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.

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Jack Ketch in Hell

What follows is a piece written as an epilogue to my junk poem Mr Punch Dreams. It first appeared in my most recent book, Head Traumas. In it, I imagine the sadistic executioner Jack Ketch (who for years was a staple character in Punch & Judy shows) entering the Hell of Mr Punch’s bad dreams…

Jack Ketch in Hell

Lost in the booth of Mr Punch’s dreams,
Jack Ketch flinches at the images
flickering across torn curtains.

The chirpy projectionist
sits in his nest,
flinging pictures:

A snake, rising from a discarded pair of clown’s trousers.
A monkey, balancing on a watermelon.
A burning sofa.
A boat made of newspaper, translucent with vinegar, sailing on a sea of soggy chips.
Blackpool Tower, shattering into confetti.
A spiral staircase that is a shell, revolving in the salty breeze, turning into an ear.
An eyeball, floating in a toilet bowl.
A glove puppet and a love puppet, waltzing in space.
Flowers in a trance.
Two black chess pieces: a knight and a king with feathers, in place of a crown.
A tiny man, drowning in a bottle of tomato ketchup.
An upside-down bowler hat, full of custard.
A beach ball, bouncing in slow motion through a hall of mirrors.
A puppeteer, hiding in a bin.
A small child, cheeks pink with joy, holding an ice cream made of seagulls.
A dirty puddle, in which someone has dropped a slim paperback called Mrs Punch Screams.
A man with a knife for a nose.
A chainsaw-winged angel, slashing his way out of a cocoon.
A round mirror, mimicking the moon. A face like a cloud crosses its surface.
The forest in which stories are born. Bloody and raw, they bawl beneath the eyes of shadow birds.
The Umbrella Men, sacking the City of Rain.
Judy’s moody brood, sulking in the shadow of a bouncy castle. But there’s one ninny enjoying himself, bouncing, ferociously alone: Punch.
A palace made of crumpled lager cans, on the wet waste of a beach.
A blancmange, thrown at a face.

Roll up, roll up! Come and see the Tyburn Gardener get his just desserts. Roll up, roll up!

The mirror frame above the chest of drawers
is a yellow loop
around Ketch’s head.

The Tyburn tree,
the stinking crowd,
a rotten egg sun.

—–

All texts on this site are the copyright of James Knight. All rights reserved.

A junk poem

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The full title of the book I have just published is:

Mr Punch Dreams
or 13 items discovered at the murder scene

A junk poem

I don’t usually like to explain or justify what I write, but I feel like writing a few words on the term junk poem.

By junk poem, I mean a poem made of junk. By junk, I mean scraps, odds, ends, rubbish.

Junk is also a slang term for drugs. And genitals.

I did not write the poem. I assembled it. Over several weeks I wrote lots of tweets about Mr Punch, Judy and the sadistic executioner Jack Ketch. I also wrote some longer pieces about them, which I published on this blog. All along I was really writing about the Bird King, of course, but this version of him has roots in the English psyche, something I wanted to explore.

I love fish n chips and the Sex Pistols.

Mr Punch is the archetypal punk, an anarchist, a toddler in adult form, a raging id.

The poem is a hymn to England, screeched by a drunken rabble.

I thought it would be fun to gather the various fragments I had written, organise them somehow. So I used a 13 I had already written as a framework, on which to hang the bric-a-brac, (dis)organised thematically. That piece was 13 items discovered at the murder scene, a crappy piece, but one which leant itself to the Punch project, for reasons I can’t articulate.

There are lots of voices in Mr Punch Dreams. Also lots of quotations, many of them battered and twisted. You’ll find snatches of The Prodigy, Shakespeare, Blake, a dictionary, the Three Little Pigs. All very English. And big chunks of John Payne Collier’s 1832 Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Punch and Judy. The poem is a collage. In this respect it’s not unlike The Waste Land. But where Eliot’s masterpiece is elevated and universal, my poem is base and parochial. It’s also a lot funnier than anything you’ll find in The Burial of the Dead or Death by Water.

What really made the poem, finally, were Maxim Peter Griffin’s astonishingly colourful, childlike, trippy, saccharine, nasty illustrations.

You should have a look.

A glimpse of Mr Punch Dreams

Mr Punch Dreams, my 13-part junk poem with illustrations by Maxim Peter Griffin, is nearly ready for publication.

To give you a little flavour of the book, here’s part two.

2. A glass eye, with a thin crack running across the pupil

It’s raining inside Mr Punch’s head.
His bedroom curtains are red rags.
Judy is somewhere out at sea,
on a ship with hand-shaped sails.

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside!

There’s one wife for you! What a precious darling creature! She go to fetch our child.

Mr Punch fears Jack Ketch’s gibbet.
It casts long shadows across his dreams.
The noose is the law’s reptilian eye.

There, there, there! How you like that? Nasty child. I thought I stop your squalling.

The hangman’s eyes roll madly like marbles,
like dead moons in headlong orbit.

– Where is the child?
– Gone. Gone to sleep.
– What have you done with the child, I say?
– Gone to sleep, I say.
– What have you done with it?
– What have I done with it?
– Ay, done with it! I heard it crying just now. Where is it?
– I dropped it out at window.

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Part 4 of my Mr Punch 13

What follows is part 4 of Mr Punch Dreams, or 13 items discovered at the murder scene.

—-

4. An old-fashioned Gladstone bag, containing some forceps, a stethoscope, hypodermic needles of various sizes and a vial of blood.

In the red gloom of the booth,
Mr Punch pops pills.
They make his nut go fuzzy.

Frilly flowers!
Starry sky!

Pale poems pour from him.

“What a lovely tree!” says Mr Punch. Its blossom: Jack Ketch’s rose-red ninny noggin, hanging on a rope. “You ill?” chortles Mr Punch, hitting Ketch’s dangling feet with his slapstick. “You look ropey! What the matter?”

Thank you very kindly, but me very well where I am. This very nice place, and pretty prospect.

Mr Punch’s brain is broken.
Thoughts fizz
across fried circuitry.

But one idea recurs,
throbbing, strong:
Judy.

—–

You can read parts 1 to 3 of this piece here. All of the texts on this site are the copyright of James Knight. All rights reserved.

Parts 1 to 3 of my Mr Punch 13

What follows are the first three parts of a 13 I wrote recently, entitled Mr Punch Dreams, or 13 items discovered at the murder scene. When the sequence appears in its entirety, it will be accompanied by an artist’s illustrations. I hope you enjoy this little sample!

—–

1. An uncooked black pudding.

Mr Punch likes the stars. They’re as pretty as his dreams.

They wink and twinkle, clink and tinkle
in the empty night.

you put a seashell to your ear you can hear the sea actually it’s your own blood roaring through you waves smash the shingle the moon hangs

– Well, here I am! What do you want, now I’m come?
– What a pretty creature! Ain’t she one beauty!
– What do you want, I say!
– A kiss! A pretty kiss!
– Take that then! How do you like my kisses? Will you have another?

Mr Punch’s head is in the clouds.

The crescent moon cuts his hair, shaves his chinny-chin-chin.

—–

2. A glass eye, with a thin crack running across the pupil.

It’s raining inside Mr Punch’s head.
His curtains are red rags.
Judy is somewhere out at sea,
on a ship with hand-shaped sails.

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside!

There’s one wife for you! What a precious darling creature! She go to fetch our child.

Mr Punch fears Jack Ketch’s gibbet.
It casts long shadows across his dreams.
The noose is the law’s lizard eye.

There, there, there! How you like that? I thought I stop your squalling.

The hangman’s eyes roll madly like marbles, like dead moons in headlong orbit.

I dropped it out at window.

—–

3. A length of rope, frayed at one end.

Jack Ketch is a tetchy wretch with a scarlet rash.
He tends a tree in the public garden.
Every day, at noon, he deadheads the roses.

The curtains fall away, exposing the booth’s wooden frame. Mr Punch shits himself: it looks like a gallows. Where’s Ketch? He turns around this way. He’s behind you! He turns around that way. Where? Where? I no see him. Behind you! An imaginary rope in the air.

– Mr Punch, you’re a very bad man. Why did you kill the police constable?
– He wanted to kill me!
– How?
– With his damned laws!
– That’s all gammon. You must come to prison: my name’s Ketch.

Ketch retches, fetches up ketchup
as red as the booth’s curtains.

He sleeps on a wooden bed with no mattress,
a portrait of Mr Punch hanging above his head.

—–

All texts on this site are the copyright of James Knight. All rights reserved.

13 items discovered at the murder scene, the interior of a Punch and Judy booth

1. An uncooked black pudding.

2. A glass eye, with a thin crack running across the pupil.

3. A length of rope, frayed at one end.

4. An old-fashioned Gladstone bag, containing some forceps, a stethoscope, hypodermic needles of various sizes and a vial of blood.

5. A battered bowler hat, on which the words “KISS ME QUICK” have been written in Tipp-Ex.

6. A soiled nappy.

7. A crayon drawing, depicting a man with a beak and feathers protruding from the back of his neck.

8. A copy of Razzle. Many of the models’ faces have been scribbled over with a black felt tip.

9. An iPod containing only three tracks: Greensleeves, Jerusalem and Anarchy in the UK.

10. An empty bottle of Daddies sauce.

11. A bunch of withered red roses, tied with string to the top of a heart-shaped box of chocolates (empty).

12. A broken hand mirror, smeared with red lipstick.

13. A glove puppet, bearing a strong resemblance to the prime suspect in this case.

—–

All texts on this site are the copyright of James Knight. All rights reserved.