Stuart Barnes



Dressed to impress — ghastly suit, mask of black,
crimson bandana — I’m hauled from my scratched lacquered box
as that rider was hauled on her spirited horse through air.

I was nothing, nothing at all: pyramid of limbs
and strings, insignificant kindling; I’d been absolutely silent,
I’d been daydreaming of sleeping with the fishes.

Now I’m aching everywhere, your madness has waylaid me,
this happens more than occasionally. My head, impassive eye
of the moon, lolls stupidly; my arms and legs twitch

like fated bait twitches on a gleaming hook — until you,
great manipulator, pull tight with your black-gloved hands
at my shiny fine wires. And now I’m something,

am I something? Look, look, I’m a grotesque:
my back’s hunched like Quasimodo’s, my beaky nose
meets my curved and jutting chin, I open my mouth,

and the squawk of a Pink cockatoo comes glaring out;
the jackal-eyed patrons cackle. At my crown I wear a jester hat,
my right hand wields a staff — not to shepherd with,

not to flock, but to flay and to mock. Judy, the little wife,
is by my side, as is Toby the Dog, and Baby, our beautiful child.
Murderous, I screech and disturb: the gorgon’s clobbered first,

and then the mangy cur (a string of sausages laced with arsenic),
finally the brat — I beat, I hit — I feel sharp pleasure, I feel no remorse.
Tautened to a star I shriek ‘Huzzah, huzzah, I’ve killed the Devil!’,

forgetting I’m a tenant of your omnipresent Hell.



Stuart Barnes completed a BA (Literature, Philosophy) at Monash University. His poetry has been published in journals, anthologies and online; he also writes short stories and has, over the last six months, been working on a novel about a taboo crime and its peculiar punishments. He lives by Melbourne’s Yarra.

Of ‘Marionette’, Barnes says: “On my inescapable manic-depressive Devil (both terrifying and thrilling), and the Wafer-dispensing Whitecoats incapable of exorcising Him.”