Gaggle of Grotesques

Poems by Alun Robert

Burrata Before Bed

Rattlers rising through his cranium
their tongues tasting dank ether
his bloodshot eye ajar
fire spitting from three nostrils
toothless grin screaming salvation
both ears oozing puce
flaking skin of warts and vestiges
from conflicts in dense jungle.

This warrior over three metres of
thermidor-esque torso
bedecked in poison ivy and green nettle
sharp fragrance of a sewer
with right index finger beckoning
magnetism tour de force
electricity from darkening clouds
descending nearer and nearer.

Close, closer, closest
concern turns to terror
sweat gushing in torrents
limbs spasming out of sync
then toss off that duvet
return to reality then realise that
gluttonising burrata before bed
may not be so wise.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Act 5, Scene 1: ancient belief that eating cheese before bed

will induce nightmares.


On the far bank
the trio stands
horns, hooves, goatee beards
en route to their fodder
kneading the soil
gnawing the cud
ravenous, anxious
to cross my wooden bridge
with their sæter in sight
knowing there is little time
but will they pay my bridge toll
for I am the troll?

As the smallest confronts who
I threaten to gobble
he points to his stocky siblings so
I let the beast cross
then his brother arrives
somewhat larger and plumper
but he points out his big brother so
I let the beast across
when the third arrives
no debate or evaluation
for he is my big treat
that I will gobble and gobble.

But he is confrontational
and threatening and feisty
as we lock heinous horns
to fight to the end
of trauma and torture
as I slip off the bridge
into the flowing stream
to drowning and Valhalla
so if you read my tale
be friendly with your foes
for fighting a big gruff goat
is plainly stupid, of course.

Inspired by the Norwegian fairy tale, “Three Billy Goats Gruff”.  

Halloween On Hengistbury Head

Is Hengistbury Head where 
ghouls rise up from Christchurch Bay 
at gone three in the morning? 
Cold and wet,

en pursuit of cardinal salvation.
Translucent, clandestine 
apart from Halloween full moon 
when they shimmer brightly in the light,

yeller in a minor key 
reverberating and echoing 
to waken fauna asleep, 
to scare those on prowl. There
their pungent stench remains 
on bare boughs, brambles 
and bracken they’ve touched 
like eau du parfum exuded 
by the devil himself.

And at day break 
with starlings at screech, 
their footprints scar Mudeford Spit 
until next high tide arrives. 
Then they’ve gone, departed 
from Hengistbury Head.

Just Days After Halloween

In the garden of England, 
fertile fields of Kent, we squat. 
Cultivars in situ 
with our umbilicals intact. 
A plethora of adults 
and rampaging offspring 
rejected us for carving 
through succulent orange flesh, 
creating faces (scary or silly) 
for trick or for treating 
or placing out at front doors 
with smouldering wax candles 
inserted deep into orifices 
to ward off Halloween spirits. Alas.

Our dreams have but gone, 
our vocation lost; 
the opportunity for notoriety 
now passed us by. 
Condemned to urban markets 
(Fridays and weekends) 
or despatched to production facilities 
for preserving then canning 
as purée for chefs de cuisine 
or condensed into soup 
or ground up into morsels 
as hog and fowl fodder. Shamed.

Or left to rot over winter
in frosts and snows of England
to be ploughed back into soil
to enrich the very dark loam
from whence we came. Amen.

Something In The Air

Four in the morning with sickle crescent shimmering,
lightning spits venom at finial capped façades. Ashlar
quakes to its foundations while clay tiles tremor.
Corbels, tassel and bragger hold tight onto oriels. As

rodents scamper to safety, bats gnash on their canines
while bore on River Medway rages large as its neap. For
thunder clap new men chant something in the air as
fierce static discharges down to Mother Earth. Beware

Baron Astley rising from the bowels of his dungeon
en route round the confines. Step by step. Echoing
along corridors of grey granite slab. Screeching falsetto
“March on, boys!” though no soul can hear. Apart

from translucent foot soldiers slain at Naseby moor
(wretched apparitions with gore oozing from orifices) as
a consternation of guards in rigid nasal helmets pursue
pungent hot air along corridors through cells. While

in the Apothecary’s Garden much secluded from view,
headless riders from Sutton Valence bloody the Excalibur
safeguarding the honour of ethereal Baron Astley to
the horror of skeletons en vie from Tithe Barn. When

a cerberus from Coxheath with six piercing eyes snarls
at its own shadow en pursuit of a thrice severed tail when
three witches of Malling chanting ripe satanic verse devour
raw gizzards to survive another dreich winter night. Then

6-6-6 far travelled archbishops create uproar and chaos
as they’ve done from Gothic times decade after decade in
the Archbishop’s Palace where forked lightning strobes
on anything and everything that dares to engage. At

gone seven in the morning with the crescent now waning,
auroral rays beam from across the North Downs as
ghouls retreat to their graves while starlings serenade
Maidstone re-awakening without any sense of foreboding.

The Clandestine Visitor

Cirencester bells announce tomorrow 
above the faintest of lingering murmurs 
from children excited by new discovery 
and stilettos striding over Roman mosaics 
echoing through now darkened galleries 
at frequencies inaudible to all mankind 
yet heard by one headless whippet 
of Coxwell Street and me

for vast doors are now bolted shut 
the Corinium desolate for another night 
apart from my desperate flitting
in search of release from yesterdays 
after a torment of two millennia 
spent striving desperately for my freedom 
from shackles of a lingering death 
when warring Britons I confronted

as a foot soldier in Claudius’ legions 
that marched across their primitive land 
participating in bloody conflicts 
wielding axes and double-edged swords 
now preserved for perpetuity 
after battle-site excavations 
together with my wounded soul 
to torment descendents omnipotent

for I may be but an apparition 
still tainted with a wretched stench 
of formaldehyde and methanol 
laced with a pungency of long decay 
hence release me from that vacuous realm 
extricate me from ethereal dimensions 
deliver me from this Corinium 
before church bells announce tomorrow.

The Unnecessary Grotesque

trash cans overflow
with passed best-by dates
with surplus scraped from plates
with the spoilt uber-pungent
with fodder no longer in vogue

while the unpicked rot across fields
while piles proliferate in food mountains
while the unwanted are ditched
while pseudo-economics limit production

as millions suffer hunger
as the bread-line engulfs
as starvation is their reality
as if life was not hard enough

for that is grotesque