Dragons to the left of me, dragons to the right

Teresa guards a treasure-trove of prose
From trolls who come to ruin and despoil.
Her comrades and her commentaries foil
All but a few; she disemvowels those.
We watch Macdonald’s ghostly tales unfold,
While Patrick burns with periodic fire
(Then phoenix-like, recovers from his ire!)
And Avram delves the web for links like gold.
Then tiger Bruce trades puns with Serge the Muse,
Heresiarch the Centaur, Greg the Ent.
And then come bards whose verses each invent
Another story: wealth that we can’t lose.
The older archetypes their places cede:
You guys are all the dragons that I need.

Originally posted on Making Light.

The dragons vanished first

The dragons vanished first, one day at dawn,
A close-packed mass of wings and teeth and tails
That voicelessly, just rustling its scales,
Crouched, launched itself, and in a flash, was gone.
The gryphons, barren since the hatchling blight
Around the eggless phoenix gathered near.
So when it flamed, they too began to sear,
Then sprang aloft and burned to ash midflight.
The dryads withered, and their trees fell down;
The unicorns their pearly horns all shed;
Beneath the autumn leaves curled pixies, dead;
And undines taught the naiads how to drown.
You humans mapped the world, despite the cost:
That you be found, the rest of us are lost.

Originally posted on Making Light.

Here be dragons?

The map said “Here be dragons” on the edge,
Beyond the farthest land, in open sea.
It seemed a little strange, at least to me:
Where did they build their nests? I like a ledge,
Some rocky outcrop on which I can sleep,
And hoard my gold, and dream up riddling quips
For jewel-thieves. I don’t need much: just tips
Of stone between me and the chilly deep.
But I need dragons, too. I’ve been alone
For centuries. I want to rut, to breed,
To see my hatchlings on the wing. I need
A dragoness more than I need warm stone.
I searched for days, but all I found was sea.
Yet still the map is right, for here be me.

Originally posted on Making Light.

Cleopatra’s oarsmen testify

The oarsmen on our quinqueremes were ill,
Malarial, and not inclined to row.
The grub was short, and that makes soldiers slow,
Lethargic when they should be keen to kill.
To make it worse, the enemy was fit
Well-armed, prepared, supplied with every need.
While we could barely reach our ramming speed,
Their far-shot arrows slaughtered all they hit.
If we could bring some order to our fleet,
Regroup, attack the weakest of their ships!
But then she breaks the line. His right hand grips
The railing as he watches her retreat.
At Actium, we thought our cause was strong
As love and life could make it. We were wrong.

Originally posted on Making Light

Serge’s Birthday Poem

The first September week was barely past
When he was born. The way the seasons change
Is catching, so perhaps it is not strange
That his first tongue and nation weren’t his last.
But though a tree may shed its autumn leaves
And be reclad in spring, the trunk remains.
And so it is with Serge, who still retains
The core of whom he loves, what he believes.
Beneath the puns, behind the clever prose,
Between the lines of sly pastiche, I see
The way he cares for this community
And value all the warmth his manner shows.
So happy birthday, Serge, although I’m late
(I knew the month, but just mislaid the date!)

A belated birthday sonnet for my friend Serge, originally posted on Making Light.

Hindenberg Zombies

Above the thunder-clouds it hovers high,
Its skeletal ribs lit by lightning storms,
While rags of fabric trail in ghostly forms:
A revenant adrift in endless sky.
Below, the well-lit modern planes pass by,
And unaware, they brush its tentacles,
Old mooring-cables, trailing manacles
With which it trawls for aircraft as they fly.
And when it catches something in its snare,
It feasts on wires and microchips inside
While humans, just detritus flung aside,
Plunge screaming downward through the icy air.
Beware the king of airships; fear his chains.
The Hindenberg is feeding on jet planes.

Originally posted on Making Light, based on an image from Diatryma.

Zombies on a Jet Plane

All you brains are ours
Though you don’t know
We’re shambling here along the aisle
Our clothing ragged, marked with stinking stains.
And the dawn is breaking
Above the cloud
The pilot’s seen us
And screamed aloud
Already we’re so hungry
We want brains

So scream now and try to flee
See the things you shouldn’t see
Hide somewhere you think you can defend
Cause we’re zombies, on a jet plane
Don’t think that you’ll be safe again.
You’ll die before the end.

There will be times you think you’ll win
The door is locked. They can’t get in.
I tell you now that it won’t hold for long
Every time you run, we’ll follow you
Every place you hide, we’ll come for you
When we break through, you’ll know your hopes were wrong.

So scream now and try to flee
See the things you shouldn’t see
Hide somewhere you think you can defend
Cause we’re zombies, on a jet plane
Don’t think that you’ll be safe again.
You’ll die before the end.

Now the time has come to kill you
One more time
Let us bite you
Then close your eyes
We will eat your brain
Now you stir; you’re one of us.
So tell your fellow passengers
Their screaming and their struggles are in vain.

They scream now and try to flee
See the things they shouldn’t see
Hide somewhere they think they can defend
But we’re zombies, on a jet plane
Don’t think that they’ll be safe again.
They’ll die before the end.

Originally posted on Making Light.

Apple product announcements, all of them

Striding and striding along the red carpet
The publicist cannot hear the designer;
Things fall apart; the specification cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the news,
The bloggers speculate, and everywhere
The customs of the press conference are lost;
The spokesmen lack all conviction, while the insiders
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the iPod announcement is at hand.
The iPod announcement! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of 1984
Troubles my sight: somewhere in Los Altos
A device with touch screen and new proportions
Memory as vast and limitless as the sun,
Is showing onscreen, while all about it
Flash quotes of the breathless Apple publicists.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twelve months of hush-hush development
Were brought to market by a production schedule
And what smooth gadget, its moment come round at last,
Sloches towards the market to be born?

Originally posted on Making Light

The Sea-Coast of Innsmouth

I will arise and go now, and go to Innsmouth
And a small altar make there, of bones and bodies built;
Nine gravestones will I have there, a gibbet facing south,
And live alone but for those I’ve killed.

And I shall have no peace there, for They come creeping slow,
Creeping from the veils of the morning to where the raven caws;
There midnight’s all a-glimmer, and noon an eerie glow,
And evening full of the Deep Ones’ claws.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear the water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavement sgrey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

Originally posted on Making Light.

M’n Fiets (my bike)

Martin has written about the new car, which forms part of our fleet of transport mechanisms. But Turty is mostly intended for the movement of children (plus sundry light haulage). I’d like to spend a little time talking about my commute vehicle.


I’ve always had blue bikes, for some reason, since the first banana-seat cycle with the coaster brakes. Since the age of 10, I’ve always had multi-speed bikes with rams-horn handlebars; this is my third and best of the line: a Dawes Horizon bottom of the line touring bike (heavier and stronger than a road bike or racing bike). It’s a nervy, responsive thing, though maybe just a little short in the frame for me.

I bought it in Edinburgh, about a year ago, in the hopes that I would be able to ride it during the brief Caledonian summer. I used it about five times before fear of the homicidal Scottish drivers caused me to stop.

It was quirky and bizzare in Scotland, where pseudo moutain bikes are all the rage. It’s even more outré here, where the classic Dutch granny bike rules the roads, with its upright riding position and its near-immortal construction.

Unfortunately, it’s also a target for theft, since it’s what the bike shops here call a “sport bike”. And bike theft is a national phenomenon – all my colleagues have stolen bike stories. I’ve guarded against thieves with a few strategies. First off, those large and ugly silver panniers really do ruin its sleek lines, so it doesn’t look so appealing.


(They also hold a rain jacket, trouser clips and a few other useful items.)

Also, I’ve added a Dutch wheel lock. These things are practically indestructible, and it’s positioned so even cutting the cable ties won’t allow you to get the back wheel off while it’s present.


But most importantly, though I always double lock it (with a cable through the front wheel and frame and through something fixed; the Dutch have bike racks everywhere) or treble-lock it (another wheel lock, loose, through the back spokes and the frame), my main defense is geography. It does not go into high-theft areas such as central Amsterdam. And where possible, I park it among many bikes, because the best place to hide a leaf is in a forest.

Because I ride it in street clothes, I had to change the pedals on the bike. It comes with toe clips, and usually I love toe clips. But I can’t use them with all my shoes, so I went for some non-slip pedals instead. I considered a chain guard as well, but the sprocket is too large for most of the aftermarket guards I have seen. So I still use a trouser clip when I wear trousers. (I also cycle in skirts. There is nothing so pleasant as riding in a long, flowing skirt.)

Naturally, I also have reflectors, lights and a bell. I keep a spare inner tube and a set of tyre tools in the bags, and have already done one roadside swap. This weekend, I’m going to buy tyres with reflective stripes around them – both because they are required by Dutch law, and because they really are safer.

I’ve really enjoyed my commutes by cycle, even in the rain. The endorphins mean that I arrive at my destination glowing a little, no matter how challenging the day. And if I have a little extra time (25 minutes instead of 15), I take the route that runs through the Twiske, the local recreation area.


(It even has its own windmill!)

In short, I love my bike. I love working on it, commuting with it, shopping on it (the panniers can hold a lot of groceries). I might start calling it Vera.