Serious scholars of poetry know that in reclusive poetess Emily Dickinson’s most notable publications during her life were in the Springfield Republican newspaper. Between 1858 and 1868, she anonymously published a handful of verses in the paper, many differing quite significantly from the editions discovered by her sister Lavinia after Emily’s death in 1886.

What is less well known is the series of occasional poems that appeared in the Republican‘s sister publication, the Springfield Democrat between 1871 and 1882. The Democrat was a guttersnipe paper that specialized in sensational and taboo topics; it folded in 1883 after an obscenity case in Boston, in point of fact. It was the New York Post to the Republican‘s New York Times and very popular and reviled for that very reason.

The poems published therein were clearly inspired by Emily Dickinson’s poetry, but were universally vulgar and denigrating, directing shocking (for the time) insults and invective at unnamed parties. Scholars have somewhat facetiously dubbed the unknown author “Emily Disserson” due to this.

For example, the following was published in the Springfield Democrat on April 2, 1879, clearly based on Dickinson’s Hope Is A Thing With Feathers:

Hope you’re tarred and feathered –
And run right out of town –
As we sing a tune uncensor’d –
Of how we cast – you down –

And sweetest – in your cries – is heard –
And sore must be your ass –
That could abash the little bitch
That spoke so much of sass-

I’ve seen it on your bitchy hands –
And on the whorish lip –
You – never – in one-night stands,
Never shame loosen – your grip.

Experts disagree on whether the anonymous author was a family member, an acquaintance, an unrelated party, or even Dickinson herself. Most discount the latter theory, for obvious reasons. The closest to a scholarly consensus, advanced by Dr. Philip Sagle of Southern Michigan University, is that the author was Ms. Caroline Treacle, a close friend of Lavinia Dickinson.

Ms. Tracle was notorious for her profane language and ease of offense, and is recorded in the Springfield Social Register as being banned from the Springfield Sewing Circle for “using such language as would make a Sailor blush and a Whore take up the Cross.”

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The wall grew overnight.

The swamp had been, for many years, barely passable and largely avoided. But when the time came to drain it, to replace the pools and bogs with land that was useful, something changed.

Workmen arrived after a day of hard but productive labor to find their tools scattered, their machines batted about as if by a child’s hand. And between they and the swamp to be drained, a wall. It was not a wall of brick, or of steel, but a wall of the swamp itself.

Gnarled and ancient wood, curled in upon itself and dripping with algae. Arachnid dendrils of fresh-grown shoots, still carrying upon them the green of their birth. Even planks from the old corduroy road that had once wound its way through the thinnest and shallowest of the bog were twisted within. Twelve feet or more, it was in places studded with dead birds strangled in the matter as it had emerged and embraced.

Half of the workmen quit the jobsite that day. The other half spent the day sawing a hole large enough for passage; they too gave notice when, the morning after that, their hole had been plugged by fresh regurgitations from the heart of the swamp.

The owners, who had much invested in the property and grand plans for the drained land, persisted. They hired a new crew and set them to work building a ramp over the top of the mysterious swamp wall. It took two weeks, but the ramp was completed and not overgrown the following morn.

A full survey crew went in first, to check for damage to the work that had already been done by what was rationalized away as an earthquake. At shift’s end, none returned. The second crew deserted in droves, aside from a search party assembled by the owners and promised triple pay. Armed and equipped for rescue, they also failed to return.

Seven days later, a single man stumbled out of the swamp and collapsed at the foot of the ramp. He was covered with scratches and bites, and was completely incoherent. A member of the second party, he raved for hours about vengeful red eyes amid the rotting wood, of creatures neither lizard nor amphibian that rose from the muck to savage men with needle-sharp teeth and steel-keen claws.

That sole survivor died one week later. Sedated and restrained after several prior attempts, he killed himself by chewing off his own tongue and drowning in blood. At long last the owners abandoned their plans and surrendered the swamp to the state. The ramp was torn down after it was determined there were no further survivors, and compensation for their next-of-kin bankrupted every investor.

And the wall? The wall remains, overgrown, tangled with hollow bones. It’s said there’s a knothole, in a piece of the old courduroy road, through which the intrepid or the curious can peek to see what lies beyond, sealed off from all that is not pools of peat and rotting vegetable matter.

To this date, no one has.

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“Ready?” the warden removed a key from his neck. The head guard did the same, and they both inserted them into their respective locks. “Turn on three.”

At the warden’s count, the locks clicked open and the cell began to peel apart. Sections withdrew into the ceiling and floor, revealing the stasis tube holding the prisoner. Brayden Ellis Cunningham, age 16, looking just as dangerous as he had the day he’d been brought in.

“Doesn’t look that dangerous,” said Agent Tenga. “Just like any other snot-nosed kid.”

The warden and chief guard jammed their keys into a second set of locks and turned, beginning the stasis flush procedure amid klaxons. “That ‘snot-nosed kid’ caused 4 billion dollars’ worth of damage,” said the warden with a sneer. “He killed 27 people. Be careful.”

The stasis liquid drained from the tube, leaving Brayden Ellis Cunningham awake but groggy. The chief guard handed Agent Tenga a microphone. “Here, you can talk to him on this. No physical contact.”

Agent Tenga picked up the mic. “Mr. Cunningham?” he said. “Braydon Ellis Cunningham? This is Agent Tenga of the RIAA. We need your help.”

“Ah,” said Braydon. “First you lock me up for pirating Misty Chalmers’ new album, the entire fall lineup of NBS, and every movie released on Webfilmz since 2013. Then you ask for my help? Laughable.”

“You drove two dozen network executives to suicide,” said Agent Tenga. “But we’re willing to overlook that in exchange for your cooperation.”

“Cooperation with what?” said Brayden. “It’d better be good.”

“Someone has pirated the Oscar telecast,” said Agent Tenga, lowering his head. “It’s been leaking out at the rate of one minute per day.”

“That’s it?” Brayden cried. “Who cares? There’s another Oscars in a month anyway!”

“No, you don’t understand.” Tenga put a hand over his mouth and bit his finger for a moment before continuing. “Someone pirated this year’s Oscars. They haven’t even been filmed yet!”

“Oh. Oh, now that is interesting,” said Brayden.

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The first ladybug was an curiosity.
The tenth was an annoyance.
The twenty-fifth was exasperating.
The hundredth was terrifying.
The thousandth was fatal.

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“It’s not what it used to be,” said Corvus, his voice muffled behind his Renaissance doctor’s mask. “People don’t think of children’s entertainers when they see clowns anymore, they think of murderers and psychopaths. It’s like dressing up as the boogeyman.”

“People don’t think of healers when they see those plague masks, either,” said Squids, her smirk enhanced by the greasepaint. “They think of assassins and quacks.”

“But medieval doctors were assassins and quacks,” replied Corvus. “Not so clowns. They’ve done a complete 180 from beloved to reviled. So why do you want to dress up as one?”

“Look, Corvus, you know that’s not what the Club is about,” said Jangle. “We wear what we want to wear and this is a safe place for it.”

“No, it’s all right,” said Squids. “Corvus thinks I’m trying to put on a Goth affect and being coy about it, and I want him to know that’s not the case.”

“Well, then, what is it?” said Corvus. “Don’t tell me it’s because you want to be a jolly old-time clown. You don’t have the temperament for it.”

“Corvus!”

“It’s all right,” Squids said, though her painted smile did not budge. “It’s…all right. I dress like this, Corvus, because of that duality, not despite it. I’m dour, I’m sarcastic, I’m a stick-in-the-mud who smokes. Pre-serial-killer, maybe. But at the same time, it represents what I would like to be: more outgoing, better with kids, less concerned with what people think of me. I’m a new clown trying to be an old clown.”

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“We’re trying to remove the stigma,” says Brian Sargasso, founder and CEO of NaughtyFootnotes.com. “I remember when I was young, taking one of my dad’s magazines on advanced quantum physics and looking at all the long, immaculately formatted footnotes, so elegant and beautiful. Of course, I had to do it furtively, since it ws frowned upon back then.”

NaughtyFootnotes.com boasts a slick and highly organized interface, one that allows customers to customize their experience to view footnotes that are most in line with their personal kinks. Sargasso points out a number of filters: one allows customers to filter by citation type, for instance. “There’s no judgment here,” he says. “We understand some that people are turned on by MLA-style footnotes even if they’re a historian what has grown up looking at Chicago footnotes. It’s not a prejudice, it’s a preference.”

One popular option is footnotes in foriegn citation styles, which Sargasso calls “exotics.” “The Brazilian National Standards are some of our most popular footnotes for discerning fetishists,” he says. “They have a very diverse style that is just what a lot of people are looking for with their citation kinks.” But perhaps the most popular subset of Sargasso’s site is the “Humiliation and Agony” area, which shows footnotes with major errors of formatting, spelling, and style.

“It’s a crossover, really, betweeen my interest in BDSM and my intense fixation on APA style footnotes,” says NaughtyFootnotes.com user HangingIndent66, speaking on condition that only their screenname be used. “I love all footnotes; they’re beautiful and the italics really get my blood pumping. But to see one that’s being humiliated by bad spelling and terrible formatting? Tie me up, I’m done.”

Some, largely in academia and on the political right, have accused operators like Sargasso of exploitation. The authors of the footnotes, for instance, are often paid a flat rate for their work regardless of how popular it becomes. Writers who have done footnote fetishist work say that it has had a strong impact on their ability to do serious academic work. Some even claim that their footnotes, especially ones that fall into the “humiliation” category, are taken from other sites and used without permission.

“Look, we are on the up and up here,” says Sargasso in response. “All our writers are paid and get a percentage of overall traffic as royalties. And if I see an amateur with really good footnotes, I’ll only put their goods up if they sign the waiver and get paid. Some of the other fly-by-night places might not do that, but not NaughtyFootnotes.com.”

In addition to footnote fetishists, a number of sites have arisen to cater to those who fetishize endnotes, like TheBackNineEndnotes.com, or in-text citations, like HotMLAInjection.com. Asked about these sites, and whether NaughtyFootnotes.com would ever expand its offerings to compete with them, Sargasso dismissed the notion out of hand.

“Look, no judgment in my line of work,” he says, “but those people are just sick and wrong.”

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The first one was irksome
The second did annoy
Then a third one did come
And a fourth was ahoy

Lizard they were, lizards all
Skink and gecko, plain and striped
Young and old, monitor and anole
In her bedroom and in her hall

She threw them outside, shooed them away
Sealed up the windows, locked up the door
But in every nook, every cranny they stay
And every day there arrived still more

In time did she ask, “what want you with me?”
And to her surprise, a reply did recieve
“You are our queen and this is homage, you see,”
“We want you to join us and of here take leave.”

So it was then that vanish did she
Searches were futile, no trace did they find
Though locals still swear they see
A large regal lizard, best of all its kind

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