a true horror poem


The Siege of Caffa. Crimea, 1346

The stench of these latest victims

flies far beyond the power of words

but soon they will be gone. Even now

you can hear the catapults straining,

the taut ropes twanging ever tighter

as the corpses are loaded for shooting,

arms and legs locked in twisted dances

and now – there! – they sail right over the walls

like leaping fairground dolls then land

with drumbeats of thumping finality

somewhere among the stubborn enemy

and silent disease begins its work.

The ones outside have eaten mud for months

and now this coal-black plague harvests them like wheat.

Raw winter has made its own demands,

its icy hand dragging the failing sun

a little lower every day and hunger

squeezes till your bones stick out like broken sticks.

The ones inside could end this with a word

but they prefer to hear death’s steady roar

made hoarse and dull from over-use,

so let them taste the bitter pestilence.

Published in Allegro

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