It tells you magic word spells unabridged
The weight of thirteen stone-washed Levi jeans
Ms. Brontë, why, you are quite privileged
To read this antediluvian thing of reams
Some Twinings tea-rims on its human pages
It helps in letter-music generating
With AbCdEf in its cages
And makes thought-bubbles more exhilarating
Lightstreaks have a way of impressing us
And that is simply the truth
Trams have a way of trespassing us
The world has a way of compressing us
Especially in our
Featured in the HSLDA Poetry Contest
“This is a tale of home you’ve never heard –
So listen well.” Bird nods her head and smiles;
“Pray, do you know what home is, my Blue Bird?
There was a place quite near to here, not miles;
A soul set out in search and tipped his hat;
He rode on, day and day and night, to find –
But ’twas in vain for he found only gnats;
At last a lark said, ‘not here, but behind’;
So in surprise he turned his toes on loam;
And recognition rang an iron bell:
Above the clouds its silver peak was shown;
So back he went till on the doorstep fell.”
Bird asks, her eyes upraised, “Are you that soul?”
“Indeed, Blue, yet for all this bell does toll.”
A mist made
A glow of gradience
And pinches and tall hats
Where fern-weeds grow
In cracks unknown
It smells of wooden crates
Sounds like ancient pianos
Mostly sing in soprano
Croissant is dropped
Balloon is popped
In a train station
Crockery Blue, by Maia G.
Minerva Barge was strange. For one thing she was two hundred-forty six years old on Tuesday, and
both of her pinched pale feet were not much bigger than a playing card. Rain whispered against the
windows, pattering, as a barefoot child might. Her full-moon spectacles glinted in the fleeting flecks
of early sun, nearly blotted out by the looming clouds. There was no wind, but the air was biting air,
and painful to breathe. They would have to do something about the cold, as winter was approaching
rapidly and it was becoming unbearable. Huckleberry did not seem to be around. Minerva turned
her attention to a pocket-sized copy of something called Sherlock Holmes. She had found it yesterday
evening in a cardboard box somebody had put out. It had water stains and an ink-spill on the cover,
but she was finding it rather enjoyable all the same. Minerva had quite forgotten that today was, in
fact, her birthday, though it is an easy thing to do when you’ve already had two hundred forty six of
them. Just then, a gingery–haired giant (a disheveled Huckleberry) danced cheerfully in, clutching a
bony eel and a parcel wrapped in damp newspaper. He slammed the damaged wooden door as he
entered their grimy hovel. Minerva cringed, after all, this, shack though it was, did not belong to
them, it belonged to Washatuvits rental houses.
“I apologizes! Es’ ittle’ doors isn’t made er’ giants! Good ol’ Trevan Knowl, I’d like ter’ see at’ place
again n’ leave is’ un’ er’ good!”
“All of us would” Minerva sighed wistfully.
“Oh, an’ is’ is fer you! Happy Birthday! ” Huckleberry held up the sharp package.
Minerva tore open the papers excitedly to reveal- a toad green umbrella. Minerva stretched her
chapped lips in a dead smile so short you wouldn’t have time to say the first syllable of Jack
Robinson, and blinked. Umbrellas were not particularly her favorite and she found them to be rather
“An umbrella!” she said oddly, attempting to imply excitement.
Huckleberry held up a giantish finger.
“Oh no! No, not jus’ any umbreller! Is’ is a direciability umbreller’, it can show ye’ both directions for
anywhere ye’ want te’ go, and, here comes e’ great and, it can make you invisible!”
(Huckleberry’s giant dialect was strong enough that even when he spoke he did not begin his sentences with a
capital. However, for the sake of grammar I shall do so for him. And concerning the rest of his improper use of
grammar, well, that will have to be excused. Though Mr. Gisnnt, my ambidextrous tutor, will likely
Minerva gaped, and Minerva did not often gape.
“Where in England did you find one?!”
Huckleberry, quite pleased now, turned red, as though he were a beat-root.
“Oi’ found im’ in e’ market lyin’ with ose’ other regular uns’. I sort uh’ jus’ knew it was e’
directiability sort. Now en’, you’ve got te’ name im’.
“Mmm” Minerva looked about.
“I shall name him after someone I once knew, Percival Bingleshort Es…”
But we shan’t know what the rest of that someone’s name was, because a sharp squeaking noise, like
the scraping of a chalk board, issued from the umbrella.
“I absolutely refuse to be called that when I already a perfectly perfect name!” He cleared his throat
importantly “Oi Who Chatterbox!”
“He’s got somthin’ wrong in at’ noggin’ of is’” explained Huckleberry. “Anyway, most umbrellers’
have odd names.”
“I see” said Minerva unsympathetically. But despite her great efforts he did remain…Oi Who
Presently, it began pouring rain. Oi Who (as we shall begin to call him) did not seem exactly water
proof as he was manifestly a second-hand umbrella and quite tattered, to put it lightly (I once saw
something like it in Mr. Gisnnt’s chest, the one in the tower room, when he was out. I do believe he had named
it Bunny. ) They had set out pails where the rain had begun to tink on the floorboards, only giving
the mold more stuff to feed on.
“We’re going to have to do some raiding today” said Minerva, glumly. “We need quilts and bed
sheets, it’s far too cold to do without.”
“Is’ nice of ye’ to think of me, but I’m roastin’ as a frankfurter over a pipin’ bonfire!” said Oi Who
cheerfully. “Happily, we weren’t thinking of you” snapped Minerva “I’m not sure how you got to be
in such excellent states but that certainly isn’t the case here! For all I care, we could go back to the
market and sell you for a decent couple of coins!”
Huckleberry threw his hand across his chest, “but a birthday present!”
“Sell me? Sell me? Woe to me! Woe to all my relations! I will be a humiliation to all umbrellas!”
“Silence!” boomed Huckleberry.
“I can see where he got his surname” muttered Minerva.
Tongues of ice had begun to leak into the place. Lurking in shadows, then striking their prey
spontaneously, sending shivers down their spines.
“We had better get on our way, you know, morning is the best time for pinching necessities.
Nobody expects it.”
Huckleberry did not agree with her on that matter, but Minerva had already begun to wrap a Peter
Rabbit shawl round her skinny neck. Minerva had once been the duchess of Marshwabbs before she
and Huckleberry had come here, to England, during the Knowlsplitting, along with many other
people of Trevan. Yet she found England rather shabby and would have loved to go home, which,
unfortunately, was not an option, at least, for another thirteen years, until the next Knowlsplitting.
(Mr. Gisnnt says I mustn’t hold with such hogwash, but I’ll write about it all the same, after all, I do enjoy
Geoffrey of Monmouth. P.S. If these notes are only a nuisance to you and disrupt the story at regular, and
unfitting intervals, please ignore them, and do forgive me for any inconvenience it may have caused you. Mr.
Gisnnt says you shouldn’t interrupt a story in this manner, but I tend not to follow his advice. If, however, you
do fancy them, be my guest. Now then, on with our tale).
Minerva continued to stuff her frizzy hair into a striped red and yellow night cap and tugged on a
sunny-yellow trench coat. Huckleberry struggled into his own ragged tailcoat whose pockets were
bulged with all sorts of odds and ends. He gingerly opened the door and they stepped out into the
chill. When Minerva unlatched Oi Who he burst open immediately.
“Uggh, now at’s a little better, so stuffy, stuck in there. The last time I was opened, it was early
June, and it wasn’t even rainin’!” “To the Nelshwanks”, said Minerva.
“What’s at’? Oh, have ye’ got any address?” asked Oi Who.
“Very well, I’ll do me best.”
Oi Who shot upwards (slowed by Minerva’s tight grasp) and then jerked sharply left, leading them
down twenty-three jagged stone steps and towards the Nelshwanks’.
Most of the townspeople were avoiding the rain. They passed only a huddle of young chaps, fighting
over an umbrella, and a constabulary patrolling on a Penny-farthing (which he had received that
morning in the mail from his great-grandmother. It was superannuated and was in great need of
oiling. He was only riding it so that tomorrow, when his great-grandmother came, he could tell her
that he’d tried it). Huckleberry began to make up rather bad rhymes about nothing in particular.
They were quite bothersome but Minerva said nothing. (Mr. Gisnnt says rhymes are nonsense and if
you want anything like them you should try poetry. Personally, I don’t agree with him, and I’m sure
Huckleberry’s rhymes were funny, if not anything else). At last, Oi Who jolted to a halt before a dreary
building with a jagged top and sinister-looking windows.
“Well, I’ve done my job. So I’ll be taking a doze”.
And with that the umbrella shut himself up of his own accord. They squatted down (much good it
would do in concealing them) by the stairs leading up to the house. Now, Minerva felt as though she
were Sherlock Holmes.
“Now, what’s our plan?” asked Huckleberry, rubbing his hands together craftily.
“What do you mean our plan?”
“You know, gettin’ e’ quilts n’ bed sheets.”
“Well we can’t just open im’ door an’ saunter in.”
“How else do you expect we would do it?” Minerva asked irritably.
Huckleberry looked alarmed.
“Oh come on, now, don’t be such a coward.”
“Very well en’”, said Huckleberry reluctantly, “but if we is’ caught, en you is’ goin’ to take all e’
blame for it.”
Minerva pushed Oi Who’s tip into the lawn (resulting in a stifled ‘ouch’).
“Look, do you want to be warm for the rest of winter, or stay in our drafty shack with a red and
Huckleberry put his hands up in surrender, “Oll’ right,oll’ right.”
“Good, now let’s go!”
The door was as ordinary as the house was odd. A flaming poppy-red, and a mail slot. Minerva tired
the knob; it had not been bolted.
“Man alive! Ese’ people is’ takin’ a real risk here! Just askin’ to be robbed!” said Huckleberry
“On the topic of locking doors, did you lock ours?”
Huckleberry turned seven shades of red and looked at his hairy feet.
Inside, the house was very regular-looking. To the left an arched door-way led into the kitchen and
to the right was a half-corkscrew staircase. The wallpaper was covered with images of toads and
bullfrogs as well as their Latin names. But to their dismay Mrs. Nelshwank was holding a tea party
with Mrs. Griswald whom she had met during a botany exhibition in March. They were busy in the
kitchen, chattering and gossiping about Mrs. Frump, a widow who had moved in next door, while a
gangly boy made marmalade with an old man.
“Why, I hear she is simply mad, got boards in front of her eyes! The other day she left her seven
children, all something between two and six, alone at home and one nearly broke his arm when he
toppled off the balcony!” said Mrs. Griswald, smugly, stroking the undulated shell of her tortoise,
Boniface, while his rambunctious sister, Belladona, promenaded lazily across the coffee table . “She
must be desperate for some help if that’s really what she does!”
Both of them began to laugh hysterically, Mrs. Nelshwank like an enraged donkey and Mrs.
Griswald like an Arabian black cat coughing up a hair-ball.(Mr. Gisnnt says laughs should be moderate,
and excited shrieks are all together unacceptable. He himself does neither. When he truly is bursting with
laughter inside, he simply holds it in until his face turns purple, and if he’s only just eaten something, green. For
his sake, and for mine, I shan’t give any more details).
Huckleberry tugged Minerva’s coat,
“Come on, we’d better hurry!”
They silently crept up the stairs. Huckleberry rose to his full height and made a good dent in the
“Oh dearie me!”
“Do be quiet” whispered Minerva “we are breaking and entering for goodness sake!”
“I was hopin’ we wouldn’t have ter’ do so much of e’ breaking.”
Huckleberry fumbled for something in his left-hand pocket and fished out a mud grey-tube labeled
“Grubbs’ window putty”. He pressed some out onto his hand and began to apply it to the ceiling, in
the end leaving a white spot on a poison dart frog’s tympanum. Then, his head bowed, he followed
Minerva up the remaining stairs.
An unusual sound came from Oi Who “the sunroom’s yer’ best bet, I’ll say” and he began to snore
gently. Huckleberry shoved him under his coat.
“There’s e’ sunroom” he said excitedly, and began pounding towards it as silently as he could
(which wasn’t very silent).
They entered the sunroom. Tremendous windows spanned their spindly fingers throughout, held
together by green framework. Two comfortable moleskin armchairs set poised towards them. They
were separated by a pedestal table decked in a table cloth embroidered with something like little
orange daisies. Minerva crawled behind the right arm chair and peered over it. She was met with a
mound of salt and pepper hair pulled into all sorts of unreasonable directions. And to make matters
worse, beneath it was the thin wrinkled figure of Granny Igg. Minerva hastily got back on her
hands and knees. A china demitasse clinked as Granny Igg stirred its contents with a silver spoon.
She got up stiffly, and tasted her tea, which was Echinacea. (Mr. Gisnnt says Echinacea blemishes teeth,
so he doesn’t drink it, yet, I don’t believe it, I think it’s really because he gets too much flatulence).
“Is’ was a bad idea. Maybe the umbrella’s in cahoots with es’ people,” murmured Huckleberry
worriedly. Granny Igg snuffled and turned up the radiator which began coughing out tepid air.
She sat back down miserably. There was a sharp knock at the door. Minerva and Huckleberry
scurried behind a plump rosy sofa in the corner of the sunroom around which were piles of
precariously heaped books, which looked shriveled up and expired, from not having been read in
such lengthy ages. Minerva hoped that they would not have to use Oi Who’s invisibility just yet,
otherwise he might become too drowsy and not react to any following commands. After all,
directiability umbrellas are stubborn, not to mention easily worn out. The door creaked open and the
elderly fellow whom they had seen in the kitchen, shuffled in. “Igraine, Enid wants you, says her
friend d’ like to show you her tortoises, ell’ make you feel better.” Granny Igg grumbled and made a
trumpety sound as she began to blow her nose into a handkerchief. “I’ll reckon two tortoises won’t
do this wretched cold any good.”
But she followed him out all the same. It was silent now, in the glass room. Even the air breathed
serenely, as a sleeping infant. A barn swallow had its head cocked, perched on the sill, taking refuge
from the rain.
“There they are!” whispered Huckleberry.
Huckleberry lumbered towards the balcony and tore the autumny screen door easily off its hinges
and laid it daintily against the wall. He stepped carefully onto the balcony but it drooped under his
weight. Minerva waited impatiently.
“I may be more suitable for such business,” she said curtly, and stepped lightly onto the balcony
once Huckleberry had stumbled noisily off. Plastic flower boxes ran around the railing, certainly
glorious during the spring, but now only lumps of ruble, wilted, withered leaves and wrinkled petals,
parched and pale.
A cord was hung between two makeshift hooks from which dangled a good deal of damp laundry:
trousers, two pencil-yellow bloomers (for Enid was not the slimmest of women), a turtle neck,
button-downs, under-clothing, six bedsheets, and a toad-pool quilt . Minerva tore them down, and
threw the bedsheets at Huckleberry while she kept the mossy quilt. The door clicked behind them as
they came into the corridor. The stairs creaked and the bannister rattled as a squat man with dull
brown whiskers (usually bald, but stubble had begun to appear on his scalp and he was in dire need
of a hair-cut) stumbled along gleefully lugging an antique chessboard. He was in a very good mood.
Minerva looked about frantically.“Quick, in here!” Minerva grabbed Huckleberry and they dashed
into the lavatory and hid behind the shower curtain. Mr. Nelshwank walked in right after them,
followed by an English blue cat. Minerva stuffed her hand into her mouth, fearing she might
scream. Mrs. Nelshwank thought chess was a waste of time and for fat fools who set about all day
and ate too many crisps. So Mr. Nelshwank secretly played solo on the lavatory floor.(Mr. Gisnnt
would give Enid a profound lecture on the importance of chess, and Bastable, for that was Mr. Nelshwank’s
name, seventeen golden stars). He began to set up the chess pieces: the rook, the knight, the bishop, the
king (who had lost a crown when Bastable had gotten a little mad, when his opponent, Grage, had
won badly against him). Bastable was working hard to beat the others (Gruns and Grage) in the
“Pawn to D-4” he mumbled. The cat ambled up to him, licked the chessboard thrice and, innocently,
sprawled out in the very center of it, resulting in a disrupted chess game, and a furious Bastable. He
began to poke and prod at her with the tip of a white bishop, yet the cat stubbornly did not budge.
“Blasted beast, ya’ Moony!” he exclaimed, and stormed off in a rage, leaving the white bishop
rolling on the floor, and headed for the downstairs lavatory.
“That was very, very close,” gasped Minerva. “We owe that cat just about our lives.”
Huckleberry took the silvery eel he had bought that morning out of his pocket and fed it to the
creature, who purred cheerfully. “I’s the least e’ kitty deserves,” he said before stepping out from
behind the curtain. They tiptoed tremulously out of the lavatory and towards the stairs. Keeping to
the edges (fearing the wooden planks to be untrustworthy), as they might give them away by
creaking. The door came always closer. They tiptoed faster. Their hearts thumped madly. The
scratched brass knob was nearly in reach. Mrs. Griswald charged into the tapered entryway,
disgruntled, a serpent skin purse slung over one shoulder, cradling her tortoises. She and Enid had
come to a disagreement on the original offspring of the wide-eyed Hashmizzler.
“I’m not sure if I told you, but I specialize in off-springs!” roared Enid (which was a fib).
They had no other choice.
“Directability,” breathed Minerva, and slipped open Oi Who.
“Well! I am leaving!” said Mrs. Griswald, infuriated. She turned and screamed. “Enid! There’s—
Enid hurried in, red-faced (a volume of original off-springs held behind her) and stopped,
dumbstruck. For there, before them, was something frightful yet extraordinary. Oi Who Chatterbox
was defective, their bodies were a hazy outline, and their clothing, was, without a doubt, visible.
The dungeon was many hundred years old and had supposedly imprisoned several legendary
outlaws, including Robin Hood. It’s silhouette menacing, as an eagle, caging its prey triumphantly,
with a mocking look, digging its claws in deeper and deeper, as the field mouse whimpers helplessly.
The cell in which they were kept was cold and clammy. They sat squeezed together on a damp
wooden cot. An old scraggly man wearing a cracked monocle in the next cell would not cease to tell
them long, tales of nonsense, about his child-hood. Otherwise, the only sound came from the tears
which plinked into oily puddles, collecting on the slimy ground. Footsteps echoed in the distance,
each clank of the rusted metal stairs seemed to whisper a way of escape, but which couldn’t quite be
heard. A skeleton key rattled in the lock and large man in a constabulary uniform, with several
medals pinned to his proudly blown-out chest, strolled in. His hair was dark and matted, he had a
bushy mustache, like the tail of a bedraggled goat (Mr. Gisnnt once had something just like it, though it
smelled badly, and his newly wed wife, Gloria, loathed the thing, so he chopped it). A dirk was attached to
his leather belt and he had bandage on his brow (which comes from driving a dilapidated Penny
farthing into a wall).
“I remember you two,” he said, swinging the keys in and out of his hand, making them jangle
irritably. The story-telling man had his face pressed against the bars, his eyes squinted, a chip of his
monocle making a soft chitter-chatter as it dropped into one of the puddles. He starred at them
inquisitively, biting one of his dirty finger-nails.
The constabulary looked at them severely “I thought ye looked a little suspicious—I mean, it’s not
every day I see an old lady and a giant, tumblin’ down unknown alleys, mmm…” He was the
constabulary who had been patrolling during the morning; neither Minerva nor Huckleberry said
“But,” he sighed, “the Nelshwanks aren’t goin’ e’ lay any charges, mmph, ere good ones mmm…” he
coughed voluntarily, the way people often do when they don’t know what to say, into a rumpled,
handkerchief. “But I don’t want to see this again.”(The man was a nose a nose whistler. Mr. Gisnnt is
one and it drives me half batty during lessons). He was about to show them out, when Minerva felt
something on the cot. It was not only the dank splintery wood, but something else as well. She
looked down, hesitantly. An ocean of crockery blue gazed up at her. In places it was patched with
scraps of fabric. It felt feathery.
“We aren’t savages you know” said the constabulary.
The constabulary smiled mischievously and nodded his thin head. And they followed him out of the
cell, butterflies of victory fluttering in their hearts. Hidden in the shadows, lay something long and
frayed. The story-man reached a skinny arm through the bars and tried to get at the thing. He
inspected it curiously. It looked like the skeleton of some dark coloured umbrella, or what had once
been one anyway. The story-man began to scratch his old disfigured back with it.
The umbrella sighed. He was used to being treated in this manner. But one day someone would find
out. For he was no ordinary directiability umbrella. No, he was far more strange.
Letters to Aunt Hortensia, by Maia G.
July 28th, 1909
Dear Aunt Hortensia,
I am writing to you because of something frightful that occurred yesterday evening. The Waratah was gliding over the undulating sea and the Magician and I were about to perform a piece for the magistrate (there were many others, but none as important). He had never yet performed for such esteemed society and was breaking into nervous hives. The Magician meant to conjure a blue Morpho butterfly from inside his hat but that is not what happened. As a matter of fact, nothing did. Every soul in the audience had a good laugh, including the magistrate. A wave of humiliation and anger poured over him. The Magician tends toward passionate rages (most of the time I am either in his suitcase or sitting on my napkin bed, so I don’t get into much trouble). It was because of his tempestuous temper that he rashly bestowed the invisibility hex upon the ship. This spell is not one that can be undone. Sadly, he only remembered this rather important detail too late. No one on the ship noticed because when one is an invisible, one can still see everything as usual (including other invisibles). However, if one is not, then the invisibles can neither be seen nor heard (it is all rather complicated, I know). The Magician and I are in quite a quandary on an invisible vessel with invisible passengers. We seem to be floating in mid-air. If I ever get home (which I dearly hope) I think I will become a nun (as I will likely get into far less trouble). Any of your assistance would be much appreciated.
Your unfortunate niece,
p.s. I tell you this in confidence, as I do not wish to see my master sentenced to life in prison (for the disappearance of an entire vessel and its passengers).
July 30th, 1909
Dear Aunt Hortensia,
everything is dreadful. I can only just manage to see the words I am writing from a thin shard of light coming through a triangular hole near the top of The Magician’s suitcase (he has stuck me in here again). I have had no food or water for the last two days and I think I am at the verge of losing a whisker. I apologize for having failed to inquire on your well-being in my last letter. I hope you are not sick or dying (like me) or suffering from any other difficulties. Your assistance would continue to be much appreciated (unless of course you are sick or dying, under which circumstance I would understand the inconvenience).
Your famished niece,
p.s. I sincerely hope you have not spread this news. He never meant it.
July 31st, 1909
Dear Aunt Hortensia,
I have decided you must either be nearly dead, have never received my letters (though pigeon post does tend to be reliable), or simply do not care. Things have gone from dreadful to dire. I am now in prison. The navy, while looking for the missing ship, found instead a man floating above the ocean in thin air. They got us down somehow (I couldn’t tell exactly how as I was still in that rotten suitcase). They questioned him, it seemed (the suitcase muffled most sound). I suppose he didn’t say much or anything at all, because I am now settled against the wall on a napkin inside a musty, concrete, prison cell. The Magician is sitting beside me on his ragged, once starry, purple cape. He is muttering something. I can hear guards coming towards our cell. The lock is turning. But wait, something very strange…Can it be? Oh my – Hortensia. As I am writing these very words the Magician has become an invisible. Here is my chance…
No one ever did find out what happened to the Waratah and its passengers. I don’t think you would have either, had I not been Marie St.Philip and told you the story. The truth. Now like I, Hortensia, and the Magician you must never tell. Reader, you will never tell. Will you?