Posts tagged ‘escape’


Facing Your Ghosts

“…I can affirm only one thing, that they have haunted certain brains, and have haunted, among others, my own and my friends’… along the dim twilit tracks, among the high growing braken and spectral pines, of the southern country… while the moonlit sea moaned and rattled against the moldering walls of the house whence Shelley set sail for eternity”.

(Vernon Lee: Preface to “Hauntings”. 1889)

We are living in an age where society – and politics in particular – are at core haunted by suppressed death anxieties. Everywhere you look, fear of what certainly will come is to be found. People try to push away that fear with possessions, with cosmetics, with lifestyle choices. They offload that fear, creating false villains, loading blame on to others, creating scapegoats. They hide behind masks of fashion or ideology. They sanitise, refuse to look, and yet in the process create an all-consuming demon that simply will not go away. Worse, in not facing facts, they live permanently  in thrall to their future, and consequently cannot fully appreciate the life they have.

It may seem paradoxical, but ghost stories are needed now, more than ever. Not, however, the “hide behind your fingers at the bogeyman” ghost stories which fit so neatly into the categories of false fear and head in sand fiction as to be a parody. Such stories merely feed the demon. No: the ghost stories for our deeply sick society are those which face, head on, the fears from which people hide. They are stories which truly haunt – which stay with the reader. They are stories which provide questions, not merely shocks. They are stories which are rooted in a sense of place and a continuum of history, They engage which the obsessions and the trivialities of life. They are stories which, in the end, are redemptive precisely because they do not offer an easy way out. They give voice to existential necessities. They are human, in all that entails.

This is not a review post, but if you wish to find out more, I would certainly recommend stories by Vernon Lee, MR James, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, WW Jacobs, Willa Cather, Henry James, Daphne du Maurier and Sheridan Le Fanu (amongst many others). You could even try reading mine (he clumsily plugs).

(images, copyright Gavin R Jones, 2018)

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He broke his journey on that day.

No reason why, no thought before,

He simply picked his bag and left,

Four stops before the usual place.


And still without a question raised

He left the station, walked into

The town whose name he’d always seen

But never thought a real place.


He wandered on without a goal,

Just looking at the streets and shops,

And people on their way to work,

And none of it made any sense.


He stopped and stared up at the sky.

Same sky, same day: different life.


This poem was written as a response to the photograph by artist Cheryl Garner. It is part of an on-going collaboration.

The photographs, with poems, can be found at:

the work of Cheryl Garner can be found at:



Oil and Water


From where to where the question spins.

A roar of throttle run aways.

Escape is energy enough,

Escape and mysteries in rain.


They split the emptiness of streets,

And leave their molten lines of tar.

Like Carver’s “Elephant” in flight,

The tyres barely touch the road.


Refractions in a thinning slick:

The life before has slipped and bloomed,

And through its rainbows run the tales.

They leave behind their drying tracks.


The stories we can only guess,

Or write our own escapes instead.


Inspired by the photograph of the same title, which can (and should) be seen here:



The Night I Saw “Babette’s Feast”


On Brighton beach I watched the birds

Form dark aurora round the pier.

The sunset burned their patterned swirls

As afterglow across my mind.


I watched them as they sucked the light,

And dragged it down beneath the waves,

And when the neon broke their spell,

A lonely soul, I left the sea.


I went to watch a late night film.

The cinema smelled old and cold.

I drifted through a dreamlike meal,

In darkness tasted beer and bread.


A solitary watcher blind:

A film as still as life and time.



response to the film Babette’s Feast, and to art house cinemas.





Walking to Walter Benjamin’s Grave (Walk No. 8)


These fossilised, volcanic screams

They marked the very edge of life.

One side: the town with bullet holes.

The other: gravestones marble bleached.


And where the trains came rumbling through

The weight of Europe bowed the fence,

A force unseen which broke the necks

Of every dove that ever crossed.


And dancers lost their footing there,

And slumped into the waiting tombs,

And poets closed their pocket books,

And burnt their evidence of dreams.


The morphine killed the pain and fear,

But hope has ways to keep you here.




The Man Who Knew Too Much


Withdrawn again into his words,

His empty casket carved with tales:

“The Legend of His Years at Sea”;

“The Mystery of His Broken Heart”.


The Golden Fleece he washed and shrank.

His deities were less than frank.

He knows there’s nowhere left to run,

Yet still his need to flee this place.


“An island paradise”, they said.

To him it stinks of rich men’s debts,

And saps like him who pick the tab,

Or pass it on to orphaned kids.


So off his little stylus runs.

In fourteen lines: a fake escape.