The term Golem, in Jewish folklore refers to an image that has been animated, an effigy which has been lent the power to interact with its surroundings. The Talmudic or Biblical concept of a Golem is more akin to some sort of proto human, a roughly hewn semblance of an oversized person, as if a sculptor had walked away after outlining a piece.

Early tales in which Golems play a part, portray Golems as creatures made of clay, or mud, who are brought to life by a learned man, through the use of occult knowledge and the name or word of God. In these early stories the Golem is a slow-witted creature, whose literal interpretation of commands keeps them from being useful for anything but the most basic of tasks.


Around the 16th century these simple servants began to take on the responsibility of protector of the Jewish people. Not too surprising an evolutionary leap perhaps, given the level of persecution the Jewish people faced during the middle ages. The incidence of Jewish people being rounded up and slaughtered in an effort to purge a village or town of plague, drought, pestilence or just plain bad luck between the 5th and 15th centuries are sadly, innumerable.


It is no wonder at all that tales of protective Golems, who become too powerful and must be destroyed by their maker began to surface. It is my sincere hope that the poem below honors not only the legend of the Golem, but the history of the people who created him.




Words, words, words,

Etched, engraved, inscribed

Prayers, incantations, spells,

Of power, protection, defense

On torso, legs, arms and chest.


Instructions, orders, mandate

Clear, precise, incontrovertible

To guards my charges’ fate

For their lives I am responsible


No use of force is too great

No choice of violence too low

No pain should be spared

No tactic is too despicable


For when the enemy comes,

Separating men, from women and children

There is no mercy shown

There is no quarter given


The pestilence creeping across the lands

Rhetoric precedes it, more virulent by half

Than the plague that supersedes it.




Of your sins you will be shriven.

You will be acting as God’s hand,

If from Christendom you help to purge, the tribes of Abraham.


The maker toils day and night; secular and holy

The gluey cough that permeates the square

The sidelong glances becoming open glares,

The writing upon the wall, is laid bare


People whom yesterday were neighbors,

Today became crusaders.

From morning bells to evensong

Their conversion took just that long.


My makers pace is fevered;

There is no time to waste.

The mob that surges through the town,

Will never be out paced.


His hands, they quiver in their haste

One last incantation to be traced

An arcane term of the occult

Only perfect completion yields result


The only commandment of my creation

Mandate, blessing and animation

The keystone of every other incantation

The word that embodies victory and strife

The word is;


Ghouls are an interesting entity. They are neither ghost, zombies, vampire, nor spirits, but seem to fall into a category all their own. The earliest folklore concerning ghouls can be found in the annals of One Thousand and One Nights, and is indeed how they came to be introduced to western culture. The stories in which they feature describe them as creatures who feed on the bodies of the dead, as well as children. Strange mix of preferred diet to my mind, rather like paring fresh spring greens with stinky tofu, but; to each, their own, I suppose.

No one knows for sure what a Ghoul looks like, as they enjoy the ability to take on the form of whoever they last ate.  Illustrations of Ghouls depict them as roughly human in shape, with bald heads, and mottled grayish skin. A standing crouch seems to be their default posture and there is something putty like and malleable about their musculature.

As a child, I was certain this was the creature living under my bed; nested under there, cleverly camouflaging as one of my stuffed animals, or perhaps even a shadow taking up the farthest corner. I’d wake in the middle of the night, certain I could hear him gnawing on partially decomposed bits of people. I imagined him listening intently to my restless attempts to ignore my full bladder, yearning for the moment he could wrap his fingers around my tender young ankle. The worst part, to me anyway, was that this thing, I believed, followed me everywhere. He was at my house, my grandparents house across town, and even at my Dad’s in an entirely different state.

He even tagged along to my first apartment. It was there that I decided, since he followed me everywhere, and had not eaten me yet; he must be some sort of guardian, or preternatural companion, relegated to the world of shadows, only able to interact with me in a peripheral way.

The poem that follows is dedicated to not only my ghoul’s selfless and unrecognized life of service, but to all the companion ghouls out there, benevolent, malevolent, or benign. Thank you for everything; my under the bed paladin.


A Ghoul’s Life


Some Ghouls live at odds with the humans they’ve been assigned,

Not me,

Not with mine.


Some Ghouls cultivate a relationship of tension and dis-ease with those in their charge,

Preferring daily little victories; over a healthy partnership, by and large.


Not me,

Not with mine


I never scratched on her window, or moaned from under her bed,

Never made the shower curtain billow, or brushed a cold hand across the back of her head.


From the first time I pushed her favorite Teddy through the bars of her cot,

To the last time I helped her find the hair tie that she’d dropped


I was a part of her life,

And she was all of mine


Her slippers were always lined up straight; I never let her wake up late

Her keys were always on the hook, and into her purse, I’d slip her favorite book.


My only reward, her composure; with your person there must be no face to face exposure.

In the shadows we must stay, twilight, noon, night and day


That is the law, that is the rule; for each and every single Ghoul,

Not just for me,

Not just with mine.


From behind the drapes, before nine, I would watch her catch the bus just in time.

Each morning just the same, till the day, into our lives you came.


Jumping the curb; then speeding away. On the pavement her body lay,

No witness but me; saw you flee. Punishment you thought you’d kept at bay.


Three nights it took, to find your home, and though my presence will remain unknown;

From the moment that you wake, till your life I decide to take.


You are with me,


Are mine.





The Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919 hit hard and it hit fast, infecting an estimated “500 million, and killing approximately 50 million people worldwide, claiming 675,000 lives in the United States alone.” ( )

At the peak of the illness’s third and final wave over 1,800 cases and 101 deaths were reported in San Francisco, in the first five days of January 1919. The virus targeted the most vulnerable segments of the population, as usual; those under 5 and over 65. Alarmingly however this virus took just was many individuals between the ages of 20-40. This lent the disease a particularly insidious and sinister air. People of the time waged a mostly impotent war against an illness that struck vehemently and successfully against, both the weak and vulnerable and the strong and healthy.

This inescapable helplessness created an aura of macabre celebrity around the disease and those areas stuck hardest by it. The palpable presence of indiscriminate death is an impossible situation for the human psyche to contend with, we search for reasons, ways to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and construct coping mechanisms designed to dilute our fear. People began to anthropomorphize the Spanish Flu, much as they did the Black Plague centuries before, immortalizing the phenomenon with the macabre nursery rhyme “Ring Around the Rosy”.

In the case of the Spanish Flu this sort of mechanism took the form of the following poem.

“I knew little bird,

His name was Enza,

I opened the window

And In-Flew-Enza”


This image has always intrigued me. A waif-like presence, seemingly harmless, wandering the cold world, seeking someone who will let it in. Only instead of a bird I always pictured Enza as a disembodied spirit, on a quest to find his lady love. Visiting home after home, person after person, unable to rest until he finds her. The following poem is inspired by that image.


For more information about the Flu Pandemic of 1918-1919 please visit;


In-Flew Enza



With rosy cheeks and eyes so bright,

She opened the window,

 On a balmy night.

Turning to take her husband’s hand,

To dance,

One last stanza,



She did not see,

When through the casement,

In flew Enza



From bridal gown to widow’s weeds,

From merry meet to anguish;

It took just shy of a week,

For the bridegroom to be vanquished.



A slight malaise, a soreness of the throat,

Put down to an excess of hilarity,

Progressed so quickly,

To shortness of breath,

Fever, chills,

And finally;

To his mortality.



Though I knew her heart to me,

Could never cleave,

I could not bring myself to leave,

Rather I watched from the shadows as she grieved.



In the parlor, where his body was laid,

On the carriage ride to his grave,

At the funeral reception,

My hand upon her shoulder stayed,

Her constant,





When the mourners left,

Telling her to rest,

“You are too young to look so sallow,”

She suppressed a cough,

Graciously waved them off,

And surrendered to sentimentality. 



Alone at last,

She indulged in a repast,

Of bitter tears and deep regret,

Not fit for company.



Having sated her sorrow,

She resoled to do better tomorrow,

And putting her weakness down to exhaustion,

She ascended the stair,

First one set,

Then its pair,

Leaning heavily upon me.



With burning cheeks and eyes too bright,

She opened the window,

On a cool starry night,



And through the casement,

 Her soul took flight,

 In the arms,

Of Influenza