Full.

“I’m full of good ideas,” I told him,
“Full of something,” he promptly said,
And he was right: there’s always more
Than just bright ideas in my head.

Vivid memories stream on a cinema screen,
To a soundtrack of favourite songs,
A maple tree full of autumn leaves
So my heart can visit where it belongs.
There’s a flowing river of storylines
And a deep well of imagery,
A box full of timely lessons, hard learned,
And useful facts from world history.
The walls are lined with shelves of books
And pictures of beloved faces,
There’s a graveyard to visit with those who have passed
And doorways to favourite places.

And right at the back, where no-one can see,
In the darkest part of my brain,
There’s a very deep hole where I throw away
Things I don’t want to think of again.

©2018 Joanne Van Leerdam

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Contaminus.

No-one ever told her that it was possible to inhale a demon.

It slipped in unnoticed as she breathed deeply before a sigh, sitting beside the old man’s bed in the emergency room and distracted by the low moans coming from her father, who was aware of little other than the pain in his abdomen that had brought them both here.

She remained unaware of its presence as it journeyed through her bloodstream for a day or so, exploring the richly varied scenery and checking out the best locations for a comfortable residence. The heart was nice, and her brain was most entertaining, but this demon knew what it was looking for: a new home with plenty of warmth, feasting and entertainment without having to work too hard for any of it.

Contaminus’ last host had been hard work: an overly religious lady of eighty-three years of age who lived on wholemeal toast and ‘nice cups of tea’, and rarely had naughty thoughts. She had never really given him anything other than challenges and disappointment. When she finally gave up the ghost in the lonely cubicle of the emergency room where she had lain waiting for a doctor to tell her why she couldn’t breathe, he found it difficult to tell the difference except for the sudden drop in temperature.

This one, though, seemed rather fun. Her thoughts and her laughter at irreverent things attracted him as strongly as if she were directly flirting with him, and her soft curves were evidence of an appreciation of the finer things in life.

Just as he ventured into her throat, she gave a hearty chuckle in response to something written on the screen in front of her. Oh, that felt incredible. Inappropriate laughter rippling over his skin always put such a delicious kink in his tail. He scanned her senses and grinned with delight at the realisation that she was writing the very thing that made her laugh so. Oh yes, she would do very nicely. The throat, it was.

When she laughed again, he found himself unable to keep from rubbing against those sensitive, silky folds of her larynx before latching onto them with his razor-sharp talons that curled deep into the membranes and the flesh that lay beneath them. He lingered there, luxuriating in the sensuous vibrations while injecting his venom into her flesh, his hellish breath turning her pinkness as dark red as his lust. He licked her vocal chords with long, self-indulgent strokes of his rough tongue, his mind dizzy with infatuation and greed.

She swallowed tenderly and reached for a glass of water. Each mouthful brought only momentary relief before the vicious pinpricks of flame that he had sown flickered back to life and grew into tongues of rage, white hot and inquisitive, that reached up into her brain, clawing at her thoughts and robbing her of sense and faculty. All she knew now was throbbing and confusion. She swallowed some pills with another glass of water, shut down her computer, and went to bed.

Contaminus was not to be so easily dissuaded. While she dozed on and off, restless and feverish, his barbed tail thrashed and flicked, dripping its sweat into her lungs. Acidic toxins spotted her trachea like a sulphuric pox, festering into swollen, pus-laden boils from which caustic bile erupted. Her breathing became labored as her lungs frothed and bubbled inside her heaving ribs, crackling and hissing audible messages of warning to any other homeless fiend of hell that this one was already occupied.

She woke in the pitch black hours of early morning with her throat on fire and her tongue feeling thick and swollen. She reached for water, but each sip burned, bringing no relief to her parched gullet. She grunted, then coughed, but was unable to clear her throat. Unable to remember swallowing a football but strangely certain that she had, and in too much discomfort to consider the implausibility of such a thing, she reached for her water bottle again.

With every effort she made to cough or to swallow, Contaminus extended his razor-sharp talons deeper into the muscles that constricted around him, clinging to his new home with intensely possessive determination and driving his venom more furiously into her deliciously submissive bloodstream so that it coursed wildly through her veins, stiffening her joints and weighing down her limbs until they would no longer comply with her will to move or bend.

Her pulse throbbed in her body and pounded in her skull, a steady bass-beat of pain that swelled into a crescendo of agony when she tried to lift her head. Heat and sweat swirled around her as day and night turned to murky grey in the centrifuge of her senses, an all-consuming vortex that sucked the life essence from her and left her unable to think of anything but the flashing of garish coloured lights behind her eyelids and the nauseating discotheque soundtrack that swished in her ears and sent her thoughts askew.

He gloried in the rising heat of his new conquest as waves of pulse and flame and sweet, salty sweat surged in response to his ministrations. Her moans urged him on, vibrating against his libido, translating themselves in his mind into a maddening, irresistible song of surrender and consummation. Her blood intoxicated him, swirling in his senses and inciting an urgent, infernal desire to possess her, stronger than anything he had known in centuries.

Oh, she was his, and his possession of her must be absolute. He swelled with pride and lust, rocking in time with her feverish contortions, frenzied and immediate in his consumption of such a delectable, lascivious sweeting. He arched his back and shook as his full force burst within her, ravaging her with all the heat and fury he could summon.

She collapsed as the fever reached its climax, exhausted and delirious. Her unfocused senses perceived the presence of another person, a dark, obscure figure standing over her, observing her situation. Had the Reaper waited so long? Still, she would welcome him now, and gladly yield to that fate if it meant release from this infernal agony. She opened her mouth to call out to him, but she could not speak; she tried to reach out to the Cloaked One, to welcome him, perhaps even just to touch the hem of his cloak as though that might be enough to end her suffering, but her arms remained paralysed by the venom that had rendered her unable to resist the force of Contaminus’ will.

The hooded figure loomed over her, murmuring in what might have been Latin or Hell’s own language for all she knew. Contaminus shuddered when certain phrases were spoken, and recoiled, repulsed and resentful, when the Cloaked One produced a collection of small, brown-glass bottles of powders and foul-smelling potions and placed them on the nightstand by her bed.

Keenly observant and perceptive as all demons are, Contaminus could sense and smell each one even though the stoppers of those little,jars had not yet been removed. He knew it would be easier to just let go and escape while he had the opportunity, but he didn’t want to leave her. She had brought him so much pleasure, such intense satisfaction. He had worked so hard to make her his own, to bend her to his will, he grew angry at the thought of relinquishing his claim on her.

No! Damn that Cloaked One and his magic! Contaminus would utter incantations of his own, resist the garlic and the feverfew, and use all his power to withstand the anise and willow bark in those damned potions, just to keep her as his own. He curled his talons deeper into her raw and bleeding flesh, embedded the barbs of his tail into her lungs, and roared with fire and vitriol as the Cloaked One administered one potion, then another, that burned right to the core of Contaminus’ being. Still, he managed to hang on tightly enough to avoid immediate eviction, and as his pain eased slightly, he barked with defiance at the Cloaked One and his pathetic attempts at medicinal exorcism.

Yet his nemesis bent over her still, blending powders before gently blowing them up her nose with a small glass straw, and releasing droplets of yet another potion under her tongue. This new concoction made his claws ache and his head spin, and he felt his grip weakening as another finely blended dust up her nose sent her into a paroxysm of coughing and choking that dislodged his tail and almost cast him out through her mouth, but for the talons of his right claw that remained hooked in the torn and jagged flash of her throat.

Bent over, unable to resist the desire to cough and purge herself of the parasite within, she retched and gagged violently while Contaminus fought to resist the power of the Cloaked One’s spells until he could cling to her no more.

Then he was flying and tumbling and hurtling away from her and away from the hideous powders and infusions of the Cloaked One. The indignity of his expulsion was profound, and although her blood was now tainted and somewhat distasteful to him, Contaminus felt an extraordinary sense of loss at being so meanly cast out of his most exquisite prize.

He swung around to look at her one last time, and in that motion of turning, his tail lashed out and struck her in the spine.

Contaminus indulged in a sadistic smile at the sight of her lying there, crumpled and broken, screaming in agony as the barbed end of his tail tore her flesh open and set her nerves alight with a new, relentless fire. No, he couldn’t have her forever, but she would never forget him, for even if the memory of their time together was distorted or grew hazy over time, she would always carry a scar on her back as an indelible reminder of his parting gesture.

Standing by her bedside, the Cloaked One sighed and shook his head, stoppered his little brown bottles, and summoned a wagon to bear her to another more capable healer.

And still she screamed, begging again for the Reaper to carry her away.

©2018 Joanne Van Leerdam

If you enjoyed this story, find more like it in Lac Du Mort and Other Stories.

Belly Ache.

Belly Ache

“Ohhh, it hurts.” He squirmed on his bed, gently rubbing his belly with his hands.

“Does it?” She sat on the edge of the bed and patted his arm.

“Yeah. Here… and here.”

“That’s no good.” She laid her hand on his slightly distended abdomen, finding it firm and warm to the touch. She could feel his muscles contracting as his intestines roiled and gurgled underneath her palm.

“And I’m hot.”

“Yes, I can feel that.”

“I want it to stop hurting.”

“I know. It will, soon,” she said, suppressing a wry, satisfied smile as she looked at her watch.

 

 

©2018 Joanne Van Leerdam

Suffocating.

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Buried alive,
Imprisoned within the neat and tidy box
In which they have placed her,
Made from others’ expectations
And varnished with a heavy layer
Of not-quite transparent judgement,
She pounds against the deaf, unfeeling walls,
Scratching and kicking in desperate rage
Until her nails split and fingers bleed with frustration.
Suffocating, her lungs burn
As her mind seethes,
Both frantic for air and freedom.
Yet her cries go unheeded,
Smothered by at least six feet of
Accumulated assumptions and apathy
That both conceal the unmarked grave
And silence the sound of her fury.

©2018 Joanne Van Leerdam

Read my reflection about my reasons for writing this poem in my blog post, ‘Square Peg, Round Hole’.

The Shadow.

ShadowThe child skipped down the sidewalk, laughing as she landed on her shadow. She began to stomp, landing her feet harder with each step.
Then, without warning, long shadowy fingers wrapped around her right foot while another dark, translucent hand reached through the pavement for her left. She tried to keep it in the air for as long as possible until, overbalancing, she fell to her hands and knees. As spindly, shady fingers swiftly grabbed each limb and pulled her down into the ground, her shadow leapt up, stomped hard with both feet until she disappeared, and laughed as it skipped away.

©2018 Joanne Van Leerdam

Sledgehammer.

2018-09-07 11.28.42

 

I no longer fear you
Nor the damage you threaten.
Having already endured the fire
My bricks are harder than your anger.
I am rebuilding, stone by stone,
All that you almost destroyed,
And those strong walls
Will keep you out.

©2018 Joanne Van Leerdam

 

 

 

Read some of the poet’s thoughts about this poem.

Flash Friday: Not Safe.

Not Safejpg

 

At 2.39pm, Caroline finally found an opportunity to escape from her desk as nature had been urging her to do for the past hour.

The only cubicle free was the last in the row, where a sign on the door read, “Not safe for use.”

“Don’t care!” she muttered.

She sat, then recoiled, certain something had touched her buttock. Before she could stand, cold fingers took firm hold of her like a bowling ball and pulled her into the bowl.

And the sensor on the auto-flush winked with satisfaction as it surveyed the empty stall with a locked door. Again.

Candle.

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An ill wind blows:
The flame shivers,
Yet she persists.
Her soul burns on,
Brighter than before,
Indignant, defiant,
Fuelled by that very breath
That hoped to extinguish her life.
The steady, constant light she gives
Illuminates the place in which she stands
And the surly disappointment on
The face of the cold and bitter wind.

ⓒ2018 Joanne Van Leerdam

Holding My Tongue.

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Someone told me this morning
That I should hold my tongue,
So I’ve taken heed of the warning
Using my forefinger and thumb.
It’s really quite uncomfortable
And swallowing is tricky,
My hand is covered in dribble
And it’s getting kind of sticky.
It’s difficult to talk much
So I have to grunt a lot,
In all my life, I’ve not seen such
Dirty looks as those I’ve got.
I’m sure it wasn’t good advice,
And suspect I’ve been misled:
I wonder if it would suffice
If I just shut up instead.

©2017 Joanne Van Leerdam

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