I’ve Been Unwell

A Horror Poem

Tatania Lapina – Unsplash


Outside my

Home of wood and pealing paint,

Half a sky-blue colour, half… not

Behind unloved pickets once white

Now a pale washed barricade that

Halts the garden weeds’ escape.

Six throttled roses gasp for breath


Only their scrawny thorned throats remain

The weather boards peel along hairline splits

Come unsprung

Leaving gaps for the fat rats to squeeze their

Hairy bodies and naked pink snake tails

Into those dark small spaces

Only rats can reach.

They snuggle in against the wall behind my bedhead

Their moving brushing fur noise is profoundly unsettling

Almost as bad as their continuous gnawing

Their pointy little teeth on wood—gnawing hard at the wall struts

Blackboard nail scrapes along my already stripped out nerves

Who can sleep with rodents perched so close behind my head?


I pull a pillow over my face and stuff it over my ears

Hope the toothy random scratching will cease

Truth be told,

I a not well, ill I am

And I can’t breath under this coarse ivory pillow case,



I plop my damp haired head back on the pillow

Hold up one clammy hand

It’s so pallid, is it mine?

I see the finger bones in x-ray

The rats have ceased their infernal chewing their way

Into my bedroom, thank god

I listen hard can’t hear them, only

The whistling wires inside my head of neurones misfiring

My brain-case lit up by light-speed neutrinos

The white-hot streaks zip right through me


As I may have said (but cannot remember)

I have some bad illness

In my darkened room I lie abed

The breathful puffing out of the nervous curtains

Over the low-light window sill

Flaps irregular ominous rust shapes

Onto the bedroom’s water-stained wall

I watch the creepy shadows shift

In the dim corners; the ghostly parade grows and

Fades from my sweating brow and

Its outlandish chimeric fancies


Again that sound

That weasel-gouging of wood grounds

I lift my brows an inch, listening

(Surely they’ll bore through)

But can’t hold my too large head up

And drop it back into the dent of my leprous pillow

I imagine my foreshortened self under the covers

An Uccello perhaps, the slaughtered soldiers and broken spars

All lying in perfect perspective

My body lies as straight too

My arms and weak fingers by my side

Under the antique parchment ceiling

Higher than the last time I stared


I clamp my eyes shut fast,

Feel timidly for the water glass

Fingers wrap around the cold familiar form—

I flub it over!

For god’s sake! the liquid slides across the little table

Dribbles over the edge onto the threadless carpet

The glass keeps rolling too

It falls slow motion

And clonks onto the floor, bounces stops

Too far away for me to bother fetching


I watch the ceiling (now it seems much closer),

The dark corner stain overhead—it always looked bad,

A charcoal scape spread wide and

A too long inhuman head looming

I shudder, tense up,

Again the rats scratching fur body brushing

The wallpaper wall sounds thin as tissue

I slide my body further away to the foot of the bed

A poorly corpse I feel

A shivery heat rushes up my backbone

But my feet are cold—I don’t feel my toes


If the rats break through I’ll just lie still

Their grey hairy bodies and little animal claws

Might ignore me

They’ll plop out one by one

Fall on my bed around my head

The oily creatures

I can almost feel them brush my cheeks

Nuzzle pink wiggling noses at my neck

Scuttle onto my chest, searching

For food that’s soft and close and warm

Probing beneath the sheets with little hooked hands


I am hot and fever-struck—I whisper:

There are no rats

Yet I hear them—earwigs drilling into my brain

The sodden sheets stick to my body

I lie embalmed on a slab

Swaddled in linen bands behind the round stone

Hold my breath and risk a peek at the evil shape above

It is nearer, hovering over me,

I feel a rancorous breath on my face and turn aside

But the bruised smell of decay I can’t escape


I close my eyes, stop my ears, take a shallow breath—anything

To avoid that horror smell, the effluvium of Dante’s circles

Lie very still, hold one small breath,

I hear a profound silence for a second, two

Before the sawing gnawing starts anew

Could even be in the back of my head

Maybe they’re through

On my pillow already, waiting


I take a tight breath hitched through a blocked tea strainer

It snags, stuck in my throat that pathetic packet—

I need more air, my lungs hardly expand

The little thin air

Passes slowly over my cold lips, not much

I wheeze out the tiny gasp of oxygen

Wouldn’t keep a rat alive for long


I lie abed in my accursed shroud

If anybody comes and the rats get out

A skeleton they’ll find, they

Might wonder how I died

How I was whittled down


The wallpaper by my head tears open

The rats, I knew they’d come

The black cloak enfolds me as I breathe out

Then try hard to draw in air, but there’s none

I lie straight and still one last time

I’ve been sick

The Forest’s Secrets

The houses stop at the end of the block.
I step down from the concrete slab
Follow the narrow path hemmed in by tall grass that
Brushes my trousers wet as I walk easily past

A dark forest stands astride my way
There’s no going round – need I be afraid?
Déjà vu flickers —
An ancestor shard of traitor Loki’s kind?and slips from my grasp

Wind quietly whispers through the branches and
A hushing murmurous song sounds from the myriad leaves
I stop to listen…
I can’t quite catch the sighing tune
The tree trunks stuck deep into the rich brown earth
Ivy tendrils creep over their round muscly roots

I must go through – that is my way
I sense a gladness in the woods
A siren calls to me: come caper play
A few quick steps into the shadows
Brings me to the wooden gateway

I shoulder a way past the coarse bark sentinels
Their eye-knots stare blankly at my back
Leaves and limbs crowd in
The gloaming light fades to murk
I dodge further along the grey trail
Which wends and curves through the dinge
Feeds me into a green-filled vale

Grey stones poke up like teeth: little graves
Studded all round the mossy bowl
Wreaths of coal-black lilacs slip me a silvery grin
Nodding purple irises open and close

Black plumes pour themselves into the glade
I look in every direction turning
My compass needle spins crazily, settles neither this way or that
I hear close by:
Foxes treading softly over dead leaves
The wolves that snicker, and
The damned black rooks that mutter
Further away:
Mythic beasts burble and bellow
Their echoless babel-calls
(they belong to the other)
Fall down lost
In the soil of the wooden labyrinth

I’m stunned. Dare not move
Or take one step; held in place by the boggy ground
(I close my eyelids but still I can see.
I try to push out the spell-struck glister of
the giddy shadowland)
My pale arm and hand feels my taut chest wall with
Its ongoing heart-thud inside

My eyes flick open, searching
There must a clue, some simple sign
Glowing phantom tracks or gingerbread crumbs

I pull and hitch a ride on
Ariadne’s wool, a glimmer of thread left to lead me out
Away from the half-human bulls
The black smokey Furies: the trio
Hound me with their god-proclaimed rules,
Make me stumble onto all fours
My hands clutch at moss dirt twigs
But I feel in my soul the godless timour
Of my fear: the barks and groans
My panic at the shrieks and groans
The woollen thread breaks apart in my hands

The Woods pull at my hair,
Slips inside my clothes
A frigid plucking at my skin, my ribs now bare
To its fossicking fiddling which jabs in and grabs my heart
Turns it over, a cursory interrogation of the rusty depths of my life
I shudder, hold my breath,
(I cannot abide that faraway cackling)
While my still pumping heart’s held
Casually in the raven’s bloody claw.
The chasm in my chest
Waits empty and lifeless,
My skin shrinking tightly over
Exposed bones, so ivory-white, so scarified and worn
The Raven King catches my eye, lifts my red heart
Then plunges it back into my whole
Smirks its toothless grin and points a blood-red talon
That way.

I pat down my thin beggar’s clothes and
Force my stiffened legs to move
I walk, then run pellmell
From the leering Raven and
Its daemon-linked world,

Closed in by the gloom
I race past the night-frighteners
Trace the snick snapping near my ears,
Of splintered bones and obsidian spears, of
A thousand year gone soldiers’ remains
Those who squashed metal helms,
Shattered unbreakable shields and
Scythed down all who stood to gain:
A scattered chessboard of murder
Stretches across a roan-red plain
I touch the filmy smoke of the martial deeds
Their savage spirits buried deep under ground

I flee heedless of the branches clutching and
Scritching against my thin skin
Press on through the drowning wave of ancestor memories
(please don’t go… haha hahe)
Behind me chortling laughter curls
Then suddenly the plucking fingers
Let me go.
The forest pushes me out

Into daylight, the grass,
I clutch handfuls of the precious green
Lie breathing face down
Smell our sun and the open air
Freed from the black-hearted conjuring
Of the Woods

I swear to my quivering body –
My lips touch the spiky arrows of grass whisper:
Never again tread that loathsome path
That shortcut’s not worth taking:
My horror at the labyrinthine fright-fest
Snagged and torn in that dark-star cosmos
Of the Forest’s domain
Still strains my heart