David Lewis Paget
The Pot Belly Stove
The cabin had sat at the edge of the woods
Since Eighteen fifty-two,
It still belonged to our family,
So I guess that meant me too,
I found myself in need of a roof
And they hadn’t been there for years,
So I swallowed my pride, and hitched a ride
And forced the door with a curse.
It was down on the Tasman Peninsula
Was built by my fifth great-great,
He’d been picked up in a London mob
And suffered a convict fate,
He’d done his time with the cat ‘o nine
And had broken rocks for the road,
For seven years and a bucket of tears
He’d suffered the convict code.
His Ticket-of-Leave had set him free
So he’d headed into the woods,
Taken a common law wife with him
And a few of their paltry goods,
He’d cleared a section and cut the trees
For the cabin that sits in the grove,
And the one embellishment that he brought,
An American Pot Belly Stove.
The stove still sat in the corner there
It hadn’t been lit for years,
I sat on the sagging miners couch
Gave way to a fit of tears,
The branches of trees had ventured in
The water was drawn from a well,
The door at the rear just hung and creaked,
I thought I’d arrived in hell.
I lit an age old paraffin lamp
That luckily still had fuel,
Searched my bag for a scrap to eat
But all that I had was gruel,
The sun went down and the dark set in
To the sounds of the wind outside,
Rustling through the tops of trees
And the leaves of the trees inside.
At midnight, I awoke with a start
To the sound of an evil roar,
More like a man than an animal
Standing at my front door,
I braced myself by the door, it roared
And then it began to pound,
‘What do you want? ’ I screamed on out.
‘You’re sitting on hallowed ground! ’
‘I want what’s properly mine, ’ it said,
‘And then I’ll leave you alone.’
My teeth were chattering then, in fright
When it gave out another groan.
‘I’ll never rest ‘til I get it back,
I need it to make me whole,
A hundred years since they carved me up
I’ve waited to claim my soul! ’
I looked across to the ancient stove
Where a mist was rising up,
A pale blue mist from the rusted flue
And I thought, ‘That’s it! Enough! ’
The mist was taking a human shape
The shape of a surly man,
Wearing an age old Warder’s cap
But lacking a good right hand.
I crawled across to the iron stove
And I opened wide the door,
The bed was full of the clinker they
Had burned there, years before.
But buried deep in the ashes there
When I brushed aside the sand,
I saw a shape that had made me gape,
The bones of a human hand.
‘Is this the hand you are looking for? ’
The thing gave out a groan,
‘Come out, and push it under the door, ’
I heard the creature moan.
I did, then packed my bag and I burned
The cabin, deep in the grove,
I’ll never go near a house again
That has a Pot Belly Stove!
19 February 2014
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(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
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