Genre: Rhyme, Fairy Tale
Home and Hospital for the Incurables
by Georgia Zapparoli
Gothic institution, high on island hill.
Oceans of ink. A sky entirely of quill.
The Warden’s keys jangle alarmingly in the lock.
She punches in, signalling day’s beginning on the clock.
One by one along the stacks
the strip lights buzz and yawn.
Their dust dilated haloes are vesperturnally forlorn.
Muffled footsteps on threadbare shuffle
and distantly a hushed kerfuffle
whispers through still air.
The Warden sighs and rolls her eyes
at the metronomic morning mantra
as the echoed mouthfuls materialize:
“You can’t make me get up if I don’t wanna!”
This is Gulchik. Every day
she wishes that the night would stay.
She likes to moonbathe. It helps to soothe
her erratic solar-stifled moods.
The Warden pays her little mind
but checks the email, flips the sign
on office door from “out” to “in”.
Another day at work, for her sins.
A shadow flicks across the door
trailing a wake of intense intention.
Lamps flick on. Decisions are made.
Its olfactory serenade draws others to the room.
They are gathered in a foyer of a library of sorts.
A repository of writings and of reactionary last resorts.
The people here aren’t free to leave
but purgatorially persist.
Endlessly refining their flaws
as three dimensional as a Moebius Strip.
The self-appointed Head Librarian is a very jovial chap.
He wears a suit of sepia wool and a shiny brass-badged cap.
Perpetual cup of half-drunk tea
in hand. You’ll find him at his desk.
Any scrap of thing you want to know
he’ll give upon request.
He has it all neatly filed away,
it’s hidden in the stacks.
Taped up dusty cardboard boxes
labeled “Synonyms”, “Sources”, “Syntax”.
The Simpleton Sphinx has found a way
to turn easy admin to frustrating play.
He will answer all you care to ask
in cryptic clues and interpretive dance.
Gulchik tries to help the situation along
offering answers so painfully, blatantly wrong
that Warden orders her to read
and get the education she so clearly needs.
As she strops away we catch a glint
deep in the murk. If you squint
you might just see a figure, slim,
known locally as Tin-Foil-Tim.
This is a name the others gave to him.
He will not reveal his own for fear
of hidden cameras, tracking devices conspi-
racies and the mere
acknowledgement of his presence
scrambles him like a startled pheasant.
Thompson or Thompson,
(It’s not clear which)
twinkles his eyes
and gives his moustache a twitch.
“Only 3% of pheasants live to be age 3”.
The bowler-hatted figure grins charmingly, broadly.
His lapel-pin draws the gaze
in pompous-fonted letters the phrase
‘Keeper of Ephemeral Wisdom’ is engraved.
Bouncing his cane he turns with flair.
And all returns to the still, silent air.
A distant light fades into view.
A pale coral comforting hue.
The kitchen with its Aga and its well worn table top
is host to existential debates that never really stop.
The sisters here go on and on about the nature of truth.
One’s called Anna-Nostalgia and the other is Memory-Ruth.
Steaming tea-pot, pink wafer biscuits, cross-stitch and knitting.
The only thing they agree on is which chair the other should sit in.
This little room is haunted by the wraith of poor Miana.
She hisses now from shadowed corners.
She was drowned in raucous laughter.
While this cosy little picture may well warm your oysters
there are secrets to be discovered in the dark beyond the cloisters.
This monochrome stone is Daemenzia’s domain.
Her most terrifying weapon is her glaring disdain.
All angles and German modernist lighting
she is used as a guard specifically to frighten
others to stay out and one to stay in
the padded devotional cell that she’s in.
Through the door-grill she may be glimpsed.
The disheveled, wide-eyed Mistress of Mince.
Hunched over paper, desperately scratching.
Her dress is so worn that it’s mostly just patching.
Bare foot and grubby she tremors with breath
for if she ever stops writing ‘twould mean sudden death.
The Warden sees the Mistress but they rarely interact.
How can a rock hope to understand the notion of the abstract?
For Warden knows what others don’t, by virtue of being their carer.
The Mistress’s powers are transcendental. What Warden discovered had scared her.
All the books in the library were hand written not typed
in identical scrawly pea-green swirls on identical pages striped.
New volumes are forthcoming at an ever steady rate
but the oldest book in the library is sealed inside a safe.
For it describes in detail the ink washed island hill
and how the Mistress had created it through the force of pen and will.
The sudden death she fears isn’t her earthly own
but everyone that’s placed within the Hospital and Home.
For although they cannot leave and are prisoners of her construct
she has grown accustomed to their distracting disorderly conduct.
And so she goes on writing
ink-washed on island hill.
In a gothic institution
where the sky is made of quill.
* * * * *
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