#folktober #ekphrasticchallenge. Day Nine. To celebrate the launch of my new poetry collection “As Folktaleteller” I am downloading 93 folklore art images, 3 per day in October and asking writers to write poetry or a short prose inspired by one, two or all three images. Please join Kirsten Irving, Gaynor Kane, Ankh Spice, Jane Dougherty, Kyla Houbolt, Jessica Whipple, Jacqueline Dempsey-Cohen, Chris Husband, Eryn McConnell, Dave Garbutt, Merril Smith and I, plus those who react to the images on the day, as we explore images from folktales.

F 1.9 Cuchulainn

F 1.9 Cuchulainn

F 2.9. Ossaert

F 2.9. Ossaert

F 3.9 40px-Aka Manto

F 3.9 40px-Aka Manto

this is not about bathrooms
(Aka Manto)

two options and each a kind
of dying. be born coiled
scarlet, roled for blue,
or not at all. nothing pours
from the cup of one hand
into the other. nothing useful
is mislabelled by the factory.
the spectre of this has come
to stalk our children. the spectre
of this bites space from their
everydays. the spectre hides
its many faces behind masks
that feign human.
each word it maggots free
worms in its own clean disguise.
the spectre grows bolder
in its robes each time a world
permits the split.
this is the last place
to accept a haunting.
behind the mask lies
nothing new – the bitter wither
of a thing whose time is done.
what fears the fall, it trips
the rising. I will sharpen
this poem until it cuts the air
a monster must move through.
heartless. that’s
a deliberate choice.

-Ankh Spice – 9/10/22

My Friend’s Tragic End:

(Inspired by the Image “F 3.9 Aka Manto”)

Her shriek
from that last stall of the loo
was her last call
still reverberates in my psyche.
The glimpses of her flayed body
drenched in her blood
on that last stall’s floor of the loo
still trembles my nerves.
Who is he who did this to my friend?
Some say he was Aka Manto.
Some say he was Red Cape.
Some say he was Red Vest.
Some say he was Akai-Kami-Aoi-Kami.
Some say he was Aoi Manto.
People describe him
“a masked spirit in a red cloak
public and school toilets”
I burn like a plank of wood in a fire when
people blame her
for choosing the ‘red paper’ option
offered by him.
How many more slaughters will he do
for filling his ravenous-psychopath intents?

-©Spriha Kant

According to legend, individuals using a toilet in such bathrooms may be asked by Aka Manto to choose between red paper or blue paper (in some versions, the options will be red or blue cloaks, rather than paper). Choosing the “red” option results in fatal lacerations or flaying, while choosing the “blue” option results in strangulation or all of the individual’s blood being drained from their body. Picking a colour which has not been offered leads to the individual being dragged to an underworld or hell, and in some accounts, choosing “yellow” results in the person’s head being pushed into the toilet. Ignoring the spirit, rejecting both options offered by the spirit, escaping the bathroom, or a combination of the aforementioned methods are said to result in the individual’s survival. (From Wikipedia)


Heroes (inspired by F1:9.)

They all look like you, Cuchulainn,
heroes all have the same handsome face,
your breadth and brawn,
the same thickness of skull, lightness of heart.

All are born sword in hand, each one
draws his first blood before he can talk,
talks only to defy and demand his due.

They have memories rich in every slight
in nine generations of forefathers,
but they cannot remember their children’s names,
their number, nor their mother’s faces.

The have tactics not principles,
their hands are for murder not love.

They fight for honour, a misheard word,
an unlucky omen, a woman’s bright eyes,
a seer’s garbled prophecy.

Never a one fights for a cause,
because it is just, because it is lost,
because he can do no less.

Perhaps that is why, Cuchulainn,
you will always be more credible
than any big screen super hero.

-Jane Dougherty

Aka Manto asks us at COP27

Are we in the last stall
of the toilets
knowing when we come out
the world is gone?


There is a tapping on the door,
“Who calls?”

“You must chose!
there is no toilet roll! You are trapped,

Choose the blue toilet roll of unending growth no taxes
the red toilet roll of strikes and fair sharing of unending growth,
of heaven on earth”

Run! Run!
Don’t mind you dirty bum—
live and choose the world and sanity
let’s end oil, fertilisers, pesticides
and take all our power from the sun.

-Dave Garbutt

Demons, Dogs, and Men (Inspired by F2.9, Ossaert and f3.9 Aka Manto)

We fear the unknown,
rush to fill vacuums
with chaotic conceptions,
premonitions presented as truth.

We imagine the possibilities
as soothing and sublime
or shocking and scary,

and, in guilt and complicity
we spawn devils and demons

who find us in the woods, in an alley, or
in a public restroom,
cautionary tales for our children, for women,
for the downtrodden,
do not seek more–

and for the powerful, fear–
the hobbled beast bites when it can,
so, beware–

and yet—

the whipped dog’s spirit who seeks revenge,
ignores the majesty of canine magnanimity
and makes them as petty as humans,
who reduce even gods to vengeful, jealous creatures.

-Merril D. Smith

9. The Red or The Blue

Let’s be friends in here. Real friends.
Polite, please; unlike you I did not choose my vocation.
And you did not choose to have so many choices.
so young: the chips or the salad, to mock or cut free,
to push back or wave like a weed. Not here, though.
A speechless room, prayer in private: a place
where your balance may slip as you sit
and you shit and smell vinegar; wonder if your friends
are friends or soulsuckers, if you are the new queen
or a filth-licker. Here in the sacred space
of the cubicle, door locked to danger, you exhale alone.
But there is one more question, and I really must press you.

-Kirsten Irving

An Infestation of Fear (F3.9 Aka Manto)

They lurk in shadow and unspoken thought
Twisting entrails, eviscerating all reason.
They own the dark – the space
between breath and sighs,
clouding visions of uncertain eyes.

Monsters –
ubiquitous, iniquitous, a legion of demons
a mystery of spooks, a rumpus of phantoms,
penumbra of spirits, congress of ghosts, a rustle of reapers –
Breathing breeding creeping and crouching
in corners, attics, nightmares and dreams.
Skulking in livers and lungs and stomachs
infesting our blood, and filling our spleens.

So we avoid the shadow, seek sunshine and sky
Cloaking our fears in mantles of light.
We gather in places sequestered and calm
Quiet, secure, well-lit and locked tight

Yet even safe havens will not stop them all
A gentleman spirit, masked and enrobed,
Committed murder most foul
in this small bathroom stall.

-Jacqueline Dempsey-Cohen @boscoedempsey

Bios and Links

-Jane Dougherty

lives and works in southwest France. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her poems and stories have been published in magazines and journals including Ogham Stone, the Ekphrastic Review, Black Bough Poetry, ink sweat and tears, Gleam, Nightingale & Sparrow, Green Ink and Brilliant Flash Fiction. She blogs at https://janedougherty.wordpress.com/ Her poetry chapbooks, thicker than water and birds and other feathers were published in October and November 2020.

-Eryn McConnell

is a poet originally from the UK who now lives in South Germany with their family. They have been writing poetry since their teens and is currently working on their second collection of poems.

-Spriha Kant

developed an interest in reading and writing poetries at a very tender age. Her poetry “The Seashell” was first published online in the “Imaginary Land Stories” on August 8, 2020, by Sunmeet Singh. She has been a part of Stuart Matthew’s anthology “Sing, Do the birds of Spring” in the fourth series of books from #InstantEternal poetry prompts. She has been featured in the Bob Dylan-inspired anthology “Hard Rain Poetry: Forever Dylan” by the founder and editor of the website “Fevers of the Mind Poetry and Art” David L O’ Nan. Her poetries have been published in the anthology “Bare Bones Writing Issue 1: Fevers of the Mind”. Paul Brookes has featured her poetry, “A Monstrous Shadow”, based on a photograph clicked by herself, as the “Seventh Synergy” in “SYNERGY: CALLING ALL WRITERS WHO ARE PHOTOGRAPHERS” on his blog “The Wombwell Rainbow”. She has been featured in the “Quick-9 interview” on feversofthemind.com by David L’O Nan. She has reviewed the poetry book “Silence From The Shadows” by Stuart Matthews. Her acrostic poetry “A Rainstorm” has been published in the Poetic Form Challenge on the blog “TheWombwell Rainbow” owned by Paul Brookes. She also joined the movement “World Suicide Prevention Day” by contributing her poetry “Giving Up The Smooch” on the blog “The Wombwell Rainbow”, an initiative taken by Paul Brookes.

-Gaynor Kane

from Belfast in Northern Ireland, had no idea that when she started a degree with the OU at forty it would be life changing.  It magically turned her into a writer and now she has a few collections of poetry published, all by The Hedgehog Poetry Press Recently, she has been a judge for The North Carolina Poetry Society and guest sub-editor for the inaugural issue of The Storms: A journal of prose, poetry and visual art. Her new chapbook, Eight Types of Love, was released in July. Follow her on Twitter @gaynorkane or read more at www.gaynorkane.com

-Dave Garbutt

has been writing poems since he was 17 and has still not learned to give up. His poems have been published in The Brown Envelope Anthology, and magazines (Horizon, Writers & Readers) most recently on XRcreative and forthcoming in the Deronda review. His poem ‘ripped’ was long listed in the Rialto Nature & Place competition 2021. In August 2021 he took part in the Postcard Poetry Festival and the chap book that came from that is available at the postcard festival website. https://ppf.cascadiapoeticslab.org/2021/11/08/dave-garbutt-interview/.

He was born less than a mile from where Keats lived in N London and sometimes describes himself as ‘a failed biologist, like Keats’, in the 70’s he moved to Reading until till moving to Switzerland (in 1994), where he still lives. He has found the time since the pandemic very productive as many workshops and groups opened up to non-locals as they moved to Zoom. 

Dave retired from the science and IT world in 2016 and he is active on Twitter, FaceBook, Medium.com, Flickr (he had a solo exhibition of his photographs in March 2017). He leads monthly bird walks around the Birs river in NW Switzerland. His tag is @DavGar51.

-Merril D. Smith

lives in southern New Jersey near the Delaware River. Her poetry has been published in several poetry journals and anthologies, including Black Bough Poetry, Anti-Heroin Chic,  Fevers of the Mind, and Nightingale and Sparrow. Her first full-length poetry collection, River Ghosts, is forthcoming from Nightingale & Sparrow Press.  Twitter: @merril_mds  Instagram: mdsmithnj  Website/blog: merrildsmith.com

-Jacqueline Dempsey-Cohen,

a retired teacher and children’s library specialist, considers herself an adventurer. She has meandered the country in an old Chevy van and flown along on midnight runs in a smoky old Convair 440 to deliver the Wall Street Journal. She is a licensed pilot, coffee house lingerer, and finds her inspiration and solace in nature in all its glorious diversity. Loving wife and mother, she makes her home in the wilds of Portland OR. www.MudAndInkPoetry.art 

-Kyla Houbolt’s

first two chapbooks, Dawn’s Fool (Ice Floe Press) and Tuned (CCCP Chapbooks), were published in 2020. Tuned is also available as an ebook. Her work has appeared in Hobart, Had, Barren, Juke Joint, Moist, Trouvaille Review, and elsewhere. Find her work at her linktree: https://linktr.ee/luaz_poet. She is on Twitter @luaz_poet.

2 thoughts on “#folktober #ekphrasticchallenge. Day Nine. To celebrate the launch of my new poetry collection “As Folktaleteller” I am downloading 93 folklore art images, 3 per day in October and asking writers to write poetry or a short prose inspired by one, two or all three images. Please join Kirsten Irving, Gaynor Kane, Ankh Spice, Jane Dougherty, Kyla Houbolt, Jessica Whipple, Jacqueline Dempsey-Cohen, Chris Husband, Eryn McConnell, Dave Garbutt, Merril Smith and I, plus those who react to the images on the day, as we explore images from folktales.

  1. Pingback: Folktober challenge day 9 – Jane Dougherty Writes

  2. Pingback: Folktober Challenge, Day 9 – Yesterday and today: Merril's historical musings

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