Lodger in the Ripper’s Room

Poem by John Paul Davies


Open his door. The shock the mind lives
and lives in freeze-frame is more
than this long and narrow room
can show — too long and narrow
to fit your understanding
of the shape of a room.

Church bell sounds disfigured through the window;
the rooftops, the other windows.
A layer of old words he smeared
only make themselves known
when held up to the moon,
are otherwise a lemon juice trick, nowhere.

Room drips with small superstition — 
shivered face of a stopped clock
he never replaced.
Here where he tucked in the chair to his desk,
taking care it did not scrape;
refilling the inkwell to last long letters.

Mirror above the sink hoards the man shaving,
all routine, how he ordered his flesh:
soap as death-mask telling his face.
Razorblade moves in swipes you do not see
but for the jaw gradually showing,
like dawn’s Winter road clearing of snow.

Under shawl, for it is night now,
blue and green bird in a small silver cage;
macaw, he said, from Rio de Janeiro
or Mozambique. Eyes bruised as cobbles
address you only from the feet up.
Hole in the drip of its beak

as if a nail driven through.
Huddled in its feathers,
denying knowledge of its songs from home — 
saw his eyes in the dangling glass go black
and a thousand thoughts died. The lamplight flinched;
the room picked up and set down again.


The 2016 Charter Oak Award for Best Historical
FINALIST

We are pleased to announce this piece as a finalist for the 2016 Charter Oak Award for Best Historical, honoring the independent press’ best writing on themes of historical people, places, events, objects, or ideas. The winners are selected by an external panel that judges all pieces blindly and selects the full list of 12 finalists from hundreds of entries. Alternating Current does not determine the final outcome for the judging; the external judges’ decisions are final.


John Paul Davies is originally from Liverpool, UK, and has had work published in Crannóg, The Manchester Review, The Interpreter’s House, Rosebud, Grasslimb, Orbis, The Pedestal, QU Literary Magazine, Apex, and Grain. In 2016, he was runner-up in the Cheshire Prize for Literature, and won the Penguin Ireland Short Story Competition. He organizes a regular creative writing group in Navan, which can be found on Twitter at @Bulls_Arse.