Autumn Lauds Anniversary

Back on 10/14/14, I published my collection Autumn Lauds: Poems for the Halloween Season. In honor of today’s seventh anniversary, here’s another selection from the book:

 

Hardly Martha Stewart

By Joe Nazare

 

A jack-o’-lantern avalanche at the foot of the front steps;
Licorice whips and chains dangling from the threshold;
The Dead-Headless Horseman draped in a tie-dye shirt;
Hitchcockian flocks perched atop cabinets and curtain rods;
A human-hand candelabra, its five waxen fingertips flickering;
Pitchforks and straight rakes in a barrel labeled VILLAGE DEFENSE;
Tabled trays of sand-witches topped with conical black hats.

And pallid Alexandra the “ghostess” for the evening.

The party guests all delighted at her macabre décor,
Remarking upon their new neighbor’s ingenuity,
Her wonderfully morbid wit and punny ways.
No one realized that Alexandra was actually a literalist,
At least not until drinks were served and the presumed straw
Periscoping from each mug full of her Spider Cider
Proved to be both thick-bristled and twitchy.

 

For more on/of Autumn Laudscheck out my website’s dedicated page, this post from last year, and the Look Inside feature on Amazon.

 

“Statuesque” (original poem)

A sword-and-sorcery fantasy poem (sporting an allegorical base):

 

Statuesque

By Joe Nazare

 

The barbarian’s regimen borders on the religious
In its tireless devotion to hypertrophy.
From morn to moonglow Arod tests his physical limits,
Adrenalized by an unrelenting hatred.

His muscles drawn taut as the towing rope,
Arod hauls uphill a massive marble pillar–
A scavenged memento from the sacked civilization of his people,
Who’d refused to be taxed by an avaricious despot.

Next he seizes and envelops the thick, yellowed skull
Once shouldered by notorious brawler Durrell the Obdurate,
Squeezing until his own cranium seems apt to shatter from the strain,
All the while imagining it’s King Giles subjected to such crushing grip.

He cuts wide crescents in the riverside silt with his broadsword,
A training maneuver that eventually manages to stir up a dragling.
Always ready to intensify, Arod impales the vermicular scourge,
Lofts and swings its writhing form in torso-scorching arcs.

Lining up before the stoutest tanium tree he can find,
He launches determined, alternating blows with his spiked club,
Chopping, chopping away, swelling the muscles of his arms
As well as the mound of woodchips at his feet.

With the audacity of a madman, he tracks down a ‘warebear
And baits the behemoth into hand-to-paw battle.
A gory victory over his grisly opponent achieved,
Arod feasts on its roasted, protein-rich flesh as reward.

His daily labors earn him a fantastic physique,
Make him the envy of every underdeveloped man,
Cause him to impurify the thoughts of the chastest maiden,
Yet incredibly, he deems his own gains insufficient.

In Arod’s embittered mind, such growth is still
Not enough to embody his prodigious wrath.
So he locates the cave of the banished court-sorcerer Anabola
And solicits the concoction of a special enhancement elixir.

When questioned about the results that can be expected,
Anabola promises the barbarian that he’ll become rock-hardened.
Though no doubt misleading, the wizard’s claim proves true:
Overnight, Arod turns absolutely–not positively–granitic.

A dozen guardsmen are then summoned to deliver his sculpted bulk
To Giles’s stronghold, to serve as a cautionary figure,
A stony trophy unceremoniously entered into
The king’s ever-growing Hall of Thwarted Warriors.

 

Some More Gore D’oeuvres

In honor of tomorrow night’s return of The Walking Dead on AMC, here are five new pieces of zombie haiku that I have added to my previous “Small Bites” post in the Publications/Free Reads section.

 

Unfit Bit

Never enough steps.
Tracked down by a cadaver.
Measureless progress.

 

Shakespearean Tragedy

Merchants of menace.
All-too-pursuant Shylocks
Exact pounds of flesh.

 

Morning Death

Gross halitosis,
Like something died in his mouth.
His pecked bedmate does.

 

Unhealthy Skepticism

News reports dismissed:
Nothing but a can of bull.
Now: a cannibal.

 

Nights of the Walking Dead

Carnage as homage.
Romero-ghoul Easter eggs,
Nicotero-dyed.

 

Comparatively Harrowing

2020 was one hell of a year (or, more accurately, a year of hell). Just remember, though: things could always be worse…

 

Comparatively Harrowing

By Joe Nazare

 

Imagine the horrors depicted by Edwards’ venomous sermon,
His Puritanical harangue of the many listeners congregated:
Visions of the wicked held dangling by a slender metaphysical thread,
Precariously poised between a loathing Jehovah fired with wrath
And the devils perennially ready to catch those downcast into lasting misery.
No great comfort, for sure, to receive such a nightmarish awakening,
A rhetorical tour de force that ostensibly steers toward redemption
Yet sounds utterly fixated on the stark graphics of damnation.

Then consider that evocation of infliction preferable to this classic alternative,
A grim myth of torment, as later captured by the Goya portrait:
Shaggy Cronus grown savagely carnivorous in his averting of prophecy,
His Titan eyes wide and wild with monstrous insecurity
As he insists on capitally punishing his own innocent offspring.
Yes, better the whiff of brimstone than the coppery stench of shed crimson;
Cooking over the Pit couldn’t be any more hellish than serving as a raw recruit,
Seized up and gorily reduced, dinner in the hands of a mad god.

 

“Gunpowder Plots”

From my 2014 collection Autumn Lauds, here’s a poem that takes a different perspective onto “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

 

Gunpowder Plots

He’s shagged and gaunt, has one eye ghosted over,
Hasn’t pulled a plow or done more than plod in years.
Yet every lazy day his mind races back to that midnight dash,
To the horrid goblin that gave such determined pursuit.
His own panic at the time rendered his course erratic;
He’d defied direction from his whip-happy, rib-kicking rider.
Unsaddled, the lanky man had struggled to remain mounted
But was shortly knocked headlong by braining gourd.

That hapless horseman has been long lost,
But his equine hope for a second endeavor never so.
If somehow he could escape the confines of this farm,
He would search every last stretch of the Hollow for
The black steed and its head-lacking commander,
And draw them back into chase toward the church bridge.
This time he wouldn’t let up until the other beast was
Completely outdistanced, left choking the dust of utter defeat.

With memory and reverie blinkering his mind’s eye,
He fails to note the approach of his owner, Van Ripper,
Who has rue in his look, and a pistol in his fist.
Old Gunpowder is blindsided by the fired shot;
The eponymous explosive scorches his wounded hide.
Still, he is unwilling to abandon his equestrian quest.
Destroyed but not dispirited, he’s off and running
Even as his sorry carcass keels to the ground.

 

Lauding Autumn Once Again

Season’s bleedings–I mean greetings–to all the residents of our Macabre Republic. The greatest month of the year has arrived at last! I have a lot of fun stuff planned for this blog all October long as we approach the High Holiday, but thought I would start out by sharing a couple of pieces from my 2014 collection Autumn Lauds: Poems for the Halloween Season.

For more on this book, check out the dedicated page here on my website. And for a further sampling of its assorted treats, you can dig into the past posts of these poems: “Ulalume II,” “Fourteen Ways of Looking at Fall Foliage,” “Octoberzest,” selections from the Angry Villager Anthology, and “Shock Treatment.”

 

Corn Maze

By Joe Nazare

 

Immersive map of autumn,
Sketched by a pictographic tractor
On a sprawling canvas of lank stalks.

Apt metaphor for everyday life:
Byplay of determining paths and personal choice;
Blockages, backtracks, fortuitous turns.

Variously atmospheric, serving as a
Site of rural frolic or nocturnal fright,
Family-friendly agritainment or American Gothic haunt.

Story evoker: the vegetal surround a potential shelter of Shoeless Joe;
Malachi, Isaac, and their idolatrous adolescent ilk;
The annual October Boy, reborn to run a gauntlet of seasonal sacrifice.

A magical labyrinth, no matter what,
Where myriad navigators can succeed in getting lost
Even as they see their way clear.

 

 

Opposing the Joneses

By Joe Nazare

 

Resplendent adornment.
A façade boasting a macabre makeover,
A front yard littered with grim imaginings.
Each piece a welcome mat placed weeks in advance,
Beckoning the costumed to the doorstep on the 31st.

Adjacent starkness.
House and lawn kept spectacle-free,
Either due to religious inclination or simple disdain.
No orange lights, no dark tableaux,
Nary a pumpkin or corn stalk on the porch.

October transforms, and not only leaves into deserters:
It turns private properties into public statements.
Edifices, like architectural versions of face-painting fans,
Identify themselves by the colors they choose to sport.

Because to decorate–or to refrain–is
To declare affiliation, form alliance even with those unknown.
This holiday of masquerade actually unveils one’s true neighbors;
At Halloween, it’s the spirits of the living that grow visible.

 

Occult Beverages

An original poem toasting all those with a thirst for mischief here on the eve of Halloween…

 

Occult Beverages

By Joe Nazare

 

Six tips for homely brewers in the late October:

Go for potency always
Attempting to level most is level best

Disregard freshness
Moldering ingredients will only improve this batch

Stir religiously
Being careful not to burn over an open flame

Pour straight from pot to goblet
Chilling before serving gets the order wrong

Garnish garishly
Skewered eye of newt is quite catching

Lastly, savor their every moue of distaste
After all your toil and trouble, you can sit back for a spell

 

Shock Treatment

The Universal monsters are not only ingrained in pop culture; they have become an indisputable staple of the Halloween season. A large part of their legacy was assured a little over half a century ago, with the advent of Shock Theater (a package of classic horror films brought to television syndication by Screen Gems). The following poem (from my collection Autumn Lauds) was written to commemorate this wondrous moment in the history of monster-movie viewing.

 

Shock Treatment

Home invasions welcomed each weekend

Screen Gems gleaming in black and white

Legendary wretches on late-night display

Heralded scenes seen for yourself at last

Frankenstein’s Monster getting a stormy inception

Old Imhotep set lumbering by the Scroll of Thoth

Lawrence Talbot turning darksome when the autumn moon is bright

Bandaged Jack Griffin proving indiscernible in dishabille

Dracula descending the massive castle staircase, candle in hand

All framed by the ghoul humor of Roland

Seminal influence of the syndicated

A Universal renaissance in October ’57

An entire generation of monsterkids born

 

Angry Villager Vocals

My 2014 collection Autumn Lauds: Poems for the Halloween Season consists of two sections gathering 31 selections each. The first, “Miscellaneous Praise,” features various Halloween-themed poems, while the second, “Angry Villager Anthology” is structured as a sequence (think of it as a long, 31-part poem). Here’s the brief introduction I wrote for the second section, along with a sampling of poems from throughout the anthology.

Nearly a century after its first publication, Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology (1915) remains the premier collection of American Gothic verse. This sequence of interconnecting and sometimes contradicting monologues (presented as epitaphs voiced by the deceased inhabitants of Spoon River’s cemetery) sheds life on the dark underbelly of everyday life, exposes the secrets and scandals of a small Midwestern town. Angry Villager Anthology forms my autumnal answer to Masters, an attempt to show that when it comes to dark-heartedness, Spoon River has nothing on the community of Grantwood.

 

Mischievous

The Mob

C’mon Tom, Charlie, Emory, and Frank,
Rupert Daugherty’s caught our October bogy!
That semi-human Quasimodo won’t be tormenting us anymore.
Only fitting the thing’s been snared here on the eve of Halloween,
After it transformed Mischief Night into a month-long campaign.

C’mon Kate, Lizzie, Ellen, and Rebecca,
You’ve just as much right to punish the monster’s wrongs.
Sneaking in our yards, peeping in our windows,
Desecrating the cemetery, smashing Jeb Llewellyn’s pumpkins,
Preying on our animals, fraying our nerves with its elusiveness,
Scaring more than the bejesus outta Cyndi Anders earlier today.
It’s time that wretch met Grantwood’s Unwelcoming Committee.

C’mon Tyrus, Juan, Gunther, and Angelina,
We’re all coming together tonight to celebrate.
Capture puts an end at last to apprehension.
So let’s seize the moment, and march this nemesis through the streets,
The very thoroughfares it made us wary of traversing after dark.

C’mon everyone, come outside and join in.
Grab whatever’s available–knife, pitchfork, lead pipe, wooden bat.
When we get to the town square you can each take a turn.
We plan on lashing the bastard to the Founder’s statue
And then bashing it open like an animate piñata.
Huzzah! Our vengeance is going to be sweeter than all of
The candy handed out to the oddly costumed tomorrow night.

 

Patchwork

Jeb Llewellyn

Every night for the first third of October
The monster snuck inna my patch and smashed open a pumpkin;
Come morning I’d find the pieces of partially-gnawed rind.
So I rigged a motion sensor, hoping to spotlight the late-night snacking–
Somehow he never set the dang thing off.
I brushed paint thinner on the most attractive-looking specimens–
He kept selecting an untainted gourd.
Rankled to no end, I set up traps all over my land–
And he never came back again.
But neither did my customers, fearing I might’ve forgotten
Where ‘xactly I hid all those toothy steel jaws.

 

Sketchy

Charlie Ehrenhardt

I never saw who it was that snuck up behind me,
And nothing evermore after the bat struck my head.
But I always figured Len Saunders for the slugger,
For my alleged leering at his wife as she strutted to the bank
Each morning while I painted the mural on Kemp’s storefront.
Now as I sit on my front stoop, sketch pad in my lap,
I can hear Len’s voice in the beehive buzz of the passing crowd.
I imagine flaming torches and bobbing pitchforks,
Some local variation on a Universal horror movie.
I work my charcoal, trying to link mind’s eye and muscle memory.
Yet when I press my fingertip to the paper as if it were Brailled
I detect only smoothness, my creation doomed to vagueness.
Meantime the mob rumbles on, noxious with animosity.
I’m guessing that come morning, I won’t be the only one
Here in Grantwood wondering just what have I done.

 

Doggone

Bob Mendenhall

Whether in self-defense or some beastly sense of territoriality
The monster snapped the neck of Virgil’s German shepherd Kendra
Way back when on the fourteenth of this month.
For two weeks straight the dog’d been bent all out of shape,
Barking seemingly non-stop throughout the night.
Virgil and me had been neighbors for nearly twenty years,
But he wouldn’t listen to me when I kept trying to tell him
He’d best bring the dog inside when it got dark out.
“She watches o’er,” he insisted, and look what happened:
One permanently silenced canine.
Now we’re herding the perpetrator toward the town square;
I happily jab it in the back with the steel fingers of my hoe.
Had the damned thing snuffed out the mutt a day sooner
It would’ve saved me the cost of strip steak and strychnine.

 

Tome Reader

Heyward “Stacks” Calhoun

Here in the shadowy bowels of Grantwood’s Library
Lie the various volumes to scandalous for circulation,
Such as Ben Thompson’s incendiary slave diary,
And a highly unauthorized biography of Jeremiah Healey.
Not to mention a certain kid-skinned grimoire,
Whose curious lore served as a perfect lure for a lone bibliophile.
That perusal had been on the first night of October,
And so now I shiver as I overhear the shivaree outside.
I take no joy in the passing crowd’s raucousness,
Because I have to wonder if it was my own clumsy pronunciation that
Unwittingly summoned the town’s cthonian antagonist to begin with.

 

Revival

Abigail St. Clair

“Miss Abby? Whatcha doing over there?” Phil Wheatley calls from his car
When he spots me setting up shop in the middle of the town square:
Thin-legged card table, carafe of cider, plastic cups and cinnamon sticks,
Basketful of the pumpkin muffins I just happened to have been baking.
“Oh, just figured the people in the parade would appreciate some refreshments.”
“Parade?” he echoes, incredulous. Distance and darkness eclipse
Everything but the whites of his teeth, tiny floating ghosts.
“Ma’am, do you understand what’s going on here in town tonight?”
“Well,” I tell him, “I gather there’s going to be a public ceremony held.
So you best move that jalopy outta the way before everyone gets here.”
“Daffy old bat,” he proclaims before stomping the gas pedal.
But I pay him no mind, just settle into the lawn chair I’ve unfolded,
And sit here waiting, anticipating the start of the festivities.
God, it’s been ages since Grantwood hosted a good lynching.

 

Seize the Season

At long last, the calendar has flipped to the most important time of year in the Macabre Republic: the High Holiday season, in the merry month of mayhem. These thirty-one days always seem to fly by faster than a witch late to a sabbath, so I encourage you to start celebrating early. Here’s hoping that your October is stocked with autumnal treats and attractive haunts, and that your Halloween proves a harvest of horror.

Speaking for myself, I am to be in the spirit all month long here on this blog. There will be plenty of Halloween-related posts to follow. Thanks to the recent release of the second cinematic chapter, this isn’t just the season of the witch but also the season of IT. I accordingly have a lot of items planned relating to Stephen King’s epic novel that should float the boat of Constant Readers.

First, for all those who can’t get their fill of fall, here’s a poem to kick off the season. It is from my collection Autumn Lauds (for a closer look inside this book, click the designated heading in the menu above).

 

Octoberzest

Apple cider
Perfectly perfumery bottle, eau de orchard

Candy corn
Fairy horde of sweet tricolor bicuspids

Yankee Candle
Flaming aromatic–earthy wood, sere leaves

Pumpkin pancakes
Limited time: we all bound to IHOP

Decorative hay bales
Squarely redolent of rural remotes

Cinnamon-sugared doughnuts
Dessert worthy of the Van Tassel banquet table

Not just of mists and mellow fruitfulness
(as Keats asserted)
But a season of scents and tastes to savor