It was only the shape of the mushroom cloud
That gave the game away,
It’s not that we weren’t expecting it,
It could happen any day,
But when it came on a Sunday as
We all trooped out of church,
We wondered, where was the Saviour,
Had he left us in the lurch?
By chance, the missile had missed the town
Fell thirty miles away,
Up in the distant ranges
In the vineyards of Cathay,
So much for the vintage of Semillon
I thought, with barely a frown,
Will anyone miss it once we’ve gone
And scorched that fertile ground?
It’s strange, with imminent death you feel
So suddenly detached,
Go in, and shelter from scorching heat
And shards of broken glass,
That’s all there was with the Cathay bomb
It fell so far away,
I looked at Jean and she looked at me
Was this our final day?
The sound came rumbling over the hill,
In a long, unbroken sigh,
I clung to her and she clung to me,
There wasn’t time to cry,
A moment passed and a moment more
And still we stood our ground,
I thought we might get to live some more
While God was looking down.
We’d lost our friends in the vineyards
They’d been vaporised to dust,
Jean said we’d better not think of it,
But I replied we must.
We both were seized with a single urge
As we clawed our way to bed,
And thought we couldn’t be doing this
If both of us were dead.
An eerie glow in the sky that night
Kept all of us awake,
We didn’t know where the bomb was from
Or what more we could take.
A second cloud in a mushroom stew
Rose up, there would be more,
From somewhere else where the evil grew,
The day of the mushroom spore.
David Lewis Paget
Down in the village where I grew up
That sat on the eastern shore,
Viking marauders had once shown up
To raze, to pillage and more.
They cut a swathe through the countryside
And the least that they did was rape,
To leave descendants with flame red hair
From Skorn, to the Widnes Cape.
You’ll see the genes they left in our eyes
That startle you when we stare,
A brighter blue than the summer skies
Will follow you everywhere.
Then some had come to settle and thrive
While the local folk would cower,
They left their mark in the village park
By building a Norman Tower.
I don’t know when they added the clock
It must have been later times,
I only know that as I grew up
I lived my life by its chimes.
It boomed on out through the countryside
Would even sound through the night,
We found it safer to stay inside
Than risk a dying in fright.
The strangest things had happened at night
That seem aligned to its chimes,
When ghostly shapes would gather and fight
Drawn back from previous times.
And men were found by the Norman Tower
Their faces twisted in fear,
Their bodies hacked, stabbed in the back
But the swords were never there.
It almost always happened at ten
And just when the chimes rang out,
I’d lie abed, counting the chimes
And hear a desperate shout.
It got so bad that a friend and I
Decided to hide and see,
We climbed at nine to the top of the tower
To check on the mystery.
We hung on over the parapet
That, castellated in stone,
Would let us view, if anything new
Appeared at the final tone.
The vicar rode outside on his bike
Just as the clock struck ten,
And suddenly there, in front and behind,
An army of fighting men.
They knocked the vicar clean off his bike,
And sliced a sword though his head,
Then hacked and thrust through his mortal dust
To leave him lying there, dead.
My friend cried out, on seeing the blood,
He couldn’t disguise his fear,
While I shrank back, with them looking up,
I said, ‘They’re coming up here.’
He made a dash for the tower stair
Intent on getting back down,
They must have met at the halfway mark,
I found him dead on the ground.
The coroner said that he simply fell,
He wouldn’t listen to me,
He ruled the vicar was murdered in
What seemed was a mystery.
But someone must have listened to me
For shortly, up in the clock,
Somebody wedged the workings tight
With a huge old hickory block.
There hasn’t been but a single chime
From the tower clock since then,
Those ancient hands still stand in a line
At just one minute to ten.
David Lewis Paget
They said that he’d come from the cemetery
And I thought he maybe could,
In his coat with tails, covered in snails
And a cape without a hood,
He looked like a typical gravedigger
There was soil on both his hands,
And on top of that, an old top hat
Held on with rubber bands.
His skin a peculiar shade of grey
Like an old and weathered wood,
His eyes set back, under his hat
Each shot with a ring of blood.
His cheeks were sunken under his eyes
His lips in a rictus grin,
Exposed his teeth in a grin beneath
With some of them fallen in.
His trousers had a military stripe
Were in holes about his knees,
Where he had knelt, with an old grey belt
That suffered from some disease.
His boots had once been a shiny black
But were covered in clumps of mud,
As he stomped in like a burst of sin
From a grave he’d recently dug.
His voice had a curious rasping sound
When he opened his mouth to speak,
With a sort of croak, back in his throat
Or a rusty hinge’s creak.
‘I’ve come to escort the Lady Anne
On her journey, over the Styx,
That river of hate, at Hades gate,
Where she keeps her box of tricks.’
‘I think there’s been a mistake,’ I said,
‘For the Lady Anne is well,
She’s sat in a chair, just over there,
And dreams of heaven, not hell.’
‘Then little you know of the lady’s heart,
Or the object of her dreams,
Her cheating heart would tear you apart,
She’s never been what she seems.’
I went inside to the Lady Anne
And I tried to rouse her there,
But she was pale, and the air was stale
Where she lay dead in her chair.
I turned again to the gravedigger
Who was standing near me still,
‘I’ll take her corpse to the woodland copse
Where her coffin lies over the hill.’
I often visit the grave he dug
Which is edged around with bricks,
And sit beside the babbling stream
That they call the River Styx.
Then I call in vain to the Lady Anne
To reveal what she had done,
And sit and cry as I feel denied
By the love I thought I’d won.
David Lewis Paget
They put me in charge of the churchyard,
And said, ‘mow between the graves,’
The weeds out there were atrocious
Grew in lumps, and clumps and waves,
They tangled up in the mower blades
And they shut the motor down,
So I had to use the garden shears
As I knelt upon the ground.
They covered some of the headstones, so
I had to rake them clear,
Spent half of my time sat reading them,
The date, the time of year,
The ground had given away on some,
Had fallen into a hole,
Wherever the coffin lids had caved
On some benighted soul.
The nights were coming on early so
I laboured into the dark,
Just by the light of a spirit lamp
That I’d borrowed from the park,
At length I came on a sunken grave
And I pulled the weeds aside,
To see the shape of a bony hand,
With the shock, I almost died.
The hand came up through the stoney earth
And it pointed to the sky,
With no flesh left on the fingers, yet
It seemed to question ‘Why?’
It still belonged to the corpse below
But had tried to get away,
Out of the dark of doom and gloom
And into the light of day.
The name on the grave was ‘Clarabelle’
And, ’She of the evil eye,
She hexed the cattle in Fingal’s Dell
And the swine, while passing by,
They hung her high on a willow tree
When she pointed at Belle Raye,
Who choked, then withered and sighed, was dead,
And all in a single day.’
The hand had twitched, I couldn’t resist
As I sat and watched it there,
I reached on out and I seized the wrist
And I felt some strange despair,
The hand was warm, and was then full-fleshed
As a shape rose from the ground,
That held me tight in the darkening light
With the hand that I had found.
I heard the rattle of death as she
Had tried to clear each lung,
Full of the body’s liquid waste
That had formed when she was hung.
I heard a croak, and the words she spoke
As she glared into my face,
‘I might be saved from my early grave,
But you’ll have to take my place.’
Whatever power it was she had
It dissolved and turned to sand,
The moment I pulled away from her
And I let go of her hand.
She didn’t speak, but let out a shriek
As she slid back in the grave,
So I’ll never know if she heard below:
‘You’re much too bad to save!’
David Lewis Paget
I’d read of the yacht that was lost at sea,
Among the Antarctic ice,
I never thought it would matter to me
Though its ending wasn’t so nice,
There were three on board, and two had died,
But one must have got away,
For I found the log of its final days
In a second-hand shop in the Bay.
It was badly damaged with damp and rot,
And some of the ink had run,
Some pages stuck so I couldn’t read
The writing on every one.
But the hairs rose up on the back of my neck
To read what there was to see,
For a tale of human failings were what
Became so apparent to me.
They’d gone in search of the southern whales,
John Stanley, Evan and Eve,
Though why they went at that time of year
I find it hard to conceive,
For the winter’s cruel in those Southern climes
And the sails ice up with the spray,
‘It’s hell when there’s no-one to keep you warm,’
John Stanley wrote on the day.
For Evan and Eve kept each other warm,
While John made do with a quilt,
He wrote that Eve kept looking his way,
Could that be a sign of his guilt?
He waited till Evan had gone topside
Then made his advance to Eve,
But she just pushed him away, and then,
He wrote, ‘I caught at her sleeve.’
‘She fell, and crashed to the galley floor,
And split her head on the sink,
The wound on her scalp was red and raw,
I needed a moment to think.
I lifted her into an easy chair
And wiped the blood from her brow,
Then Evan came tumbling down the stair,
‘What have you done to her now?’
The following entry was smeared with blood,
I couldn’t read what it said,
I only know when he wrote again
That Evan must have been dead.
‘I lifted him over the starboard rail
And slipped him into the sea,
His body had left a bloodied trail
But that had left Eve and me.’
‘She came around on the second day,
But only could sit and stare,
So I lifted her into the lower bunk,
I needed her warmth in there.
A look of horror had crossed her face
When I crawled under the quilt,
And held her tight on that second night,
I can’t explain how it felt.’
The next few pages were in a lump
I couldn’t tear them apart,
But then a page was written in rage,
‘I’d given the girl my heart.
But though she still couldn’t speak to me
She lay on the bunk and spat,
I told her that Evan had gone, so she
Had better get over that.’
The ink had run on the following page
In water that looked like tears,
So he must have felt her rejection while
She lay, gave way to her fears.
The entry he wrote on the seventh day,
‘I held her close, and she sighed,
I thought my love had begun to move her,
When I awoke, she’d died.’
‘I held her close on the seventh night
But she had become so cold,
I tried to give her my body heat
As the yacht in the ocean rolled,
I couldn’t slip her over the side
To do what I’d done before,
She needed a christian burial so
I’d take her back to the shore.’
The next few pages were merely rant
Bemoaning the love he’d lost,
But never a mention of Evan there,
Who’d paid the ultimate cost.
The sun came out on the fifteenth day
And the cabin became so warm,
Where Eve had lain in her rotting flesh
‘The worms came out in a swarm.’
‘I couldn’t believe the smell down there,
Her body was falling apart,
I should have buried her when I could,
I just didn’t have the heart.’
The yacht was locked in Antarctic ice
When the ice breaker came through,
And took both John and the Ice Log off,
So now I can read it to you.
But Eve lies still on the ice bound yacht
A skeleton now, but free,
Her soul in search of Evan, her love,
They’ll meet down deep in the sea.
While John still roams abroad on the earth
And carries his personal hell,
To mourn the love that he found and lost
Among the Antarctic swell.
David Lewis Paget
The hoofbeats come through the mist at night
And the sound of clattering wheels,
While Ursula sits at the Inn in fright,
And we all know how that feels,
There’s not been a coach for a hundred years
On these cobblestones, lining the lanes,
Not since the smugglers used a hearse
To carry their ill-gotten gains.
And though she may peer through the pebble glass
When the mist lies thick in the night,
She hopes that she’ll see the phantom pass
But it’s always out of sight,
A little beyond the light that beams
From the lamp that filters in,
To the darkened room in its haze of gloom
That they call the Smugglers Inn.
There’s a story told from the days of old
When the customs lay in wait,
Their pistols drawn just before the dawn
When the hearse would meet its fate,
And Captain Sly with his one good eye
Was shot as he hit the ground,
While Ursula hears his cry of fear
As the customs gather round.
She only hears the scuffle of feet
And the neigh of a frightened horse,
That echoes out of the distant past
While the mist obscures its course,
But out, like a smear on the cobblestones,
And just where the Captain stood,
It takes a day just to fade away,
A pool of the Captain’s blood.
It’s only whenever a mist appears
That she hears the clattering wheels,
And thinks of death as she holds her breath
To know what the mist reveals,
For after the Captain has hit the ground
In front of the Smugglers Inn,
The door will open without a sound
For that’s when the ghosts come in.
David Lewis Paget
The rain came down in a torrent, while
The rest of the world had slept,
The mud it churned was abhorrent,
It was as if the planet wept.
They said we’d come to the final times
That the earth could take no more,
For people raged like a virus
Rotting the planet down to the core.
They said it’s time that we left the place
That we found a pristine home,
It’s sitting, somewhere out there in space
If we had the ship to roam.
But we’re tied forever to walk the earth
And to share in its demise,
Or stop polluting, and rape, and looting
The place we live our lives.
For God is not going to save us now
Since he gave us all free will,
He won’t be along to pick it up
The rubbish that we spill,
His temper’s seen in the thunderheads
And the lightning in a storm,
The earthquake under our feet of clay
So we’ll wish we’d not been born.
The final times have been coming since
The ancient days of Tyre,
And we, like them will be running from
Destruction, and from fire,
It’s much too late to pontificate
On the things that should be done,
Before the planet’s a wasted mass
On its journey around the sun.
David Lewis Paget