Vol XXV, Thra-koom

Jon Stone was born in Derby and now lives in Whitechapel. He is the co-creator of handmade pocket arts journal Fuselit and new imprint Sidekick Books, publishers of themed micro-anthologies. His debut pamphlet, ‘Scarecrows’ was released by Happenstance this year and he was highly commended in the National Poetry Competition 2009. He maintains the website



I. An Introduction

Gambit vaults towering gates
His coat’s a flame going out in a roar of wind

From street to street, the Quarter
is threaded by his escape route
His fingers to your mouth
He turns them over:
“Is this your card?”
and it is.

His smirk’s a craft-knifed corner
of a painting, right before it’s lifted
from its frame in the night.
No alarms and a swiftness
                  that demands
to be paid not by the hour
but by count of pockets picked

II. Romance

The trail of women.
Not necessarily handled by the heart,
nor caught up in the fusillade
of Gambit’s night off,
not necessarily even kissed
or brushed, but left with a flamelet
lodged between their breasts like a pendant
just from the sight of him
leaping off his Harley
as it’s shot to pieces

His coat leopard-spotted with bullet-holes,
then a sailing colander,
then ash spinning from a bonfire.
He can get another.

Just from the sight of him
surfing a church pew through a stained-glass window
and the blizzard of confetti,
a naked blonde trussed in bedsheets
and slung over his shoulder like ham.
Rescuer, rather than kidnapper.

Just from the patter
when he buys a fresh pack
or a Best of Cajun Swamp-Pop.

The trail of women wondering
who he is
and what right he has to act the devil.


III. Augmentation

Whether blowing up the statue of a saint, a zombie’s
wetleather head or a walletful of Mastercards,
it’s the lightest of touches lights the fuse.

Like a priest who, recalling a vision, shudderingly
touches his forehead. Like wrung water touching
your tongue or the first moth to land on the trap.

From this distance, he could be nothing more than a moth.


IV. Gambit the Paramour

Two states away,
his burnt eyes bandaged, he wanders
off the pavement, using his quarterstaff
as a cane.

Brakes rubberstamp the road;
the tails of the bandage kick
–  swimmer’s legs –
and his coat rides up like a wind-sock
or candid erection

He charms his way into the passenger seat,
the blind snake,
and from there
to a lorry cab, to the back of a motorbike,
crossing borders with the ease
of a hopscotch player

When he’s 6 doors down,
Rogue finds a stranger in her room.
When he’s pushing the door,
she’s snagged in this stranger’s grip,
like the brush in her hair that morning

V. Stomping Ground

These graves were his stepping stones
in his years as a pup
when Jean Luc would haul him roughly by the tussock of hair
and Tante Mattie put extra Andouille in his gumbo.
Tombs where families crowd in jars
were launchpads to taller mausolea,
whose reliefs proved hand-holds and whose roofs
were testing grounds for his heel’s spring.

Their parched white
is stippled in gris-gris – XXXs that stitch
this City of Dead haphazardly together –
what does he make of it? Three kisses?
The crossroads he’s come to year after year,
where earth meets underworld, man woman,
Voudon Rome, Gambit God?

With the rainstorm’s grappling iron locked in place,
when the ground is swollen and old coffins knock
against the stone lids of French burial vaults,
he still clears the cemetery wall with a thought.





His skin doesn’t fit him, though it could be
no one else’s and it has its uses.

Even before it grew to twice its size
and faded to the colour of dishwater

the ‘God first, family second, colours third’
of life in El Barrio in the early nineties –

somehow too long in the sleeve. He keeps
as a souvenir the Ruger he never used.

But what does one do with the extra sheathing,
the six surplus feet of sensory organ?

He jams his hand through the little brass door
of his mailbox, thinks to stretch and not stop

and snatches parcels from the sorting room.
When rumbled, with a ‘Por favor!’ of a grin,

his limbs become projectile bubblegum,
with a smack latch onto the water pipes

and in the snap of super-elastic
he’s flying into a sheer wall of sunlight

slingshot mischievist, in a skin that is elephant
and rubber-tree rolled into one.




Lobo Reincarnated as a Girl

I buy him a heart-shaped pendant with his name on
He treats me like no other woman

I tell him his breasts are delicate and each a work of art
He tears my throat out

I make him a card with a picture of both of us hugging
He tears my throat out again!

I give his hair a ruffle, his t-shirt a good old rumple
He takes a shotgun to my temple

I say, “When you wear that dress, Lobo, you look absolutely yum.”
He stuffs a grenade up my – ahem

I take him to the movie ‘Love is a Fine Place to Fall’
He suppers from my skull

When he’s cooking, I make a serious face, pretend to count his freckles
He tenderises my knuckles

When he’s dressing, I playfully twang his knicker elastic
He calls me an utter bastich





is code for a pistol levelled square at midnight,
the stray eyelash of a dark age.
He is the boy who could bend his fingers back,
the diver whose legs were covered in hair.

His acrobatics chart errors
in equations towards an acceptable love.

His tail is the signature on a confession,
ending in a blot.

Where public hideouts bear human stains,
there was his swashbuckling.

Gone in smoke blossom, his being remade
in the rafters from scorched sulphurs
is our gathering leaves of glass
after such untimely rampaging.




The Constantine Incantation

(to be chanted within a ring of fag ash. Or spilt beer. Or whatever crap you’ve stepped in. Eh. Anything’ll do.)

Come bloody John. That is, get your
bloody arse over here right now. Enough
craning up at the gloom locked in stained
glass windows, as under ice,
thinking it sharp enough reflection to
shave in. Moody tosser.

Come bloody John, yet to be sentenced,
over modest heaps of bones
over mammoth heaps of bones
Think of them discarded necklaces
tried on one after another. Don’t make me
do the chorus. Oh, for fuck’s sake:

Trench-coated Prospero! Merseyside magus
whose life’s more chancey than a night in Vegas!
Bane of the angels! Not exactly ageless
thumb in the gash in the dam between here and hell!

Nimmo of illusion! Tragically antsy
trickster! Practitioner of everything-mancy!
Bad luck charm for whomever he fancies!
Death-cheating child on his miserable carousel!

Well, John, it was the best I could do, okay?
Come here now or I’ll do it again.
Come bloody, come stinking of dead girls,
Come on a weak wind, in a choking taxi,
turn up looking like you’ve slept in the gravel,
shake off that sick-looking thing that’s beating
your head with a pair of torn-ragged forearms.

I mean, you’ll like this one. There’ll be carnage,
a chance to betray the tatters of your friends,
a chance to triple-cross a mean bastard or two,
a chance to buy your soul back and sell it again.

Come bloody John. This one’s got your name all over it.





Some heroes smoulder, but not him,
whose heart’s a bonfire that climbed upon him
and ate up his mouth.

He stands on the dam
a living flash fusion, bone to the upper jaw,
then cave-in, gulch of Venusian gas-storm.

Don’t you know?
His lovesickness is volcanic.
His cry blows away houses.
The enemy of the world is bedazzled to a whimper.

Later, cooling in his own aftermath,
bandaged into a coma
and dreaming fitfully of hospitalised girlfriends,
he spits like spark welding,
a human Catherine Wheel.





Dr Langkowski’s favourite test subject
is Dr Langkowski. As he sits,
his thumb-tip brushing the switch,
hooked to a pulsating cabley nest
he runs through his greatest hits:

his death, first and foremost,
the bodiless dithering that followed it,
his spirit-possession of a box-robot,
then finally coming back, full-fleshed,
as an albino woman in a swimsuit.

None give him pause so much
as Sasquatch, that alter-ego made
in homage to Banner, the great
beast Tanaraq commandeered and thatched
in hair the colour of marmalade,

whose heart was plucked like an orange
and grew back twice as whole,
who comes crashing through steel,
who can punt a streetcar or foe-throng
hard enough to score a field goal

and who can ensconce a team-mate
in the warm bed of his pelt,
cup and carry her like a spell-
calmed bird, to some sheltered cave
and learn her love by its smell.

And it’s whether Sasquatch is too free
or not free enough that’s the flavour
of quandary or moral fever
that disarrays Walter Langkowski
and causes his thumb to hover.





“Oh I just can’t do this any more, Bobby!”
and the tears come, ripening her cheeks.
Our friend, Drake, quivers – chills the china
with a finger – the mocha
turns to milkshake
at his lips.

And his heart’s a knuckle of permafrost.
And his scarf a knot of snowchains.

Two tables away, a woman
is snooping at them.
Holding down the nimbus in his lungs,
he thinks, “I dare
her to come over
and say, ‘He’s not worth it.’
I’ll ice her like a cake.”




Dearest Wolverine,

come in. I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch. It’s just
the cake’s all gone. They’ve had enough cut and thrust,
enough of your wipe-clean claws and wired-fierce skull
bemusing their shelves. But even the most truculent covergirl
sees her star fail eventually, no matter how much steak
she makes of the goon squad. There’s no single ringing mistake,
just the horizon beyond which your jokes creak like crickets,
where even those most taken with your wrenched tourniquets,
your intimate sufferings, see now a skin as thick as a Panzer’s
and meshed with rabbit snares, unpick the bloated Windsor
studding the neck of your myth and watch its head roll forward
like a fumbled bauble. I’m sorry. I guess they got tired
of every ugly thing you threaten scuttling into a shadow-soup
deep and dark as the skeins of blood you unloop and unloop,
every one a padlock to your fists’ sprung skeleton keys.
I guess your name is the sound of gum being chewed in their ears
and they wonder why no beast of a wind or wind-shagged beast
is ever allowed to muss your horned hair, I guess. I guess at least
some of them are reminded of someone who bruised them.
I guess the world is full enough of powerful, lonely men.





Silver Surfer

If not doubled up in the hollow of an asteroid
– more molten trophy cabinet than man –
he’s coasting among us, trenchcoat a thicket,
looking ill, his eyes white stones.

He stops to read a newspaper,
even though the headlines
make a slipknot of his stomach.

The wind with a claw on his hat brim.
His heart’s bowl overflowing with liquid metal.
His skin a gauze of stars.

Then something escapes
the grassblade lips that could press coins
and his board comes to him
like a waterfall to its pool.

He’s upon it, and flying,
faster than a ghost swift,
fainter than a scarecrow in a blizzard.






has just murdered the poet!
Whoops. My bad.
You’ve got like a billion more though, right?