Clay F. Johnson

Writer | Poet | Pianist | sometime Alpinist | hopeless Romanticist

My Little Green Secret

My Little Green Secret

An English-style vial of green pigment
Hides inside my piano, ghostly as
Moon-silvered glass, opal-pale like some witch-
Friendly potion—a Victorian skull
Grins back, mercury-soaked top hat
Askew its bone-vanilla head

Within I pretend are witch’s reagents:
Storm-purpled nightshade, old monkshood, wolf’s bane—
Hecate’s Queen of all Poisons
Blood-red bloodroot juice –pudding form–
Milk-silky yellow bell, unpasteurized,
Flakes of witch-curled wormwood bark –cinnamon–
And sprinkles of stone-crushed yew berry seeds

Its fragrance stings like a necromantic
Effluvium of root-twisted decay

But within this oak-corked vial –age-hazed–
Lies no fleurs du mal,
No floral bouquet from skeletal leaves
And no cauldron-boiled witchcraft scheme—
But instead, the unhallowed science
Of arsenic-laced Emerald Green

Her opulent walls are papered with it
The mid-winter damp moistens its poison

Yet, when finely ground, verdigris pigment
Oven-baked in rustic copper
Becomes an odorless, paste-like glaze:
A cosmetic-inspired Paris Green
My very own inheritance powder

Even better for witch-fever symptoms
Her oozing sores have confounded doctors for months

And though vividly delicious
On Victorian-papered walls
—Patterns of bats –spectral-green–, skeleton-
Fingered wings, gossamer-wisped veins, sinewed
Demon flesh, diffused and twisted through miles
Of pale-purpling opium flowers—
It too can be used for painted smiles
And smoke-inspired eyeshadow dyes

Go on, my darling, smudge a little more
–Just a little more–
To conceal your cancered lips and sleep-deprived eyes

† Featured as one of the Top 3 Poems in the Horror Writers Association’s (HWA) Poetry Showcase 2017:

‡ Nominated for a Rhysling Award 2018.

© 2019 Clay F. Johnson