glinting little silver blade, so small and keen… It was the sharpest in his copious collection. He had found the seat of the jewel, the filmy sac, purple and stiff with the vigour of death. He pulled the blade across its length and out poured the stagnant liquid. The womb had been the only home this little creature had ever known, but soon…soon it would become so much more.

 

He could almost hear what could have been, the sound of a new life wailing. This was not the first time he had to operate on a pregnant patient but it was certainly the first time he could still feel the faintest, the slowest pulse of a heartbeat as he dug his gloved hands in to the belly of the woman.

As his plastic mitts emerged from her stomach, soaked in a foul crimson liquid, he could see the remnants of a deformed creature. Oh what life this poor thing could have grown up to be. He could have been a teacher, a priest, a soldier. Then again he could have been another homeless tramp that litters the streets. As he put the fleshy mess onto the tray, he could hear a horde of crashing and banging from along the hall.

He flinched but didn’t panic. This couldn’t be rushed. He carefully lifted a syringe, filled with an ominous dark reddish brown liquid, and pulled the tiny deformed child towards him. His eyes gleamed, “This however,” he said wickedly “…this will hurt.” As he pushed the needle in to the child, pressing the plunger all the way down, the infant let out a terrible blood-curling scream. He dropped the syringe and stepped back, smiling serenely as the baby writhed and cried. The footsteps were louder now, faster, running towards him, but he didn’t care. And as several burly men burst in to the room, he simply laughed. And as his own knife sliced his throat there was a perverse happiness in his eyes. “It’s too late.” He gurgled, and the life left him.

The child was taken away, after being soothed and silenced. It was placed in the loving arms of a doctor and his wife, who for many years had been in want of a child. There were none who knew of the vile chemicals that had been forced inside the infant’s veins. None who knew the change they had brought to the fragile little body. The surgeon was dead and the records buried. The baby was safe and loved.

*******

Months passed. Red and golden leaves fell, then ghostly snow before the crocuses broke free and spring came at last. The child had reached his first year, unbeknownst of course to his adoptive parents who hadn’t taken up his care until the tendrils of summer had curled itself around the rosy blossom. So there were no gifts and no special tea prepared, as far as the child’s parents were concerned those arrangements were not needed for weeks. Yet the child felt it within himself, somehow within his tiny body he felt the advent of the cyclical date of his nativity. With only the first few teeth protruding and annals of communication not yet available to him, he was unable to make his feeling known.

That night the old grandfather clock in the hallway struck midnight and the child howled. The most bloodcurdling screech that rattled the windows of the old manor. The doctor’s wife sprung from her bed and ran to the child’s crib. As she reached her arms in to cradle her beloved son she felt a sharp sting on her forearm and fell to the ground lifeless. The child’s jaw trickled with blood. The surgeon’s final masterpiece was complete…

 

By Hayley Rutherford (& the homies)

Penny Dreadful: Storm the Castle

It wasn’t the waiting that she hated, as much as the silence. Standing in this deserted clearing, back against a tree, the bark digging into her skin through her clothes, she longed for a sound, any sound. Her hand gripped the handle of her sword, still sheathed at her hip, and the weight of her various other concealed weapons was a comfort. A bead of sweat rolled down her upper lip, but she didn’t dare move. The silence was unbearable, almost a physical weight on her, and then…
There it was, the signal, and she tensed, coiled like a spring, and then out of the corner of her eye she saw a movement, and she leapt into action.
She had sliced through the first man’s neck before he knew she was there, his head flying in an arc through the air, and she killed two more before they had time to make any move for their weapons, her sword making a sickening squelch in their flesh before they fell lifeless to the ground.  She easily floored one more, whose fumbling fingers had barely found her sword and hadn’t even been able to unsheathe it in time.
There were three more, she saw, armed and ready and wary, and she smirked and raised her sword.

The largest of the three bared rotten teeth in a perverse smile.
“So, the little kitten thinks she can fight.”
His comrades laughed in mirthless mockery.
“Tell you what, darling, Drop that sword and we might go easy on you.” I did. And as I did, I slid a knife from its sheath and flicked it into the first bastard’s eye. He dropped his sword and staggered back.

With both hands, he ripped the knife from his eye, leaving nothing but a hole in his face like a burst sore.
The brute clearly doesn’t know when to die, I thought. Picking up my sword, I sliced his legs from under him. He lay on the ground, groaning with pain. The night was silent once more as I shoved my sword through his throat. The way was clear. As I began to edge towards the door, its portcullis closed over it like bared teeth.

I smile at the artful way I had disposed of these men. My swordsmanship hadn’t dulled but it could use some sharpening if I’m to stay on top. I step carefully through the hallway, aware of my surroundings, always. Making a mistake will kill you here.
A knife hurtles through the air and sings as it passes my ear. “You always were a lousy shot,” I tease the man standing behind me.

Edgar pulls me into an embrace. His soft lips caress mine.
“Now, now is the time, my love, he whispers with passionate glee. “Your exile has been too long, far too long my love,” he whispers, sliding his hands over my hips. I unfurled myself from his grasp and hushed him.
“To the task at hand,” I uttered defiantly. “Once that old king has breathed his last pathetic breath then we can rejoice.”
“And I will take you as my wife and we can rule together,” Edgar burst, his fevered lips finding mine in a frenzy.
I stepped back, drawing my sword. “Never forget, Edgar, that I am more of an heir to this throne than you are. After all, I am your elder sister…”

We began to dance. Not the dance of lovers, or even brother and sister, but a deadly dance, knives flashing. He pulls my hair, leaves my throat bare and ready for his knife, but I am too quick. His blade meets nothing but air. He slashes at me again, and I dance out of reach.
“Sister, dear- why must we fight?” he gasps. “We are blood are we not? And do I not love you more than anyone, or anything, in this bleak world?”
“You do, dear Edgar, I’m sure that you do. But if ever anything less thick than blood, it would be gold. It is mine, all mine. Share it I cannot. But my love, if you will give it to me, all to me, and take only my loving caresses in return… why then, we shall be so very happy, my dear.”
Edgar’s arm went slack, and he ceased brandishing the knife.
“That is all I ever wanted,” he replied.
“Then come to me, my dearest one.” We embraced, kissing so passionately that all else around us fell away. But then, a knife… a knife sunk in, and one sibling was no more…

She stepped back, shuddering in disgust. “Thank you,” she said, bowing deeply, and a figure stepped into the light, over the dead body, stepping on the corpse without a care.
“My pleasure,” the figure said softly, returning the vow.
“Let’s dispense with these pleasantries, Serena, my dear,” the girl said, smiling. “We have much to do, after all,” and the figure removed their hood, revealing a scarred but still beautiful face, with long dark hair plaited out of the way. She smiled.
“Of course, your Majesty,” Serena said mockingly, and the other girl laughed.
“Not yet,” she said, and they sobered, thinking of the task ahead.
“First, though,” the girl said, “we have to get rid of this scum.” She prodded the body with her foot, and expression of utmost loathing etched onto her tired features. “I want to rinse my mouth out with bleach after that kiss, urgh,” she shuddered again, “but I had to keep him distracted.”
“You saw me coming, then, Ella?” Serena asked, a note of disappointment in her voice.
Ella chuckled, bending down and roughly grabbing one of the body’s limp arms. “Help me with this piece of shit, will you,” she said, and Serena grabbed the other arm. With a grunt, they hauled it upright, the head lolling sickeningly, eyes still open.
Serena grimaced. “I don’t know how you could ever pretend to love him,” she said, as they staggered back to the entrance of the castle, cautious and careful despite the casual conversation. “He was despicable even when he wasn’t dead.”
“Let’s not talk about it,” Ella sighed, as they heaved the body into a thicket of bushes, scurrying quickly back into the castle. “And yes, I did hear you coming,” she said smugly.
Serena groaned. “One day I’ll sneak up on you,” she promised, and then they quieted, huddling in a dark corner, carefully checking their weapons.
“You ready?” Serena said, hand resting on Ella’s arm, the challenge in her voice at odds to the comforting touch.
Ella smiled, sword drawn, and her face in the semi-darkness looked positively evil. “To kill the king? I’ve only been waiting for five years,” and then, with a brisk hug, the two crept deeper into the dark, eerie castle.

 

By Maura Kenny (& co-conspirators)

Penny Dreadful: Space Pirates

The tiny moon was in shadow, behind the planet, no light from the far off star illuminating its craggy surface. The black spaceship lurked near it, orbiting slowly, watching, waiting.

And there it was- the opulent, rich convey they were waiting for. An almost tangible aura of expectation fell over the ship, as it broke away from the moon’s pull and sped silently after the convoy, cloaked and shielded and almost invisible.

Inside the ship there was a hustle and bustle, a stark contrast to the stillness of the void outside the steel walls. The captain was barking orders, her voice almost drowned out by the clatter of weapons and the whir of the shielding mechanism and the clanking of the engines, working way too hard.

The chief engineer was yelling at her assistants as she fought desperately to cool the quickly overheating engine, cursing loudly and vowing that this time she would persuade the captain to actually stop at a port so she could get the parts she needed to properly fix this piece of junk.

The quartermaster was divvying up their meagre supply of weapons, thankful (not for the first time) that everyone was well-armed already, as she banged a blaster against the wall in an attempt to loosen the stiff trigger.

“Thirty seconds!” hollered the pilot, hands clenched tight on the juddering controls as her co-pilot frantically flicked switches and adjusted dials, the last ship in the convoy directly in front of them. This part never got easier.

A deathly hush fell over the ship, everyone stilling, hands on weapons, braced for impact, and then the tiny battered black spaceship collided with the opulent glittering exterior of the huge ship with a resounding crash.

 

By Maura Kenny

Grapes

A bowl of grapes sits on the windowsill. Forgotten for days, a layer of dust clusters on the waxy skins of the grapes. Once, the skins were iridescent, their purple a pure Cadbury sheen, bunched behind plastic in the supermarket. A colour, indeed, that seemed a little unnatural.

Once, they had been swollen and fat grapes, ripe for the plucking. Grown, the label said, in the south of France, by a man named Giuseppe. Their colour was rich enough to drool over; the kind of colour that feels sickly in your mouth, too vivid for your vision.

Now the grapes had collapsed a little, their skins shrivelled like a blister popped by a pin. You could imagine the cellophane surface of those grapes: sinking, the juice inside slowly moulding. A clammy wine flavour caught in your throat. Earthy, somehow; but still so acid sweet, leaving that languid aftertaste.

They caught the sunlight that spilled in shafts through the kitchen window. Late February and the light was still winter white, making the grapes gleam a little. From a distance, if you saw the world in impressionist brushstrokes, they could be a collection of amethysts – dull, unpolished crystals. There was the black shadow between them that semi-precious gemstones have, a kind of darker, other self, that took the edge off their luminescence.

How lovely they are, somebody thinks as they enter the kitchen. How lovely and sad, these grapes that we have all forgotten about. These grapes that would quench nobody’s thirst or hunger. Their musk left a cloying, fruity aroma in the air, like red wine left out in the heat uncorked. In a way, they were disgusting. And yet there was a purity to them, a rot or sombreness personified in their fleshly pulp. It was, perhaps, the trueness of their purple.

by Maria Sledmere

Purple

There was a cloying scent of incense and tobacco. A luxurious scent, yes, but stale and choking. Everything in the room was the height of luxury: expensive damask wallpaper with stately floral blooms in deep powder purple and violet velour. Crisp satin sheets on the bed; crumpling and folding like tulip petals, a slippery, coarse texture, whispering at every touch from grasping hands and sliding ankles.

On the dresser a mound of discarded jewellery. Amethyst and garnet sparkling dark. A platter of ripe fruit sat upon a low table; plums, grapes, clusters of purple berries with a gossamer veil of downy white on the surface, the gleaming flesh peeking coyly from beneath in the play of candlelight. The fruit was becoming too ripe, almost. Oversweet and oversoft, too giving. No crispness, no tartness or bite. Too easy.

She handed me a glass of wine so dark it was black in its depths, with a damson light within its heart that morphed and shifted like a low-burning flame.

She pulled the lilac lace further down her wrist, covered the nebula of burst veins, like smeared fingerprints in purple ink.

by Rachel Norris