Friday, October 9, 2009




Over on the banks of the river
where the townsfolk divided their time,
there lived a man whose hands
were made of wood - polished
to a deep, rich gleam. They were
walnut stained, for no other reason than
he was as poor as a piper.
(Walnut stain was free for the indigent
and no one pays a piper.)

The hands were grainy, with intricate
one-of-a-kind patterns, figures, and whorls.
Dark wooden hands - do dark wooden deeds.
(Didn’t he beat Elaine to death?)
Ended up in some archaic prison.

His hands were his undoing.
He died fairly young. Asbestos Poisoning.
His wooden fingers wouldn’t let the pipe
cover alone during those years spent in
the prison’s machine shop. (Pick, pick - Chink, chink.)
Lethal white dust.
(Jesus, didn’t he write his name in that stuff?)

He was laid out in his mother’s parlor.
(Slicked down black hair - red lips,
pink circled cheeks, eel’s skin suit.)
But, where were the wooden hands?
The dark, grainy, walnut hands that made
him who he was and who he was not?
His mother’s teeth clicked as she said,
“Oh, I could never get rid of them.
They’re in a shoebox, under his bed.


gel said...

Hi K,
Chills and thrills...I've resurfaced. As to whether I have hands or not "remains" to be seen ;D.

You sure took the leap into the macabre with zest or is that you I spotted flying out of the graveyard? Your poem is rich and polished, so vivid I can imagine the illustrations accompanying it...and the screams. What a delightfully decadent tale!

(Forgive me for needing to switch blog places again. Hopefully, I'm here for good and back in blogland on a regular basis.)

Anonymous said...

An excellent October poem! I was going to go on and on about particular points of the young man's story that I loved...

...but for some reason, the mother's teeth clicking unsettled me more than the entire rest of it. Like mother, like son, perhaps? Little bits of inhumanity running in the family...

Anyway, awesome. :)

RachelW said...

Weird stuff... I don't think I like that fella too much. Ugh. :)

Julie said...

Hey, Kaye! I love it! Scary stories are among my favorites. I love the story and the strange character. You've given it such an awesome gothic feel.

I also love the playfulness in the voice. The lines in parentheses are a wonderful touch. I can picture the townspeople whispering, and it has a "wink and nod" feel to it.

I agree that the mother's teeth clicking is an awesome detail, and I like that unsettling effect, especially at the end. And the hands under the bed! I won't sleep a wink tonight thinking about those hands....haha! Awesome!

Karen said...

What a story! What an imagination! This is a great October story - one that I won't want to remember in the middle of the night...

I have to agree with the others on the mother's clicking teeth!

Aniket said...

Oooh... I lllllllllike it!

Didn't saw it coming from you though. But freakin awesome. This is one poem, I wish I had written. :D

trooping with crows said...

Oh man, you know I want to paint this character, Mom. Can't remember, have I heard this one before? This is such a original "story". It gave me the creeps for sure.
"Dark wooden hands-do dark wooden deeds"!!!! INDEED! Disturbingly terrific, I want to hear more about this sick-o!
Great stuff, Mom.....

Minister of the Masochistic Truth said...

Sweet. It would make for an awesome folk tune.... Reminds me of an old Nick Cave record called "Murder Ballads"...

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Gel - wonderful to see you again, dear friend. Glad you liked my little thriller. Thanks for the compliments. Oh, that just might have been me you saw coming out of the graveyard!! ;)

Joseph - I know! Those clicking teeth even gave me the creeps! @?@
You hit upon it when you said that inhumanity runs in the family. I appreciate your wonderful comment.

Rachel - Can't think of anyone who would like him...except his mother, maybe. :O Thanks!

Julie - Glad you liked this. I figure, in October, a writer can get away with such weird stuff. But, then again, I write odd poems all year. Thanks - and, Julie... watch out for those hands! Bwuuuwhahahaa!

Hey Karen - just a bizarre story-poem for the season. The clicking teeth was an after-thought...glad I though of it, since it seems to have added a certain creepy feel to the whole thing. Thanks, friend! ;D

Aniket - You always make me laugh. Thanks, so much, for your fervent affirmation! :P

Hi Merissa - Paint away! lol - No, I just finished this one. Thought you might get a kick out of it. Speaking of paintings, I need to get pictures of a few. Thanks, Riss for always being here (and there) well, I don't mean "here and there" I meant here and (there) That's what I just wrote - nevermind. It's a Connie thing! <3 U

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Hi Ed, Thanks so much for that. Good to see you, too. I'll take a swing over to see what's up.

Rick said...

You know, K, I thought the mother's teeth were made from her son's hands! Wonderfully creepy and frightfully appropriate with Halloween right around the corner. I would add that it was "polished," too, but it might come off wrong!

Margaret said...

You'd make a great story-teller K.

I can so imagine listening to this sitting in front of an open fire on a cold October night.

Anonymous said...

You know, I often read a poem of one of the greats, and I think, this sucks. Is this considered great just because people have decided that it was going to be great? Is it some kind of mass hysteria?

Then, I read some gifted bloggers, and I think, wait a minute, this is way better than the greats. Why aren't these folks exhalted? Why don't people decide to praise them? Is the great-poet-list full??

You're one of those. This is so delicious. A tall tale perfectly constructed and told.

Minister of the Masochistic Truth said...

I agree entirely with what Jason says about "fame" and what's truly good. I guess we need to remember that we write, paint, etc., because it's what we do. It's like the difference between a job and a mission. Having supported the Indie scene all my life, I have truly seen performances and pieces far more worthy of acclaim than many of the greats. Perhaps we need to reflect that fame is based on popularity or being known as opposed to truly being intrinsically incredible.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Rick, HAHA! you thought the mother's teeth were made out of the wooden hands...that is funny...but, you know - it's not a bad idea, Rick! I might be doing a re-write. Thanks for always supporting my work. I really appreciate it. :)

Margaret - thanks so much. I do like to listen to chilling tales around a long as all the lights are on!!! ;)

Jason - I appreciate so flattering a compliment. Thank you very much!

Several poets, who I call mentors, are little known to the world at large. They have a following, but are not seen in every "modern poets" anthology that hits the bookstores. Popularity with the masses depends a lot on self-promotion and luck, I guess. It never ceased to amaze me that every poem Ginsberg wrote on the back of a placemat got published - drivel included!

I completely agree with you. I think there is a treasure trove of talent here in blogsville. Many of the writers here should be added to the "greats" list! (All the ones I frequent should) Thanks, again. :)

Ed - very astute assessments. So much of what gets published is at the discretion of the current editors of literary magazines, etc. Very subjective! You are right. We do what we do, because we have it in us.

You said: Perhaps we need to reflect that fame is based on popularity or being known as opposed to truly being intrinsically incredible.

I am reminded of Van Gogh, who might still be a virtual unknown, had his sister-in-law not been tenacious enough to get the world to notice him posthumously. Here was an artist who was intrinsically incredible and he couldn't sell a painting - but he was still a master when he sold nothing. Same with Emily Dickinson and her poetry. Thanks for coming back in to join in the conversation.

joaquin carvel said...

three cheers (or wails) for the creepy & macabre!

i love how you leave so many open doors for the imagination in this - the "patterns, figures, and whorls", the "archaic prison" - even the "(Pick, pick - Chink, chink.)" of the machine shop adds to the mystery and creepiness.

i agree about the mother's teeth - but the picture you paint of him in the parlor is what set the teeth off for me. and "who he was and who he was not", again, hangs eerily in the air - i think she half expects him to come back for them. (insert ghostly pipe organ music) :D

George said...

K, that was great it has that dark grey, medieval, Twilight Zone feel to it, very nice...


Sarah Hina said...

Wow! This one sincerely gave me chills. And funnily enough, made me smile. I just loved the different take from you, K.

The parentheticals were particularly great additions. Impeccable details and voices.

The dark, grainy, walnut hands that made
him who he was and who he was not?

I think that was my favorite line. Who we are not is often the rub in life, no more so than here.

The perfect October poem, K! I, for one, would not go anywhere near that shoebox. ;)

Vesper said...

Kaye, this is a fantastic poem, entirely to my liking... I love its surreal feel and the black humour. Excellent! A tale to haunt you on chilly October nights...

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Joaquin - hahaa...definitely pipe organ music! My oldest sister once reprimanded me for writing weird, strange, somber, or sad poetry by saying, "I just don't understand it. You are a very nice person - happy in life, bright, you teach school, have a wonderful husband and are blessed with four children who are so good. Why, oh why, do you write such things?" I just said, "You have answered your own question, sister."

Isn't it fun to create the dark and bizarre. I am always drawn to it in one way or another.

Thanks for pointing out lines and images that you are particularly drawn to. Glad you liked it. ;)

Hey George - real good to see you, friend. Thanks for the nice comment! I'll be over to see what's happening over at your place.

Sarah - thanks a million. I know what you mean...I really don't think that I would want to look in that shoe box either. I can just imagine the hands crawling out of the box and tightening around the mother's neck as she lies sleeping in her if he blames her for all his ills and is taking revenge... hmmmm...maybe I could get a little more mileage out of this one. Thanks!

Vesper - glad you mentioned the black humor. I sort of knew you might like this one. It is always so fun to write these scary little snippets. Thank you! :D

Catvibe said...

Oooh, how fun and halloweenish! I agree with Rick, at first I thought the mother's teeth were where the wood went! But I love that they are under the bed too, I think I would NOT want to find those however. SCARY! :-)

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Cat - thanks so much. Yeah...I don't think anyone wants to open up THAT box! :0

S.L. Corsua said...

Those lines in parentheses really do up the scare factor. The one in the second stanza, in particular (mentioning Elaine), made me want to know what karma had in store for those hands. Which then made the ending much more of a thriller, to me, the last image a symbol of a sequel of evil.

Gave me shivers. Brrr. ;)

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Hi, S.L. - I think he got what was coming to for the hands...who knows where they ended up or in whose hands the hands are now???????? lol ;)

Thanks so much for coming by!Always a pleasure to see you here.

Billy said...

Your poetry is amazing--each and every poem--and this is another testament.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Hi Billy - You are always so very kind and supportive. Thanks for coming back into the older poems to read them and comment. That means a lot to me!