Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Reprise: Saint Nikolaus’s Companion, Knecht Ruprecht

From out the forest I now appear,

To proclaim that Christmastide is here!

For at the top of every tree

Are golden lights for all to see;

And there from heaven’s gate on high

I saw our Christ-child in the sky.

And in among the darkened trees,

A loud voice it was that called to me:

“Knecht Ruprecht, old fellow,” it cried,

“Hurry now, make haste. Don’t hide!

All the candles have now been lit —

Heaven’s gate has opened wide!

Both young and old should now have rest

Away from cares and daily stress;

And when tomorrow to earth I fly

‘It’s Christmas again!’ will be the cry.”

And then I said: “O Lord so dear.

My journey’s end is now quite near;

But to the town I’ve still to go,

Where the children are good, I know.”

“But have you then that great sack?”

“I have,” I said, “It’s on my back,

For apples, almonds, fruit and nuts

For God-fearing children are a must.”

“And is that cane there by your side?”

“The cane’s there too,” I did reply;

“But only for those, those naughty ones,

Who have it applied to their backsides.”

The Christ-child spoke: “Then that’s all right!

My loyal servant, go with God this night!”

From out the forest I now appear;

To proclaim that Christmastide is here!

Now speak, what is there here to be had?

Are there good children, are there bad?

Theodor Storm

Translated from the German by Denis Jackson, Isle of Wight.

BIO: Theodor Storm (1817-1888) was a German poet, novelist, and lawyer known for the lyrical quality of his work. He died of cancer in 1888. Knecht Ruprecht (Krampus) is still a popular figure seen in Germany (and other countries) at Christmas. While St. Nikolaus rewards the good children, Krampus punishes the bad.

Dawn Pisturino

11 Comments »

Reprise: Trapped in the Snow

(Photo by Angelo Christo)

Delaware Territory 1755

Nunganey trudged through the crusty snow searching for signs of beaver and other game. He longed for a blazing fire and his mother’s warm smile. But the villagers were counting on the hunters — the best of the tribe — to bring back fresh meat.

“Turn back!” shouted his father over the rising wind as a shower of white flakes fluttered down from the sky.

Nunganey’s heart dropped with disappointment. There would be no fresh meat. His younger brothers and sisters would cry with disappointment when their mother served hot watery broth, brewed from old bones, and meager portions of mashed acorns for dinner. His own hunger raged inside of him, and he longed for a piece of fat beaver cooked over a hot fire.

Suddenly, one of the hunters shouted, “Raccoon tracks!”

Nunganey’s father pointed at an old tree with a large hole in the center of the trunk. “Nunganey, follow those tracks and see if the raccoons have taken shelter in that tree.”

With the wind and snow blowing in his face, Nunganey followed the tiny footprints to the old tree, but the tracks led deeper into the forest. He knew he should turn back, but the boy was determined to find the raccoons.

The tracks disappeared at the base of another large tree. Nunganey climbed up the tree and peered into a large hole. He had found the raccoons!

“Yohoh!” he called into the wind. “Yohoh!”

Shivering with cold, Nunganey clung to the tree and waited for a response. He called again, trying to shout louder than the wind, but no familiar voice shouted back.

Where were his father and the band of hunters? Had they left him behind? He scrambled down the tree and trudged through the snow with the wind at his back, looking for dark shapes moving among the trees. No voices called his name or answered his desperate cries.

Lost and alone, the boy shivered with hunger, wet, and cold. If he did not find shelter soon, he would freeze to death. He had his bow, arrows, and tomahawk, but nothing to build a fire. Even if he found shelter, how would he stay warm?

Old Grandfather’s words echoed in his head: Be strong, and Owaneeyo, the Great Spirit, will guide you. 

He soon came upon a hollow tree with an opening large enough for him to crawl inside. The center of the tree was dry and wide enough for him to stand up and move his arms and legs. But the wind and snow blew fiercely through the opening, chilling him to the bone.

Nunganey crawled out into the snow and looked around. Nearby, a dead tree had fallen to the ground. He chopped off the top of the tree with his tomahawk and propped it up against the opening in the hollow tree, leaving a small entrance to get in and out.

He fashioned a small block of wood out of the trunk of the dead tree and gathered a large pile of small sticks. When he had finished, he crawled inside the hollow tree, drawing the block of wood behind him to close up the entrance. Then he used the small sticks to plug up any remaining holes. He was now snug inside the hollow tree, protected from the wind and snow.

With his tomahawk, Nunganey removed the rotted wood lining the hollow tree and pounded it into small pieces on the ground. He now had a soft bed to lie on.

But it was cold and dark inside the tree. How could he get warm without a fire?

Then he had an idea. He jumped up and down, waving his arms, whooping and hollering, and dancing wildly inside the tree, until beads of sweat trickled into his eyes and he could jump no more.

Using his wet moccasins for a pillow, Nunganey wrapped himself in his damp blanket, curled up in a little ball, and went to sleep.

When Nunganey woke up, he didn’t know if it was day or night. But he was warm and dry, so he lay still for a very long time, listening to the wind, and finally the noise outside began to die down.

Nunganey put on his moccasins and felt around for the block of wood marking the entrance to the tree. It was so dark he couldn’t see. But then his fingers touched the rough contours of the block, and he sighed with relief. He pushed his hands against the block, expecting it to move, but it wouldn’t budge. He was trapped inside the tree!

He beat his fists on the trunk of the tree, tears stinging his eyes. Would he ever see his family again?

Then he remembered Old Grandfather’s words: Be strong . . . Owaneeyo will guide you.

Pushing his back against the trunk of the tree, Nunganey kicked the wooden block with all his strength. This time the block gave way, and a great blanket of snow fell down on the ground. A blast of cold air rushed in, and bright daylight flooded the tree. He was free!

Nunganey crawled out of the tree into the powdery snow. Many of the older trees grew moss on the northwest side of their trunks. He followed the moss-covered trees for many miles until he arrived at the creek which flowed past his village.

Suddenly, a large buck deer crashed through the bushes. Nunganey grabbed his bow and arrow. Aiming carefully, he waited until the rushing animal was almost upon him. Then he released the arrow, holding his breath, and watched the buck fall slowly to the ground. There would be fresh meat for his brothers and sisters!

Old Grandfather would be proud.

Dawn Pisturino

May 1, 2012; December 5, 2021

Copyright 2012-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

10 Comments »

Reprise: Bigfoot!

(Still photo from Bigfoot film by Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin, October 1967)

Crack! The bullet zings past my ear, hitting an old oak tree.

I drop the salmon wiggling in my hands and run along the bank of the Mokelumne River, propelling my long, hairy arms for speed. Behind me, the hunters move carefully through the dense underbrush, tracking my movements.

Sharp green thorns snag on my hair and tear at my flesh as I struggle through the blackberry briars and wild grapevines. I hike deeper into the wilderness on two strong legs, climbing skillfully around granite boulders barring my way. In the distance, the jagged outline of Deadwood Peak rises above the trees. If I can only get there, I will be safe.

Rounding a bend I see her, tearing meat from a rabbit carcass with big, sharp teeth. Mama! Her shaggy brown head turns in my direction. With a low growl, she opens her long, hairy arms as if to embrace me.

And then she smells it, the distinct odor of musky sweat. The hunters are near!

We run, ignoring the stones piercing our feet, causing us to stumble. Behind us, the humans call back and forth, “Bigfoot!”

Together, we melt into the shade of a thick stand of pines, hoping to slow down and catch our breath. But our feet become tangled in nets concealed by pine needles, and suddenly, we are swinging up, up into the air, and dangling from the limbs of a sturdy pine tree.

Mama struggles inside her net, growling with rage. I struggle, too, yelping helplessly as the net swings back and forth above the hard ground.

“We’ve got them now,” says a bearded hunter to his companions. “Bigfoot! That TV show, Monster Search, will pay us big bucks for these babies.”

“We’ll be famous,” cries a husky hunter with red hair. “Scientists won’t laugh at us anymore. Finally! Proof that Bigfoot exists!”

“How are we going to get them back to San Francisco?” asks an old man with spectacles. “I mean, we weren’t really expecting to find anything.”

The bearded hunter pulls out his camera. “I’m taking plenty of pictures, just in case something goes wrong. They can’t call it a hoax this time!”

While the camera clicks and the three men argue over the best way to get us back to the city, I turn my head from view and gnaw on the net’s thick webbing with my teeth. Pretty soon I’ve made a small opening, large enough to stick my fingers through. I wiggle them at Mama, and she understands what to do.

The red-haired hunter chuckles as he pokes me in the back with a long stick. I give him a warning growl, but he keeps it up. My powerful jaws chew faster on the netting.

“We need some of that fur,” says the old man with spectacles. “We can send it to a lab for analysis.”

“Good idea!” says the red-haired hunter. “Then, if they get away, we’ll still have proof.”

The three men stand under the nets, looking up at our shaggy brown bodies hanging in the air. Suddenly the nets give way, and Mama and I find ourselves lying on top of the three men on the ground.

We howl victory cries and scramble to our feet. The men, tangled in the nets, shout curses at us as we run away.

The Miwok Indians tell stories about us — great hairy beasts roaming these desolate mountains. They fear us and protect our sacred habitat on Deadwood Peak. We are going there now, secure in the knowledge that we cannot be followed. Men from the city will continue to hunt us. But, with help from the Miwoks, they will never find us. And we will never let them capture us alive.

Dawn Pisturino

©2014-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

15 Comments »

Silly Poems

My Grandmother’s Nose

My grandmother’s nose was too long for her face
So it lay ninety years on the floor.
It was longer by half than my poor Grandma Grace,
And it weighed not a feather-weight more.

She was scorned on the morn
Of the day that she was born,
But my grandmother took it in stride.
She colored that schnozzola
With a cherry red Crayola
And painted yellow polka dots inside!

April 12, 2012

Raggedy Ann Loses Heart

Raggedy Ann liked to dress up and play
By the fire on a cold winter day.
When flames burned her dress, she cried in distress
As her candy heart melted away.

November 1, 2011

The Postman and the Snail

A postman delivering mail
Was attacked by a slithery snail.
Quickly, he trod on that fierce gastropod,
Fighting him off tooth and nail!

July 19, 2011

The Sailor and the Whale (1)

A sailor who kidnapped a whale
Got the ransom but landed in jail.
“Am I dumb!” said the crumb,
As he sucked on his thumb.
“I shouldn’t have sent him by mail!”

July 19, 2011

The Sailor and the Whale (2)

A sailor who kidnapped a whale
Got the ransom but landed in jail.
“Am I dumb!” said the crumb,
As he sucked on his thumb.
“There isn’t enough to make bail!”

July 19, 2011

The Man from New York

There was a young man from New York
Who stuffed down a very large pork.
He doubled in size, for he wasn’t too wise,
And popped off his head like a cork!

July 11, 2011

Dawn Pisturino
Copyright 2011-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

15 Comments »

The Dentist and Other Poems

Artwork by John Federis

(Warning! If you hate going to the dentist, don’t read this poem!)

The Dentist

by Dawn Pisturino

Now I’ve got you in my chair,

You’re not going anywhere.

So open wide, let me in,

And let the painful games begin!

See that molar on the right?

It’s in the socket way too tight.

Here’s my plier. Please don’t move.

I’ll pry that sucker from its groove!

Look, there’s a cavity over there.

My drill’s all ready. Please don’t stare!

My hands are shaking, can’t you see?

I need your confidence in me.

Oops! The blood is squirting out.

I didn’t mean to make you shout!

Your bloody tongue is in my hand.

Sit down! Don’t even try to stand!

Come back! I need to suture in—-

Oh well, another toothless grin.

February 6, 2012

Published in the April 2012 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree.

Copyright 2012-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Artwork by Ken Lamug
Poem by Dawn Pisturino

CHELSEA HAD A LITTLE LAMB

Chelsea had a little lamb,

Its fleece was black as soot. 

And everywhere that Chelsea went,

That lamb was underfoot.

It followed her to school until

The cooking class went wild

And served that lamb with mint and dill,

One chop for every child!

October 6, 2011

Published in the December 2011 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree.

Copyright 2011-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Artwork by Jason Smith

Poem by Dawn Pisturino

DIRTY DONALD

Dirty Donald!

His hair, full of lice,

Grows down to his shoulders,

A haven for mice. 

His teeth are all rotten,

Mildewed and black,

His tongue is so long,

He could pass for a yak. 

His breath stinks of corpses

Dug fresh from their graves,

A delicate morsel

He constantly craves. 

He glares at the ravens,

Surrounding his head,

With murderous eyes,

Pronouncing them dead. 

Then yanks out their feathers

And nibbles their toes,

Lining them up

In neat little rows. 

His clothes are so tattered,

The buzzards all say,

“What a fine looking fellow!

Let’s eat him today!” 

July 3, 2011 

Published on Underneath the Juniper Tree, July 17, 2011.  

Published in the August 2011 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree.  

Copyright 2011-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Illustration by Job van Gelder

Poem by Dawn Pisturino

Down in the Graveyard

Down in the graveyard by the old oak tree

Roamed an old mother zombie and her little zombies three.

“Fresh meat!” cried the mother. “Tastes sweet!” cried the three.

And they ripped out the intestines from the caretaker, Lee.

Down in the graveyard by the mausoleum door

Lived an old mother werewolf and her little wolfies four.

“Fresh fat!” howled the mother. “Tastes great!” howled the four.

And they tore into the belly of the visitor, Lenore.

Down in the graveyard by the rusty old gate

Hung an old mother vampire and her little vampies eight.

“Fresh blood!” squeaked the mother. “Tastes good!” squeaked the eight.

And they sank their greedy fangs into the gravedigger, Nate.

Published in the September 2012 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree.

Copyright 2012-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

12 Comments »

Reprise: Halloween Treat

The Van Emmerick house was the most feared house in the neighborhood. For ten-year-old Tommy James, it was a dark reminder of things long ago and best forgotten; a relic of the past, old and mysterious, built by people who had lived and died many decades before he was born. He was curious about the past; fascinated with history; and the more he became aware of the house, the more he longed to explore its hidden secrets.

Tommy walked by the old Van Emmerick place twice a day, before and after school. Over the years, he had noticed many interesting details about the house. In the morning, when the sun shone full against the front of the house, two arched windows marking the second story seemed to smile at him with a “good morning!” kind of smile. The dark green paint didn’t seem so faded and cracked. The old stone porch, rudely assembled from local rocks, didn’t seem so forbidding and uninviting. The big plate glass window with the frilly white curtains seemed to sparkle in the morning light.

But in the afternoon, when the sun was low in the sky, making shadows lengthen across the old frame house, the peaked roof with the two small smoke stacks and faded red shingles gave the barn-like appearance of the house a more sinister expression. The entire structure seemed foreign and out of place. The old Victorian ornamentation, placed squarely between the two arched windows, reminded him of death and wrinkled old ladies dressed in black. The tall wrought-iron fence, set in more local rock, surrounded the property with deadly grace, effectively keeping out the curious and unwanted.

Tommy shivered, made the sign of the cross as he always did, and hurried home as fast as he could.

~

“The old Van Emmerick house, you say? Why, sure, I know all about it,” his grandfather told him one crisp afternoon in October. They were raking leaves in his own backyard while his mother prepared dinner in the kitchen. His father was still at work, and his oldest sister had left for her ballet lesson.

His grandfather had lived in Blakeville his entire life and knew a lot about the history of the town.

“Peter Van Emmerick built that house in 1880,” he recalled. “Folks around here have always called it a monstrosity. The architecture isn’t right — doesn’t fit in with the rest of the town. But Peter, being Dutch, was homesick for his own country and built the house to remind him of home. He had six children in that house by two different wives. It’s never been empty, that’s for sure. Old Amy Van Emmerick lives there now. Inherited the house from her mother. As far as I know, she’s the last of ’em. They gradually died out around here, as all old families do. The cemetery is filled with their headstones. I’ll take you there sometime to see the old graves. Would you like that, Tommy? Halloween’s coming up!”

“Sure, Gramps, any time. You know how much I like history.” But privately, Tommy wasn’t so sure. The idea of visiting a cemetery for fun, especially on Halloween, gave him the creeps.

“That’s my boy. Someday, you’ll be teaching history at the high school, just like your old granddad.” His grandfather winked at him, and Tommy stopped raking.

“Say, Gramps, how come nobody ever sees Amy Van Emmerick? I mean, how do you know she’s still alive? She could’ve died and nobody would even know it!”

“Oh, they’d know it, alright. She has a woman who comes in once a week to clean the place up and run errands for her. Selma Baintree — that’s the woman’s name. I ran into her not too long ago, and she told me that the old lady’s not doing too well, getting more frail as time goes by. It’s just a matter of time before the house will be empty, she said.”

“I’m sorry. How old is Amy Van Emmerick? I mean, you must’ve known her, Gramps!”

Yep, that’s right, Tommy. She was my first love.”

Tommy blushed. He couldn’t imagine his grandfather ever being young enough to have a first love. “Why didn’t you marry her, Gramps?”

His grandfather stopped raking and looked at him with a faraway expression on his face. “Oh, I don’t know. The Great War started, and I went off to Europe to fight the Germans. Getting married wasn’t on my mind back then. And Miss Amy went off to school in Chicago. I heard later that she was engaged to a young man from an old Chicago family, but he was killed at Dunkirk. She must’ve loved him very deeply because she came home to take care of her mother after her father died and never got involved with anybody again. She hardly left the house after that and became a regular recluse. Poor Miss Amy! She was the most beautiful girl I ever saw. The biggest blue eyes, and long golden hair like spun flax. She’d beat out the likes of Paris Hilton any day of the week!”

Tommy laughed, then stopped, when a sudden thought struck him. “Hey, Gramps, I just had an idea. Why don’t you go visit Miss Amy before she dies? I bet she’d like that a lot!”

His grandfather stroked his white-whiskered chin thoughtfully. “You know, Tommy, I never really thought about it. It seems like an invasion of the old lady’s privacy. She probably wouldn’t even know me after all these years!”

“Aw, I bet she would. She’s probably lonely shut up in that old place.”

“Maybe so,” his grandfather said. “You might just be right.”

~

“Hey, Tommy, watch this!”

Butch Abernathy pulled an egg out of his trick-or-treat bag and hurled it against the front of the old Van Emmerick house. “That’ll wake up the dead,” he shouted with glee.

The two boys hung onto the wrought-iron fence with sticky fingers, peering through the bars with eager eyes, their hearts racing with excitement. But no lights appeared. The house stared at them with black, lifeless eyes, its silhouette rising silent and dark against the cloudy night sky.

“Let’s go,” Tommy whispered. “It gives me the creeps.”

“What’re you whispering for?” asked Butch. “The fun has just begun.” He rummaged through his trick-or-treat bag and pulled out a large rock.

“No!” cried Tommy, grabbing at Butch’s arm. But it was too late. The sound of shattering glass filled his ears. His heart pounded in his chest until it hurt.

“I’m outta here!” Butch shouted; and grabbing his trick-or-treat bag, he bolted down the sidewalk.

Tommy stood alone on the sidewalk, paralyzed with fear. I never should have come here, he thought. My parents are going to kill me. And Gramps will be so disappointed . . . He couldn’t bear to disappoint his grandfather. But if he left now, who would know? Butch would never tell.

I’m going home, he thought; but as he turned to leave, the wrought-iron gate suddenly creaked open, and Tommy screamed. He ran as fast as he could to the corner, then stopped and looked back. The street was silent and deserted except for an old stray cat. A few jack-o-lanterns grinned brightly in the darkness, but the trick-or-treaters had left long ago, hurrying home before the rain started. A strong gust of wind hurled itself against him, kicking up dead leaves and dirt into his face. Coughing and sputtering, he wiped the dirt out of his eyes and headed down the sidewalk.

The old wrought-iron gate stood open before him, an invitation too tempting to resist. After all, what was the worst that could happen? He would apologize to the old lady and take his punishment like a man.

Bracing himself, he walked slowly up the weed-infested sidewalk toward the old stone stairs. There was nothing but blackness at the top of those stairs, blackness so deep and dark, it was like a giant mouth waiting to engulf him and swallow him whole. Trembling with fear, he wanted to turn around and run as fast as he could to the nearest, brightest light. But he knew in his heart that he could not face his grandfather as long as the broken window went unpunished.

Heart pounding, he trudged up the stone stairs, peering into the blackness. As he stepped onto the porch, the moon suddenly peeked out from behind a cloud, throwing a pale, silvery beam of light into the darkness and revealing a solid oak door. He raised his hand to knock on the door, when it suddenly opened with a slow, painful groan.

Tommy gasped, and his heart pounded in his ears. Breathing heavily, he stepped over the threshold, hanging onto the door for dear life. He stood still for a moment, listening hard, and waited for something to happen. But nothing did.

As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he realized he was in a large foyer. He rapped his knuckles against the door and shouted, “Miss Amy, are you here?”

Absolute silence filled his ears except for the ticking of an old clock. He pushed the door open wider and stepped cautiously into the room. He felt for a light switch on the wall but found none. Why didn’t I bring a flashlight, he berated himself angrily.

Tommy crossed the old wooden floor and opened a set of double doors to his right. The sweet scent of roses filled the air. Outside, the wind began to howl, and raindrops splattered against the large plate glass window on the other side of the room. Tommy thought he could make out the curved outline of an old Victorian sofa under the window and the globe-like shade of an old lamp next to it. Groping his way carefully in the darkness, he was about to reach out for the lamp when a loud clap of thunder split the air, making him jump, and a bright flash of lightning lit up the sofa through the gauzy white curtains.

A figure dressed in white lay on the sofa, its long white hair spread neatly over a pillow, the wrinkled old face glowing white in the lightning flash, the large, faded blue eyes open and staring at him. The mouth hung open wide, revealing a cavernous blackness, and Tommy waited for the scream that would surely come, but no sound issued forth between those dark, thin lips. The figure’s arms were crossed over its breast, like a corpse, the fingernails long and blue. It was the most horrible thing that Tommy had ever seen in his life, and he screamed and screamed and screamed as he turned and raced for the double doors, tripping over an old ottoman in his path.

But when he looked up, something blocked his exit, a tall figure dressed in white, reaching out for him with long, clawed fingers . . .

When Tommy woke up the lights were on, and his grandfather was cradling him in his arms. “It’s okay, Tommy, it’s okay.”

“It was you!”

“Yes, it was me,” his grandfather said; “And old Miss Amy. I went to visit her, as you suggested, and we cooked up this little Halloween treat for you! Here, I want you to meet her!”

He helped Tommy to his feet, remarking on the wonderful acting job Miss Amy had done. And that make-up! Could anybody else have done a better job?

But when they leaned over the sofa to tell her it was all over, and she could stop playing around now, his grandfather suddenly became silent and felt for a pulse in the old lady’s wrist. Tommy stared, horrified, into those dead blue eyes and the slack, open mouth, and the scream rose up from his tightening throat . . .

Dawn Pisturino

2009

Copyright 2009-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Make it scary!

“This is Halloween,” performed by Marilyn Manson, from the Tim Burton movie, Nightmare Before Christmas.

5 Comments »

The Screaming Skull and Other Poems

THE SCREAMING SKULL

by Dawn Pisturino

The skull screams when the moon is bright,

Warning of evil a-foot in the night,

Calling to phantoms hidden from sight,

Keeping them all at bay.

Shrieking aloud when the zombies fight,

It glows in the darkness, waking with fright,

Shivering children, crying for light,

Fearful ’til break of day.

High on a shelf, when the bats take flight,

The dead skull cries with all its might,

Disrupting dreams, however slight,

Sending them all away.

September 20, 2011

THE GHOST

by Dawn Pisturino

Creeping footfalls on the stair warn me that a ghost is there.

Shivering in my bed with fright, the door creaks open . . .

I TOLD YOU HE WAS REAL!

(good night)

January 5, 2012

THE FAIRIES

by Dawn Pisturino

Deep within the forest,

Inside a magic ring,

Fairy lads pluck at their harps

While fairy maidens sing.

Queen Mab, arrayed in starlight,

Sits upon her chair,

Plotting all the dirty tricks

No other folk would dare.

Last spring they stole poor Margaret,

Sound asleep in bed.

They laid her in the Irish Sea

With stones beneath her head.

The fishes kept close vigil,

Traditional at wakes.

“Too bad,” remarked a hungry shark.

A lovely corpse she makes!”

January 19, 2012

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

 All Poems Published on Danse Macabre du Jour, October 30, 2013.

All poems copyright 2011-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

6 Comments »

Four Twisted Limericks

By Dawn Pisturino. Published on Underneath the Juniper Tree July 16, 2011. Published in the August 2011 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree. Graphics by Rebekah Joy Plett.
By Dawn Pisturino. Published in the September 2011 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree. Graphics by Rebekah Joy Plett.

By Dawn Pisturino. Published on Underneath the Juniper Tree July 31, 2011. Graphics by Rebekah Joy Plett.

Graphic by Rebekah Joy Plett.

The Man in Galloway Bay

A man lost in Galloway Bay,

Cried out in a very loud bray,

“Please come rescue me, hungry sharks can’t agree,

Am I breakfast or dinner entree?”

By Dawn Pisturino. Published July 11, 2011 on Underneath the Juniper Tree.

Copyright 2011-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

18 Comments »

Reprise: Bluebeard in Beverly Hills

Bluebeard in Beverly Hills

by Dawn Pisturino

My mother, having squandered a considerable fortune, resolved to marry a wealthy man. Several candidates appeared — mostly middle-aged men of diminished means eager to marry a wealthy widow. Since my mother wore her desperation as flamboyantly as a pair of designer blue jeans, she soon found herself without any prospects at all.

When the bank foreclosed on our estate in upstate New York, my mother’s tawny tresses, once stylish and shiny, seemed to wilt around her shoulders. Her lively blue eyes clouded over with despair. And in one final act of desperation, she contacted a distant cousin residing in Beverly Hills, California.

The news startled me. This cousin, I had heard, was so rich, his name regularly topped the lists of the world’s richest people. He refused to have his photo taken or to make public appearances, for he had been born with an unnatural blue beard that made him look so ugly and weird, most women and children ran away from him in fright.

“He wants to marry me,” my mother announced over breakfast one morning.

My older sister, Charmaine, exchanged terrified glances with me. The idea of our mother marrying this ugly, disfigured, middle-aged man repulsed us. But more importantly, dark rumors circulated the newspapers and celebrity gossip shows that Bluebeard, as he was dubbed, had been married several times before, and the authorities could find no traces of his former wives.

In spite of our objections, my mother booked three airline tickets to California. We were to meet Bluebeard at the dock in Marina Del Rey and accompany him on a cruise to Catalina Island aboard his luxury yacht. This should have thrilled my sister and I, but a deep foreboding troubled us both.

And what a strange and terrible creature greeted us at the dock! His eyes glittering with cruel amusement, Bluebeard scooped each of us up in his big, burly arms, brushing our tender checks with his coarse blue beard. His graying, shaggy brown hair contrasted sharply with his deeply-tanned face, giving him the appearance of being half-man and half-beast. Even his teeth seemed unusually long and sharp when he opened his mouth in a loud guffaw and led us up the ramp onto his huge, expensive yacht.

My sister and I cringed with fear, but my mother’s face glowed with youth and excitement. How could we tell her how frightened we were? She would never listen.

During the day, while my mother hung out with Bluebeard, my sister and I soaked up the sun in our colorful bikinis, flipping through fashion magazines and painting our nails. At night we savored fresh lobster tails, dripping with butter, and watched the stars twinkle overhead like millions of Tiffany diamonds spilled across a black velvet sky. Upstate New York seemed far away then, and since nothing sinister had happened, our fears began to fade away.

Two weeks later, relaxed and tanned, my mother married Bluebeard under a billowy white awning at Marina Del Rey. My sister and I were the only guests.

That should have told me something, but I no longer cared about idle gossip or our former life in upstate New York.

I had become entranced with Bluebeard’s house in Beverly Hills, which loomed against the sunny blue sky like a great castle, surrounded by ornamental gardens reminiscent of the great castles of Europe. I felt like a princess, my long yellow hair braided in a single braid and adorned with fresh roses from the garden. I stood for hours before the full-length mirror in my bedroom, applying mascara to my large blue eyes, and modeling dozens of dresses purchased from the fancy boutiques on Rodeo Drive.

One snap of my fingers brought servants that catered to my every need and desire. I hugged myself over and over again, not daring to believe it was true: I was sixteen, beautiful, desirable, and rich.

“Isn’t it fabulous, Jeanette,” Charmaine exclaimed one day, throwing herself across my pink-ruffled bed. “I’m in love, I’m in love!”

Her sing-song voice irritated me, and I pouted in response. “Beverly Hills is full of eligible young men. Robbie Ray offered to give me tennis lessons.”

“That creep! You know what? When Mom and Mr. Moneybags leave for France, we’ll throw a big party. You’ll find your Prince Charming, for sure.”

My face glowed in anticipation. After all, didn’t a princess need a handsome young prince?

A few days later, my mother and Bluebeard boarded an airplane for France.

“The servants will take good care of you,” my mother said at the airport. Bluebeard stepped forward, a great ring of keys dangling from his finger. He handed them to Charmaine and explained which key went to which room.

“But this one,” he told her, indicating a small gold key, “unlocks the closet door in the wine cellar. Explore any room in the house that you like, but never, ever go into the closet in the wine cellar. If you do, something terrible is bound to happen.”

My mother gasped. Charmaine’s face turned a ghostly white. I stared at Bluebeard, chilled by the taunting tone in his voice. He turned his gaze on me, and a slow, sinister smile spread across his face. “You would do well, Jeanette, to remember the story of Pandora’s box.”

I watched my mother walk away with this monster, and my heart cried out: Don’t go! Don’t go! But it was too late. My mother was gone.

Charmaine assuaged her fear by working on plans for a party. I suggested that we host a fancy dress ball, and she agreed. Invitations were sent, a caterer engaged, decorations put up, and the house cleaned from top to bottom by the housekeeping staff. All we needed were costumes.

Charmaine pulled out Bluebeard’s key ring and found the key to the attic. Inside a great leather trunk, we found long silk dresses and big fancy hats. Excitement overcame our fears. Our party would be the hit of the year!

The ballroom gleamed with color and light on the night of the ball. We threw open the French doors, letting in the moonlight and soft summer breezes. The sweet scent of roses perfumed the air.

Our masked guests danced beneath the fire of crystal chandeliers, their colorful figures reflected in numerous mirrors lining the walls. Couples slipped away to explore the house, admiring the exquisite artwork and collectibles from around the world. Charmaine and I puffed up with pride, convinced that we had pulled off a successful social coup.

“Everyone is so impressed,” Charmaine said. “If such wonderful treasures can be found openly around the house, how much more special must be the treasures locked up in the closet in the wine cellar?”

I looked at her in horror. “Don’t do it, Charmaine. Bluebeard warned us not to open that door.”

“Don’t be silly,” she said. “We want to keep our guests impressed, don’t we?”

Like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, we crept downstairs into the murky depths of the wine cellar, urging our guests to follow behind. With trembling hands, Charmaine unlocked the door to the forbidden room, ignoring Bluebeard’s warning. A powerful stench of rotting flesh greeted us as she pulled back the door. The floor was sticky with slime. Charmaine gasped, dropping the flashlight at her feet. I picked it up and shone its light around the room. Piled up against the wall were the dead and decaying bodies of several women. Bluebeard’s missing wives!

Charmaine fainted. The guests screamed and scrambled up the stairs. I hurried behind them to call the police.

When my mother and Bluebeard returned home several days later, Bluebeard glared at me and said, “Why so nervous, Jeanette? And you, Charmaine — your face is so white. What have you two been up to in our absence?”

Charmaine handed him the ring of keys, her hand trembling so much, she nearly dropped them.

Suspicion clouded Bluebeard’s eyes. “You’ve been in the closet!” he roared. “Now, you will join the rest of my victims! He grabbed Charmaine by the hair and dragged her across the floor to the kitchen. My mother fainted.

I ran behind, beating Bluebeard’s back with my fists. Angrily, he shoved me away. I fell to the floor, hitting my head on the hard ceramic tile. Just as Bluebeard was about to slit my sister’s throat with a long, sharp knife, Inspector Jack Barnabas and several policemen jumped out of the walk-in pantry. “Drop it, Bluebeard! You’re under arrest.”

Bluebeard made a dash for the door. Bullets rang through the kitchen, bringing him down. A pool of blood oozed across the floor. My sister screamed and threw herself into the arms of Inspector Barnabas.

The ogre of Beverly Hills was dead. Since he had no other heirs, my mother inherited his vast fortune. She shut up the house, paid off the mortgage on our estate in upstate New York, and threw herself into planning a huge wedding for my sister, Charmaine.

Six months later, I walked down the aisle in a rose-colored chiffon gown, carrying a bouquet of pink roses. Charmaine followed behind in a white designer wedding dress. Inspector Jack Barnabas, looking uncomfortable in a black tuxedo, waited impatiently for her at the altar.

Jack and Charmaine lived happily ever after, making me an aunt three times over.

Dawn Pisturino

March 6, 2013

Copyright 2013-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

6 Comments »

Reprise: Concert for the Dead

Story by Dawn Pisturino.

Illustration by Job van Gelder.

Dedicated to my daughter, lyric soprano Ariel Pisturino.

Ariel knelt before the marble niche holding the remains of her dead older brother and placed a bouquet of roses in the stone vase. Six months had passed since the horrible night a drunk driver had taken Jonathan’s life. She would never forget.

“Coach Willis still talks about you, Jonathan,” Ariel said, tracing the carved letters of his name with trembling fingers. “Nobody’s beaten your track record. You were the best. You always will be.”

She pulled some sheet music from her backpack. “The opera club is doing Purcell this year. I got the lead role. I’m so excited!” She began to sing:

“When I am laid, am laid in earth, may my wrongs create

No trouble, no trouble in thy breast;

Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate . . .”*

The haunting elegy echoed through the halls of the Great Mausoleum, bringing tears to Ariel’s eyes. As the last melancholy note faded away, the mausoleum doors slammed shut. The lights flickered and dimmed.

Icy panic clawed at Ariel’s chest. She could hardly breathe. Then a long, agonizing scream tore from her throat.

She ran to the entrance and pushed against the heavy metal doors. Locked.  She searched for an intercom or emergency button. Nothing.

“Let me out!” she cried, pounding on the door. “It’s not closing time!”

Voices whispered all around her.

“No!” she howled, throwing her weight against the unyielding door.

The whispers grew louder. “We’ll let you out when the concert is over.”

“W-what c-concert?” Ariel stammered, searching the empty air.

“The Concert for the Dead.”

And then she saw them, gliding down the dark corridors, the eerie inhabitants of this condominium for the dead.

They crowded into the main hall, hundreds of them, the ghastly and the beautiful.

Men dressed in military uniforms soaked with blood, arms ripped away, legs shredded at the knees, and heads split open, eyeballs dangling from their sockets.

Women gowned in rustling silk, faded and torn, ringlets framing faces eaten away by worms. Pale young mothers with tragic eyes, carrying shriveled up babies in their arms.

Dead children glared at Ariel with menacing faces, their transparent fingers clutching moth-eaten ragdolls and time-worn teddy bears.

An orchestra appeared. Skeletons with shreds of rotting flesh hanging from their bones. The conductor raised his baton, and the slow, plaintive strains of a violin filled the air. He turned and looked at Ariel with one putrid eye, motioning her to begin.

I know this song. I can do it. Shaking with fear, she dug her fingernails into her palms and began to sing:

“None but the lonely heart can know my sadness

Alone and parted far from joy and gladness . . .”**

She sang until the sun disappeared and the stained glass windows lost their color. She sang until the moon ran its course and the stars began to fade. Finally, her throat too parched and raw to continue, she pleaded:

“The concert’s over. Please let me go.”

Hushed whispers rippled through the audience. Then a lone figure broke through the crowd.

“Jonathan!” Ariel cried, grateful to see a familiar face.

Smiling, he extended his arms to her. “We don’t want you to leave,” Jonathan said, drawing her close. “We want you to sing for us forever and ever and ever . . .”

Cold waxy fingers tightened around her throat. In the background, the orchestra played a quiet requiem.

* * *

When the groundskeeper found Ariel’s body the next morning, he noticed two peculiar things. Her throat was purple with finger marks, and her hair had turned completely white.

Copyright 2011-2021 Dawn Pisturino, Job van Gelder, and Asheka Troberg. All Rights Reserved.

This story is dedicated to my daughter, lyric soprano Ariel Pisturino.

Published in the November 2011 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree. Read it here.

Published on Brooklyn Voice, February 2012.

Artwork by Asheka Troberg.

*“Dido’s Lament,” from Dido & Aeneas by Henry Purcell

**“None but the Lonely Heart,” by Pyotr Tchaikovsky and J.W. Goethe

Artwork by Jason Smith. I commissioned this Concert for the Dead artwork for my daughter, Ariel Pisturino, as a gift.

Copyright 2011-2021 Jason Smith. All Rights Reserved.

Happy Halloween! Make it scary!

Photo by Dawn Pisturino.

11 Comments »

%d bloggers like this: