The Legend of the Bell Mansion Where I’m from there’s a story told, It may or may not be true, But as sure as I stand here now It will come alive for you. In Tennessee, there was a landowner, John Bell, who farmed a thousand acres In a small, early American town. He, wife Lucy, and his family lived in a mansion on a hill. Inside they heard crafty squeaks and screeches, Knocks and yelps that woke them from sleep. Even when tortured Betsy’s hair was pulled tight, The nine children dare not open their eyes. The parents remained stoic for a long time, slow to rise, Until one watching hour the alarm too loud to ignore, The children screamed and parents raced to their implores. The father grew angry, his family afraid. He was their protector, his courage would not cave. In those days they carried candles to light their way. A draft filled the hallway and flickered his flame As John made his way from the bedrooms To the drawing room, where social visits took place, And he had welcomed dignitaries in humor to hear The home’s infamous haunting sounds. When his candle snuffed, John gazed up to see a glow That was unnatural, flowing gray garments embroidered With thorns arose with white hair in the air before him. This eerie sight chilled his blood and organs. The translucent phantom extended her hands toward him, Her vacant eyes big as pies, begging him to come closer. His feet shuffled to her, he did not understand why. Gore gripped him for her middle had been ripped wide, Her dress at the waist tattered by a knife. He looked down, his feet no longer moved, Yet they rose above the hardwood, Toes traveling and dragging, his heart pounding. The banshee tornado bore him into her horror. His mouth opened, but as in nightmares nothing would emit, Just as he reached her exposed guts and body of dust, He passed through her as if she weren’t there. Dampness filled his body, the sour smell of rot his nostrils, He turned back to discover the hallway was hollow. His slippers swept the floorboards again, As he grasped to compose himself, John entered The drawing room and sat on the red velvet couch. Putting his head in hands, he thought What just happened? Until then, it seemed a storyteller’s joke, The menacing noises the house evoked. Now as real as a ghost can be, and then not, He believed in souls who went knock, knock, knock. After that night the ghoul appeared only to him, Never to anyone else, family nor friends. The wraith haunted him, her only victim. Perhaps she thought he had been her killer, or building The mansion on her unmarked grave had disturbed her. Since no one else ever saw the spirit, His stories made him seem insane, And to that she drove him deeper and farther Until finally on his deathbed, he yelled louder than anyone Screamed as he passed into the world unseen. If you could see what he saw, You would have yelled as well, for due to his obsession He entered the apparition’s insufferable world of in between and not the glory to which he had been bound. To this day many still fear the witch who impelled Old Jack Bell to his hell. The legend goes, You can check if she haunts you, By bravely facing a mirror in an enclosed bathroom, Flipping the light switch off, And in the pitch of dark, Say aloud three times fast, “I don’t believe in the Bell Mansion Witch!” Turn on the light and see what you find in the glass. If the ghost doesn’t emerge and you view yourself, Sigh in relief. But you will never know Each time you test your nerve Just what you’ll see. It might be Old Jack Bell himself. Laura E. Garrard, Copyright 2022 Poem selected by Olympia Peninsula Authors to be read at the Port Angeles Fine Art Center Celebration of Shadows Festival, Oct. 22, 5:30-7 p.m., Ester Webster Gallery Courtyard. Listen to the audio below.
Port Angeles Fine Arts Center
My poem below was selected, by the Olympic Peninsula Writers through a juried submission, to appear for a year in the PAFAC New Growth outdoors exhibit in the Webster Woods sculpture garden. Following a year, it will be moved with other poems to a number of parks in Port Angeles. It’s very exciting to have been chosen! Below is a photograph of me with the installation on the day of the poetry reading.
Here is a recording of my reading:
I Have to Chase That Squirrel Start at a run from the door And accelerate to top lope Just as I reach the base of the Douglas fir Even if I’m too late to catch it My instinct must be served You laugh and shrug For me, it’s not just for fun It’s my essence, my expression My way to tell the world What kind of dog I am So free me to do What I want, what I must Responsibility, according to whom? My number one purpose right now Is to chase that squirrel Even though I’m scared I won’t succeed I must look skyward to see On which limb the squirrel may be Laura E. Garrard, Copyright 2022
I took these photographs as spring turned into summer on the “Moments in Time Trail,” Olympic National Park. I feel they tie in nicely with the New Growth theme. (Laura E. Garrard, Copyright 2022.)
When I Catch Sun on Lake Crescent There is a point where I like to linger in the late light Among the arms of a hugging alder. I use my left foot to leverage And perch myself on a limb Not far from the ground beneath her. I cherish course gray modeled skin As wrinkled as an elephant’s And run my fingers across the thickened ridges. I look into a dark recessed knotty eye From where I gather empathy and kindness. The chatter and clatter of breaking waves Keep us company with laughter and stories. Like old companions familiar in fondness I pick at the white lichen pieces That slough easily from her aging skin. When the sun begins to vanquish I carefully and respectfully lower from This grand gentle beast my friend. Ambering arms flailing frozen about me, I glimpse a couple’s infatuation carving Cut deeply into her thoracic body, The same initials of myself and my own love. Not my affront, I trace them apologizing, Relish remembrance can be caught As effaced longevity upon an alder trunk. Laura E. Garrard, Copyright 2022 April 8, 2022 All blog photographs by Laura E. Garrard, Copyright 2022
I’m Already Looking Forward As the height of golden color Becomes baked and matted I can already see in mind’s eye The blooming locations of next year’s beauties And smell the sweetness of black cottonwood resin A mere six months to wait Things may be so different I don goose down and Gore-Tex In preparation of the colder and greener moss walks Today’s azure brightness however Forecasts a vital turnover From nebulous to distinctive images Only of fertile soil building The winter wait will create cell space Time will combine the correct mineral and organisms I along with garden and forest will renew As that is what seasons and bodies do By Laura E. Garrard, Copyright 2022 Oct. 31. 2021
Elusive Winter Sun Elusive winter sun Shine through frozen limbs And warm my chest Bring my inflexible bones back to life Show the way to peace I once observed In your summer shining Warmth through and through Basking in the new grass Sleepy relaxed muscles A dragonfly lighting On my stillness By Laura E. Garrard, Copyright 2022 Dec. 28, 2021 [Photo Gallery By Laura E. Garrard, Copyright 2022]