The Domestication of Ghosts

Hilsea Light

After yesterday’s rant about HS2 I thought it about time I added a new poem. This fits in quite nicely as a follow-on post, as it has an environmental theme to it. It also ties in with #FolkloreThursday , as was the case with my post last Thursday about Stinking Cleg, a Portsmouth ghost.

This poem references many of the Black Dog myths of Britain, and one that is green ( the Cu-Sith or fairy dog of Scottish & Irish folklore). It’s good fun to read as a performance piece on a wet and windy autumn or winter night. Of course the poem has another message, that we are never that far from the past, no matter how contemporary and ‘civilized’ our society seems, and long-term any battle between nature and man will only be won by one side, and that isn’t us!

Anyway, the poem.

The Domestication of Ghosts

Back then, all this was forest.
A time when shadows had names;
Barguest, Black Shuck, Yell Hound.
We revered them, feared them,
we knew their teeth were real.

Barricade doors, huddle close,
fires spit sparks against the dark.
Church Grim, Gwyllgi, Gyrath;
shape-shifting ghosts in mist
these long dank nights of fear.

Red eyes the size of saucers,
soft-padding through untamed land.
Moddey Dhoo, Skirker, Capelthwaite;
at crossroads on unmarked lanes,
portents of early death.

Now names have lost all power,
shadows softened in sodium.
Padfoot, Gabble Retchets, Cu Sith
no more now than distant words,
just static on a screen.

But one day will come a storm,
your dog will howl all night,
the spectral hounds of Annwn
will shiver down your spine,
you’ll feel their teeth are real.

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