Alice in Hell: 13 slithy variations

1. Having made Alice from one of the Mad Hatter’s ribs, Humpty Dumpty told her she could do anything, except speak. “How bothersome!” she said.

2. In the church, Alice was horrified to be presented with a talking lamb. “EAT ME!” it bleated and, as the Red Queen cut its throat, “DRINK ME!”

3. The chess pieces represented people Alice knew. The white were the saved; the red, the damned. She picked them all up, one at a time, and kissed them.

4. Alice was forced to kneel and pray to Our Lady of the Hearts. As she bowed her head, a priest lopped it off. After a cursory funeral, a red rose was placed on her grave.

5. On Judgment Day, Alice found herself under the scrutiny of a murderous legal system. When she shouted, “Nonsense!” the sun imploded and the White Rabbit’s watch stopped.

6. Virgil appeared to Alice as a white rabbit and guided her through Hell. Satan, in the form of a vanishing cat, weighed up her soul.

7. On reaching the eighth row of God’s infernal chessboard, Alice was assumed into Heaven, where she ruled with a rust-red fist and a vacant stare.

8. Those present at the tea party were not permitted to leave. They would remain there forever. They smelt Alice’s innocence and hoped she could save them. She smiled at their naivety.

9. Banished from Eden, Alice fell down the rabbit hole, past the circles of Hell and into the yawning mouth of the Jabberwocky.

10. After the Harrowing of Wonderland, Alice lay her head in her sister’s lap and slept.

11. A blue caterpillar sat in the Tree of Knowledge. When Alice talked to him she forgot who she was and what the rules were.

12. Although she had been baptised in a sea of her own tears, Alice knew that she was lost forever.

13. The White Rabbit’s watch started again. Years passed. Poring over the book of Alice’s life, scholars couldn’t agree on what it might mean.


13 phantasmagoric floats appearing in the Bird King’s Chimeric Carnival


1. Days of Innocence
Fluorescent maggot men dance the flamenco.

2. The Eyes of Medusa
Pythons and immobile pole dancers in grey body paint.

3. Golgotha
A drunken mechanical Christ grinds your bones to make his bread.

4. Big Ape Bollocks
Alpha males slug it out in a cage made of the bones of the beaten beta men.

5. The Other Side of the Mirror
A Hell of revolving doors, with screaming Red Queens.

6. The Triumph of Time
Hands pointing to blank faces, numbers crashing down.

7. The Dark Room
Thousands of photos of an empty bed.

8. The Mannequin
A smashed window in a department store display.

9. Punching Judy
A shrieking bride clobbers her red-nosed husband.

10. The Bald Prima Donna
A fireman, leaping from the window of an invisible house.

11. The Cocoon
A gigantic filing cabinet shakes violently, as if something inside is trying to get out.

12. Capitalism Makes Happiness
Play-Doh recreations of disaster zones.

13. Limbo Dancers
Grey shapes wavering, neither here nor there. The music has stopped. The crowds are vanishing.

13 imaginary friends


1. He had 13 imaginary friends. They knew him better than his mother did.

2. His imaginary friends were all born of a cat on the night of a blood moon.

3. His imaginary friends had grey skin and red eyes, giving them the appearance of dead people. Their cheeks flushed silver when they blushed.

4. His imaginary friends had held a grudge against him for thirty years. They never forgave him for neglecting them by playing with other children.

5. His imaginary friends regularly gathered in the folds of his curtains, whispering about him.

6. While he slept, his imaginary friends opened the curtains, turned on the lights and displayed him in the window like a mannequin.

7. His imaginary friends were stage managers, orchestrating the bleak theatre of his life.

8. Having sex was difficult with his imaginary friends present.

9. Whenever he saw them on the station platform or in a coffee shop, his imaginary friends would look right through him, as if he didn’t exist.

10. Once, his imaginary friends killed a pigeon and left it on his doorstep. It was intended as an ambiguously threatening message.

11. His imaginary friends maintained their sangfroid by using his fridge as their chillout zone.

12. His imaginary friends were more real than his house, his car, his job, his girlfriend, his parents, his past, his desires, his life.

13. Whenever his imaginary friends felt tired they folded themselves in half and slept under the rug in his living room.

13 circles of Hell hidden from Dante but revealed to the Bird King in a series of hallucinations caused by medicine for a urinary tract infection


1. The Kingdom of Maggots
Billions of tiny bald men wriggle and squirm through a derelict mannequin factory.

2. The Sea of Knives
Waves slice and slash. Maimed mermaids wail.

3. The Eye Moon
Envious mirrors ape the sun. An astronaut falls forever into open dust space.

4. The Box
A cranking noise, wheezing bellows. Nothing to see. Something tugs your sleeve.

5. The Circle of Perpetual Disaster
Glitchy re-enactments of historic horrors revolve, to the accompaniment of a hurdy-gurdy.

6. The Iron Forest
Rust hulks loom in fog and rain. Clattering wings are skittish around newcomers.

7. Satan’s Administrative Headquarters
Those who run Hell are the most deeply damned. They sit in an open-plan labyrinth, fingers in knots.

8. The Egg
There is neither inside nor out, just white space. Yellow bodies twist to form meaningless symbols.

9. The Palace of Reversals
The great and the good, the rich, the successful, crawl through unimaginable luxury, their insides hanging out.

10. The Cul-de-Sac
In the eternal, watchful twilight, clawed hands grasp net curtains.

11. The Punchman’s Booth
A miniature Hell for the littluns (not to scale). Shrieks and screams express mirth and terror simultaneously.

12. The Core Scraper
A subterranean 666-storey building. The lights don’t work but the gibbering denizens are luminescent.

13. Head Space
The door is impossible to find, though you’re convinced it’s here somewhere. You’ll never stop looking.

13 heads

1. A headache is a nightmare in its larval form.

2. The Chimera’s heads are a TV, a book, a smartphone, an argument, a war, a symphony and a broken mirror.

3. Please place your head in its original packaging and return to sender.

4. My head is a trilobite fossil. Thanks to a well-placed hat, most people don’t realise.

5. To achieve happy thoughts, simply unscrew your head and throw it into the nearest well.

6. The head of state’s head was in a state of heady stateliness.

7. An embryonic head on cold shoulders.

8. Did you lose your head in the abandoned factory?

9. Wearing your head upside-down is likely to draw the wrong sort of attention.

10. The nefarious Dr Dedalus opened his patient’s skull and let loose a monster in the labyrinth of his cerebral cortex.

11. I’m sorry. Your brain is too big for your skull. I’m trying, but I don’t think I can jam it in.

12. Our bodies plot against the tyranny of our heads, nostalgic for the night when we forgot ourselves.

13. In the final scene, the headless waiter poured soup into the lap of the gods.

13 broken pieces of id


The leaders took their seats, and the common


       scowled and shook his fist.



         to do battle with him.


exulting in               bloodshed and slaughter.



         consider the good of the state.

    consider the killing


those who had participated in the robbery under his leadership



       we fought in the field

           digging a trench round their fortifications,

    deceived by a dream


attack the leaders with               words



           my words.



          and killed








         beneath the city walls




        these weapons

  you need me to direct your thinking


      I am superior to you



The blade



      unhappy wife
   lost even her

            was in flames

women embraced the                statues



              dragged her



The girl
            was snatched

         she did not forget herself
     his eyes fixed on her face



My only wish is that my death could be concealed from





         give back my body

             the knife





    she made her way to the shore





             the sea






body, washed up on the beach



     smooth          words

         captive women


uttered barks instead of words.





  poor queen



           black smoke darkened


     black ash





    beaks and hooked claws




 he saw me, lying with



sea lay        before her



      waters churned over my head



I found myself



This erasure poem was made from a translation of book 13 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It recently appeared as part of the Transformations project. Copyright James Knight. All rights reserved. 

13 poets in Hell

Paradise Lost is cast into the lake of fire. Satan tells John Milton to rewrite it in 140 characters or fewer.

Filippo Marinetti languishes in a dismal rural idyll. His hand, possessed, scrawls euphonic odes to the moon with a quill.

Henri Michaux floats through the eternal peace of his inner space. “Where are the monsters?” he wonders, unhappily.

“What’s this penty nonsense about ‘phantasmal gnomes?'” demands Pound. Eliot tries to explain, but he has lost his voices!

Wandering lonely as a cloud of smog through the city, Wordsworth looks into an oily puddle but can’t find his reflection.

Tristan Tzara cuts up a newspaper article into its individual words and scatters them. When they land they form sonnets.

Antonin Artaud wakes from troubled dreams, to find himself transformed into Pam Ayres.

Shakespeare sits in the drab fluorescence of a classroom. “Take out your copies of Macbeth,” mumbles the teacher.

Fluttering letters perch on the page, spelling APOLLINAIRE. Then a noise startles them and they disperse forever.

Coleridge scratches at the door. The visions are seeping into his lungs. Where’s the man from Porlock? When will this end?


William Blake realises that the physical universe is everything.

André Breton claws his way out of the negligée and lies, spent, on the tiled floor. Towers of washing-up await him.


Originally published as a series of tweets. All texts on this site are the copyright of James Knight. All rights reserved.