Just when the three investigators are feeling close to a breakthrough, de Clieux having established a path to the Celtic daughter, and she beginning to reveal those things unknown to history, to share her language and memories . . .
A mid-air collision between two planes brings three new spirits to the vicinity. Much to the surprise of the host and the guest, the spirits seem making themselves vocal, though these cannot have been captured within the Folly’s marble-decorated chimneypiece. One is the playful and adulterous Lady Gimple; one, the husband of the Spiritualist fellowship’s president, Mrs. Tattersby . . . and one his most vengeful rival in love. 
Complicating the matter is Mrs. Tattersby’s houseguest from America, Miss Harvey, a woman disturbingly self-aware of her mediumship. 

 

Return to Folly Home

 

 


Romans
(one)

We thought they were not men

They, beardless, most, but for their slaves

Vaunted trophies keeping costumed show

That in all weathers tell their vanquished homes

Came by war-engine attended

Came regaliaed steed, foreguard of chariot

Wheeled cage of sacrificial beast

Gentled by their magic; all these mounted ones,

Their faces red-scorched by their foreign sun

That we, beneath our clouds, did palely gaze upon

The marching men in their stepping ranks

The drums

Shields they bore, dressed in gold and silver

Their tents amassed behind the waters

Banners staked, that our eyes would see

Stories told

Of burning men on cross-braced pillars

Conquered foes

You see, M. de Clieux…though I have set my mind

To learn the English speech

A picture and a pointing hand tell much

Our father, Dodtha, met his chiefs in council…

 

“Pardon.” He lifts his pencil.

“Father of your blood, or tribe…and do you give a name

Or title…?”

“Awful news!” The guest arrives. He sees de Clieux dismayed.

“Ah! You’d found her. I apologize. But had you heard

about the aeroplanes?”

As is the habit with enthusiasts

The host and guest come bustling in confabulation

Collision in mid-air, but did you hear

The witness swears one plane had seemed to veer…

To yaw—ahem—I think that is the term

Woman pilot, three thought deceased…

Blethering, who comes to do the place

And serve the lunch

Enters wheeling

Welsh rarebit, onion soup, hot tea

de Clieux breaks off his conversation once again

To Blethering’s eyes, the Frenchman speaks to air

And this is why she will not do the place

Except the host is there

 


Continued from A Conduit . . .

 

A Conduit 
(two)

 

On this day when fire could not be thought of

A sooty pall stains stucco shaded by the mantelpiece

But under this

Winks a brilliant blue and does persistently

…this Morse Code going on since yesterday

Refusing glances dart away

And none feels safe to read the message

Three men chew and meet each other’s eyes

“So,” the guest begins, and drains his teacup.

“Can this be a sort of ghostly nova? Why have I dreamed it

all night long? Ever since the rains…and I don’t care figs

for aeroplanes. I loathe the infernal machines.”

The host says, “We know it already, pictured scenes

are their speech, a means of it. You postulate a conduit,

a new way opened by our probings.

I fear we have a monograph to write.”

“Awkward,” sighs the guest. “I believe Lady Gimple,

the late aviatrix, was co-respondent in Mrs. Tattersby’s

divorce.”

“Naturally enough. Tattersby himself must be the third.

I don’t suppose they’ve said.”

“Not by today’s Advertiser.”

“No means,” de Clieux puts in, “of identification.”

 

My dear madam,

I feel I would have been remiss in my duties, as Secretary of Phenomena, not to have called this to your attention. It was on account of your having a houseguest, that (as I’d recalled) you’d written to postpone our walking party. I found the letter and read it through twice, to make certain of the particulars. Indeed, the weather seems (here, I should like to make a pun between incline and inclement, and can’t seem to do it) to forbid our climbing Wisham’s Hill. Our glasses are unlikely to descry anything promising about the lay of the land, in this pernicious fog. Perhaps, if Miss Harvey cannot walk any distance, she will enjoy reading my notes, assembled thus far, on the False St. Crispin’s. She is one of us?

 


Continued from Swallowtail . . .

 

Swallowtail
(three)

 

You’ve never sat, doing your work

…if you had been me, on a stool upstairs

Made dumb by the green walls of Lippard’s laboratory

Looking down, as directed, through the lens

at the wing he’d razored along the vein

Some of the colors are not pigments, you know

Only reflections of light

He hated girls to be romantic

Wanted me in a purely clinical sense

To pin the specimen, wearing magnifying goggles

With the scalpel’s point, slice the abdomen

I wouldn’t love the butterfly and make a life for it in fancy

Like a woman

I would understand

It was a creature of component parts

M. de Clieux, Miss Harvey says

I waited for him on the blanket

With the box lunch and my pocket sketchbook

You’ve never sat, doing your work…

And felt insurrection mark you

A flying squadron circle you, the enemy

Hem you round, knock you in the eye

Drop into your tea, buzz with a chill obscenity

Fall into your bodice

De Clieux feels this living woman, matter of fact in madness

Infects him, makes his intimate adulation of a ghost

as menacing as the insurgent swallowtail

 


Continued from The Lay of the Land . . .

 

The Lay of the Land
(four)

 

“I imagine…I will not say admit…the possibility of cordial relations—

You see what he’s done here.”

The tenant of Wisham’s Hill Cottage

has got the field gate closed to traffic

For good, more or less…for the time being

Put a sinister trip-wire run through a boundary stone

“He ought not to have made that hole,” Mrs. Tattersby,

as she braces her rabbit-gun and takes a bead

Remarks acerbically to the host

“That post is in charge of the Council.”

The spaniel has got herself over

At the loss of a tuft of hair

The terrier is perched with its paws up

And Dougal says, through gritted teeth

“Look there!”

The local youth are pleased to trespass

Couldn’t care

There goes a lad and his girl with their cameras

The black, flattened tillage spans a swath so much larger

Than the bodies of two small planes

Metal parts rise

scrubbed shining by the rains

And Dougal’s face is red with a much-resented gallantry

He thinks there must be parts of Tattersby

Burned in the earth

Knows these young rapscallions think so too, and hope it

Taking photographs, trying to carry things away

And the wife can stand like that, and scorn him

“We’d arranged our business before all this, Mr. Inskip. We shan’t be looking

that direction.”

 


Continued from Familiar . . .

 

Familiar
(five)

 

All these ordinary things are giving way

Times of late, like the dead wrapped in their winding sheets

Familiar in outline still

But disintegrating into melt and worm beneath

He feels infected with the guest’s unhappy mood

Uses the word, not having spoken with de Clieux

He thinks the time is now to broach disturbance

The time is near…the time grown urgent

He gazes at the sky to hold this in

“They’re loose,” he murmurs

 

Faithful Inskip won’t go home

His housekeeper is waving far below

A duster like a signal-flag, up and down

Her smock a sack of ticking in the door frame

“Bugger the woman,” he shockingly says

But too, under his breath, and moves

Again without manners, brusquely pushing through

to catch Mrs. Tattersby

And though the host would have said she never will

She needs poor Dougal’s help

She gives a scream

A shallow skin of humus girds the summit

A clayey baste of tufted grass and pine straw

Here hundreds of white butterflies or moths

Have risen and still rise

Her face cannot be seen

Her garments seethe

 


Continued from As Lightning Might . . .

 

As Lightning Might
(six)

 

Their leader is not unwell. No, not harmed.

Please leave off, dear.

Curious, no more. A nuisance.

Please don’t trouble.

All over now.

When she’d shaken out her jacket

One flew a spiral

And died in the fire

Its wings by then had…

caked away, he somehow thinks

As a butterfly’s broken will do

The scales, would it be the scales

He could ask and she would tell

He wants to leave Miss Harvey…any house that holds her

At this moment, and not hate her

For scintillating so

“It’s me,” she says. “It’s me, being here. They know.”

 

De Clieux, pushing currents against the thickness

Tells himself it’s air we blunder through

Air is not nothing

We breathe lethargy and move like swimmers

This countryside this moment pulling down the clouds

Strikes him thus, as lightning might

Our eyes can’t see, but it will burst its bounds

He had wanted an aimless walk alone

He asks his friend, who has trailed behind

To prow away the silence with chatter

Explain what it was about the chapel

 

The false St. Crispin’s

“Well, you know. We have records to the twelfth century.

So it had been assumed there was only one. Of course, that would be

typically the way of it…fire, or invasion, or plague, would

rend to ruin the old edifice

They would rebuild on the same spot

De Clieux, if you’ll climb with me to the top

Of Wisham’s Hill, we’ll arrive just at dusk

I believe it’s safe.”

 


Continued from Dougal Inskip’s Lonely Vigil . . .

 

 

Dougal Inskip’s Lonely Vigil
(seven)

 

When she had been Fiona Medwin

Long about the jaw, but fair enough to a man

Content to break even on a steady-goer

No desire for a flash in the pan

Women, though, Dougal says to himself

Flash will get them, even the sensible ones

Ought she to burn a torch for Tattersby

Useless git to let a butterfly flatter him

. . . Lady Gimple, not a proper title either

Always the fly-boys with that one

(by reputation)

 

He has trodden the beckoning path

Wisham’s Hill Cottage to the Folly’s gate

He has no pretext for passing beyond

She won’t thole it, won’t take it as a caring friend’s

Solicitude

Tear another strip, more like . . . say to him again, not

Thank you, dear (you are so good to me)

But, Dougal, are you mad?

 

And at once, the light goes out

“You must be mad, I swear you are!

Look at you, Mr. Inskip, preening on the inside!

Did she call you Dougal, you poor lamb? How starved you are!

And what a meagre banquet the old girl provides.

How dare you, while we’re at it, say my title’s not a proper one?

Because poor Reggie got his for flying a blimp over the channel?

Ah, poor Reggie! He has truly gone down to the sea.

We’ll never know if his soul washes up on some Froggie beach.”

 

Light laughter. Dougal, meanwhile, struggles,

bending double, dancing foot to foot.

She has taken impish hands from his eyes,

And got him by the arms . . .  round the ankles.

He is painfully aware he looks a fool,

Wrestling the invisible.

At last he dares to whisper, “Lady Gimple . . . ”

 


Continued from Edwytha’s Plait

 

Edwytha’s Plait

 

Terror, when it comes, warms the night

Fallen close and hard of breath

like a parachute’s muffling silk and chill

Night

Borne opaque the face of pity

Mirrored in the watcher’s eye

The plain below

Sinking to the cataract

Emerging hidden under rock

Mimicking Edwytha’s plait

The waters keen

And he has never known this name

 

For since the Celtic daughter’s hour

They have not called it so

They throng

Crania lift hollow sockets, smile

Sadly aware

They are death’s heads void of nuance

Smile of all the world’s news

A rational man, de Clieux tells his companion

Would call this fog

Have you really left your bed to join me?

Miss Harvey says, for this time

 

That was my great disappointment . . . it has been

So many, but Edwytha does not come

When the sun was high yet, before the warning clouds

Before the settlling mists had veiled her iron locks

You’d seen her forged there, giantess laid low

Long ribboned tresses bound in woven stone

Edwytha’s resting place, our spirit home

I, monsieur, too much a goddess from the cradle

Not to dream of honour, how I’d fly

The day I’d won a guardian’s grave

And mounted to the sky

 

The council first resolved

To bargain with our poverty of gold

Yea, this, we give in tribute, Romans!

All we have

My brothers, each with ceremony draws the silver brooch

From his cloak, and from his hair

Ceremony

That for this solemnity our enemy suppose

We yield before their potent Jupiter

We bury our own

 

 

(Copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster)

 

 

 

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