Comet Tale


Hoping to see The Sunset Comet one last time

I slipped and slithered up the treacherous

Steps that led up to the Castle;

Equipment-packed rucksack fat and heavy

On my back, rain spattering my face

I stepped fearfully onto, and then climbed

The slimed, mud-slopped track that leads past

Then o’er its long-dry moat, seeking shelter

In Kendal’s oldest ruins whilst waiting for dusk

To fall, hoping against hope the comet

Would appear once more.


Rain slapping me like an angry lover’s hand

Again and again forced me back

Into the shattered towers’ shadows and,

Feet slipping on the once-medieval mud,

Tripping over unseen stones; scrambling for cover

As the crow-black sky above

Howled in a demented, elemental rage

I called myself a fool.

How could I hope to see any celestial beauty

On such a nightmare of a night?

With green-black grass swaying in waves

All around me, rippling like a beast’s wind-whipped pelt?


Surrounding me like prison bars: the once-proud

Castle’s ruined black towers.

Hollowed out now by Ages of wind and snow,

Reduced from stout sentinels of stone to rotten teeth

Gnawing vainly at the meaty sky,

Embedded in their sodden, grassy gums.

On all sides shrieking, skeletal trees framed the swollen

Heavens, their bare branches black wires scratching

At the tender bellies of the clouds,

Drawing lines of sunset-coloured blood –


Then suddenly – a rip appeared, a gaping

Gash between two slabs of grey

And through the wound I saw the dusky sky!

Emerging from my stone cocoon I soon

Was searching for mcnaught;

Braced against the fort’s oldest,

Longest wall to stop me being toppled by the storm.

Grime- and Time- and lichen-stained, the cold wet stone

Was hard against my back as my jacket

Flapped around me, cracking and snapping

Like a doomed ship’s tattered sail in a gale,

And even as an unseen hand wrenched apart

The clouds covering the western sky my face

Stang with the pain of countless needles

Of icy rain scything from the north.


Then there She was – The Comet,

A spark of Snow Queen white, a

Silver scratch on a dusk-dimmed sky,

Diamond-bright splinter of light

Crowning her fair head. 

Playing hide and seek with me through the clouds,

Slipping and skipping behind them again and again

I swear I heard her laughing in the stinging winter rain,

Playing in the golden Sun’s glare as

She plunged towards its furnace-furious heart.


Standing there, staring down at the molten amber droplets

Of streetlights far below, twinkling like stars as cars

And buses fluttered through the rain-washed streets,

I wondered how those at their wheels could be

So oblivious to the drama being played

Out on their sunset’s temporary stage.

“Look up!” I shouted in my mind, “tear your eyes

Away from the glaring dashboard lights

And see something amazing

…before she’s – “




Only banks of charcoal-coloured cloud remained,

Stained sepia in the Auld Grey Town’s wet twilight

And as the bitter rain spat in my face again,

Carried on a wind as brutal as a wounded bear I fled,

Whispering a painful, last goodbye to my comet

Before surrendering her to the southern sky…


© Stuart Atkinson 2007

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