In British folklore, the Beast of Bodmin Moor is a phantom feral cat. Bodmin Moor (Cornwall, England) is a hub of horror, with regular sightings and reports of savagely slain livestock.

I’ve sensed the sickening lick of fear
__At eyes that flicker on the fringe
Of felid fierceness—Luna’s leer
__Has made me cringe.
I’ve seen mad moons ignite the gore
That stains the name of Bodmin Moor.

I’ve smelt the beast. I’ve felt it prowl.
__I’ve tasted terror’s ferric zing.
Death haunts the heath with stealth of owl
__Upon the wing.
An ebon brute of fiendish claw
Skulks cloaked in mist on Bodmin Moor.

Its silvered whiskers brush the edge
__Of restless dreams in fright’s abyss.
This bristling killer taints the pledge
__Of daybreak’s kiss.
The grisly spoils of cryptid lore
Are spread in red on Bodmin Moor.

The banshee wail of gust and gale,
__The zig-zag flash of Thor’s disdain,
The boom of doom and pelt of hail
__Reflect the pain
Of shrieking souls slain by the score.
Hell gnaws their bones on Bodmin Moor.

The tourists come. The tourists go.
__They frolic in the fantasy.
They’ll never know my throes of woe:
__The agony
Of Hades blight—how I abhor
Residing here on Bodmin Moor.

I loathe my life of cat-and-mouse.
__I dread the devil’s feral song.
I’ve packed my things and sold my house—
__I’m moving on.
No more monsters. No more shock.
I’ll nestle by a Scottish loch.

 

 

Susan Jarvis Bryant is a church secretary and poet whose homeland is Kent, England.  She is now an American citizen living on the coastal plains of Texas.  Susan has poetry published in the UK webzine, Lighten Up On Line, The Daily Mail, and Openings (anthologies of poems by Open University Poets).


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38 Responses

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Joe, thank you, my fellow poet of fine poetry! I am over the moon with your response!

      Reply
  1. Cynthia Erlandson

    Wow — this is so full of good stuff — both alliteration and consonance, for one thing (I love “sickening lick”; “terror’s ferric..”; “abyss /This bristling…”) Fantastic imagery, like “Its silvered whiskers brush the edge of restless dreams…” and “The zigzag flash of Thor’s disdain” — what a brilliant way to describe lightning! And I like the cleverness of varying the meter by using only two meters in line 4 of each verse.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much, Cynthia. From a lady who writes a mean poem and knows her literary stuff, your comment is high praise, indeed!

      Reply
  2. Sarban Bhattacharya

    A perfect poem for Halloween, Susan! It reminds me of a host of Celtic folktales, Greek legends and medieval literature. I loved the alliteration, rhyme, repetition of phrases, onomatopoeia and classical allusions which rendered the poem doubly enjoyable besides its eerie content. I was alone at my home while reading this, and by the time I got to the end, I curled up on my bed, and I heard a creak and scampered off my room! Jokes apart, the feline spectre of your poem haunted the readers with horror and humour!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Sarban, oh, the power of words! I hope you’ve quelled the fear and you’re enjoying a beautiful Saturday afternoon by now. Although, I will admit I’m glad I scared you! Thank you very much for your generous, considered comment. I appreciate your fine eye.

      Reply
  3. Sally Cook

    Susan –
    So carefully constructed, imaginatively described, and appropriate for Halloween ! A triumph for you, my friend !

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Sally, you have made my afternoon, dear friend! I’m thrilled you enjoyed my little bit of Halloween whimsy.

      Reply
  4. Jeff Eardley

    Susan, we were once at the Grand Canyon where one evening, we left a restaurant for a long walk in the darkness, back to our cabin. We were told that there was a “beast” out there, probably a puma, and were issued with metal trays to bang on our heads and told to sing loudly. I have never felt fear like it until TODAY. I have read your poem and have now locked myself in a wardrobe for the evening. An absolute bone-chilling masterpiece with yet again, a belter of a punch line. Thank you again.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Jeff, I love your Grand Canyon experience. The Grand Canyon is one of my favourite places on earth… and I can fully understand how it can conjure such feelings… wild animals, sheer drops, the looming wonder of nature. Mike and I took a horse ride in Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas, with the horses hooves slipping on rocks and the fear of falling to injury and being eaten by a puma… all in the name of a romantic evening under the sunset. We’re still getting over it!

      Jeff, I’m thrilled my poem had this effect on you, but you now have my permission to come out of the closet! 🙂

      Reply
      • Jeff Eardley

        Susan, this poem would put the wind up the kilts of the Bodmin W.I. They should be told!

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Jeff, I’ve just told the ladies from the Bodin W.I. to pull on some thermal drawers before even thinking of reading my latest poem! Bottoms up to the heads up!

    • Mike Bryant

      Jeff, I love your Grand Canyon story as well. I’m sure that you had to return the metal trays the next morning and I’m wondering why they couldn’t have given you a couple of serving spoons (to avoid banging the trays over your heads) as well. I think the restaurant workers may have been having a huge laugh at your expense!
      Of course a little well-timed fear after a romantic evening meal might not be an entirely bad thing. An adrenalin rush works wonders.

      Reply
      • Jeff Eardley

        Mike, thanks for your comments and thank you for steering me towards a bit more George Strait. What an enduring artist, and to pull in almost 105,000 at the Arlington concert is incredible. I love “Amarillo by morning.” I always regret not seeing Garth Brooks live. The last time he was anywhere close to here was a concert in Dublin, that he cancelled, leading to a waxworks of his head appearing on the counter of the tourist office. These guys were far more interesting than the current crop on the CMA awards.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much, Christopher. I appreciate you dropping by and leaving a lovely comment. Happy Halloween to you!

      Reply
  5. Joseph S. Salemi

    A very nicely crafted poem, Susan. The story (or legend) reminds me of the chupacabra beast of Spanish America, which is deemed responsible for many livestock killings. I’ve heard that some daft animal-rights woman in Britain let two pumas loose into the wild. Perhaps they are the reality behind the Bodmin Moor phenomenon.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you very much, Joe. Mike has told me all about the chupacabra (he’s seen many) and, after nine long years, I’m still waiting to spot one. I think he may be pulling my leg! As for the pumas being released, I have read similar versions of that story, and I honestly believe that may be what led to this chilling tale of horror. Exotic pets were all the rage in the UK in the 80s. How on earth could anyone keep a puma in an ordinary British-sized terraced house. I believe all those sweet, fluffy, blue-eyed puma kittens are now roaming on the moors. The thing that scares me more is we may well have snakes and (even worse) tarantulas lurking in the UK undergrowth for the same reason.

      Reply
      • Joseph S. Salemi

        The woman released the pumas somewhere in Devonshire (adjacent to Cornwall), so the probability is even stronger.

        I fully believe your husband. There is so much eyewitness testimony to the chupacabra that it cannot all be dismissed as myth or delusion. I’ve seen photos of livestock killed by the chupacabra, and they look like they come right out of hell.

      • Jeff Eardley

        Susan, the “daft animal rights woman” was Mary Chipperfield of circus fame. Apparently she released three Pumas into the wild in 1978 from Plymouth, in “Devonshire” or as we refer to it over here “Ooh Arr Jim Lad” country

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Jeff, I was only about thirteen at the time, but I seem to remember reading something about Mary Chipperfield and the pumas… wasn’t that around the time all the circuses in the UK stopped having tigers and elephants for entertainment?

        Joes S, now you come to mention it, I think I saw a couple of chupacabras at the Amy Coney Barrett hearing – it’s your “right out of hell” term that jogged my memory!

  6. Peter Hartley

    Susan – ferric zing, a brilliant combination and the only true rival, I think, to pudgy gluts. Such compound nouns are what reminded me of G M Hopkins in your work, (May-mess, cuckoo- echoing, bell-swarmed, rook-racked) more than anything. His are OK but they don’t have the same, let us say, ferric zing, and I don’t think Hopkins would have recognised a pudgy glut if it knocked his teeth out. Very observant too – owls are, no matter how big, extremely stealthy on the wing, almost silent as they stoop. Joe up above may well be right about the quality of this offering. The teratogenic threats implicit in the last lines of this poem are masterful, Hitchcockian, fearful, magnificent. Please tell Mike I’d have had more chance with a snurd of baboons.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Peter, I am thrilled to have come up with a poetic gem that stands alongside my pudgy gluts – I was beginning to feel those pudgy gluts were the peak of my poetic prowess and I’d peaked way too soon. I am thrilled to be compared to Gerard Manley Hopkins – that’s high praise, indeed. I’m also basking in my “Hitchcockian, fearful, magnificent” status. Thank you, Sir!

      As for owls, I adore them, and their silent stealth when hunting impresses me. I’m glad to have captured that in the poem. I’ve held an owl, and they’re surprisingly light. They’re all fluff and feather, which accounts for their prey-grabbing success. In fact, I am becoming increasingly fascinated by birds. I’m lucky enough to live on a migratory path on the coastal plains of Texas. Yesterday, I managed to capture on camera the arrival of two five-foot whooping cranes, flying over my head to land at our local wildlife refuge.

      Mike likes your “snurd of baboons”, but to me, they’ll always be a buttock of baboons.

      Reply
  7. C.B. Anderson

    Technically flawless, Susan, as we have come to expect. But such mood, such atmosphere, and such tropes!

    Reply
  8. James A. Tweedie

    Susan,

    For some reason, this ghastly beautiful poem reminded me of the title of Hawthorne’s collection of short stories, Twice-Told Tales. Some stories and some poems are worth telling twice. The Beast of Bodmin Moor is one of them. Several of Hawthorne’s tales are worth rereading on Halloween as well, including Howe’s Masquerade and The Hollow of the Three Hills.

    As so graphically expressed in Mussorgsky’s great tone poem, Night on Bald Mountain, (see Disney’s Fantasia for the animated version) it is good to know that, with the rising of tomorrow’s sun, we will welcome the brighter and happier celebration of All Saint’s.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      James, I love “ghastly beautiful”… just what I was aiming for.

      Thank you for all your Halloween story pointers. I’m most interested. I think I’ll read Mike a few bedtime stories tonight. Mwah-ha-ha!

      Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      Mike – my all-time favourite anthropoid apes are Grinling Gibbons, which seem to spend most of their time exposing their futtocks. They are truly ginormous (the futtocks I mean): However steatopygous is the word I’m groping for (certainly not the futtocks).

      Reply
  9. Peter Hartley

    Susan – I remember I used regularly to have to pick up a Mute Swan called Percy from the middle of the A533 and carry it to a place of refuge in order to reduce the number of tyre marks on its skull. Now a Mute Swan, along with the Black-browed Snot-gobbling Guttersnipe is one of the heaviest flying birds in the world, but the first time I picked Percy up I nearly made a hole in the ozone layer. There is no such thing as a buttock of baboons. You can have a futtock of gibbons or a snurd of chimps or grown-up baboons. A group of juvenile baboons is called a flange. This latest poem is for me among your half-dozen best of all, as others above have concurred.

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      Peter, I don’t know if this information is pertinent but I am aware that a futtock recovered from the Mediterranean and dated from the twelfth century was transformed into an exquisite rosette by Grinling Gibbons. My favorite bird name is the Snurd-gurgling Hedge Warbler.

      Reply
  10. David Watt

    Susan, there are numerous great lines in this spine-tingling piece. My favourite lines are:

    “The grisly spoils of cryptid lore
    Are spread in red on Bodmin Moor.”

    Loch Ness sounds like a much safer neighbourhood.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      David, thank you very much for your lovely comment. I will admit that when I wrote your favourite lines, I terrified myself! Loch Ness, here I come!

      Reply

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