Monday, October 12, 2015
All Hallows Eve by David Lewis Paget
All Hallows Eve
They’d painted a cross on the door outside
To keep the devil at bay,
While Ann took care of the soul cakes that
She’d baked in a shallow tray,
The Jack O’ Lanterns sat in a row
On a shelf to await reprieve,
As darkness fell on the House of Hell
At the last All Hallows Eve.
They’d whisked the wandering spirits out
With a witches broom of straw,
And placed a basin of milk outside
So they wouldn’t come through the door.
The dead could re-visit their homes that night
At that one grim time of the year,
So they set the table, an extra place
Should the shade of a ghost appear.
Across the road was a cemetery
To which John would haste away,
And light a candle on every grave
To keep the dead at bay,
He placed a dozen on ‘Hammer Jack’
As the murderer was known,
Who’d hung in chains through a drought and rains
Til at last, his dust had flown.
But John had a muttered confession as
He lit up the candles there,
‘I didn’t mean you to hang, old man,
But I was beyond despair.
When somebody pointed the finger, I
Was only relieved to see,
That though I murdered my mother, still,
It wasn’t pointing at me!’
He staggered back to the house and stood
To watch his woman, Ann,
He’d often thought to confess, but then
It’s not that she’d understand.
He’d only done it for her, he thought,
His mother was grim and old,
And threatened that she would put him out,
And Ann, out there in the cold.
Jack, an itinerant laborer
From a cottage across the way,
Had liked his mother and visited her
When the deed was done that day,
There was blood on his fraying overalls
And blood on his front and back,
When he staggered out of the house, some say,
So they blamed him for the attack.
When John lit the Jack O’ Lanterns he
Then placed them out in the yard,
Hoping that they would fend them off,
The ghouls from the devil’s guard,
But just on the stroke of midnight
He grew pale at a distant howl,
From out in the moonlit cemetery,
Though Ann said, ‘It’s an owl!’
But then came the long and heavy tread
Of a pair of boots he knew,
Sounding on the veranda, while
The door had opened, too,
And standing there in the doorway
Was a dead man with a list,
A Jack O’ Lantern sat on his head,
And a hammer in his fist.
Ann was crouched in a corner when
The police arrived, first light,
She babbled about some ‘Hammer Jack’,
Was right off her head with fright.
And blood was spattered on every wall
From John, who lay where he fell,
While ‘Hammer Jack’ was back in his grave,
Was done with the House of Hell!
David Lewis Paget is an Australian Poet, born in the UK but migrated to Australia in 1958. Writing since 1966, predominantly introspective poetry until 2005, then launched into Narrative and Gothic verse. Paget taught English to college students at the Wenzhou Medical College in 2005-6, from which came his Chinese collection. He lives in a Cornish cottage on the Yorke Peninsula, South Australia, retired, but still writing and publishing poetry. A prolific writer whose work has been called addictive by many readers.