13 avatars of Jack-in-the-box, enumerated by the schizophrenic ventriloquist whilst under sedation

1. A wooden box, longer than wide. Inside, Rotten Jack grins liplessly at the prospect of his springtime.

2. Framed by the booth’s curtains, Mr Punch pops up, puts the willies up poor Judy.

3. The black egg cracks, shudders. Stand back!

4. The xenomorph in its gloopy womb.

5. A nightmare, hiding in a dream about a vase of blue roses.

6. Lady Gaga bursts from the hot head of a painted Madonna.

7. The Bird King, cranky in his metal cocoon.

8. Satan inhabits the sole of your shoe.

9. An imaginary terror in a room in a basement.

10. Jack Nicholson, ecstatic, bellowing through splitting wood.

11. A snowflake containing the idea of a snowman.

12. An open book’s black words jumping into you.

13. A tweet, this tweet, in the perpetual surprise of your timeline.


Originally written as a series of tweets. Copyright James Knight. All rights reserved.



this knotted darkness

trace the wall
with your hand

I can hear the bellows
of your lungs
I can smell you

there’s a murderous logic
at work here
a system

I’m trying not to cry
trying to hold onto
images and words

someone sharpens a knife

the half moon is a sail
pulling cloud boats
across the night
or so I imagine

you were saying?

I think
I lost the thread


This poem was written for Transformations, a new take on Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

The instruments


A trombone blusters his way
through the bright restaurant,
demanding to see the chef.

He’s furious;
the prawns have given him


Four violins wait for a bus in the rain.
The pervading atmosphere of melancholy
makes their plaintive scrapings redundant.


The electric guitar
resents the nickname

It implies expectations
of destructive virility,
to which he doesn’t feel

Grand piano

The piano has a morbid air.

In a certain light,
he looks like a skull
with black and white teeth.

His lid could be a gravestone.


Never trust maracas.

Related to the rattlesnake,
they’ll bite you if you turn your back on them.

Bass Guitar

The bass guitar’s
base instincts
can always be discerned
if you watch him carefully.

Carnality pulses
in his languid


In public,
the saxophone
affects sexy suavity.

But when he gets home
he drinks Red Bull
and farts
through the night.

Music box

The music box has a terrible secret.
Lift her lid and she’ll sing it to you
in a faltering voice.


The church organ despises the puerile wordplay
of which he is frequently the butt.

Nevertheless, he takes great pride in his phallic pipes.


The harp’s web was woven
by Arachne
to catch dream-flies.

Pluck a string
or stroke it,
listen to her
fanged lament.


“She’s so elegant, so graceful!”

The flute tires of such compliments.
In the velvet night of her case,
she dreams of being a foghorn.


Originally written as a series of tweets. Copyright James Knight. All rights reserved.