Your brother taught you
how to avoid poking your eyes out
when you play fished around the pond
if you blind yourself, he said
it will feel like falling in deep water
black and heavy and cloying with leaches
fatally kissing you in dark, serpents of suburbia
“A-tishoo! A-tishoo! We all fall down.”*
You screamed all night until your mother
standing in the lit doorway like an seraph
gin in one hand, cigarettes in gold box in other
painted lady with burnt orange nails and Sharon Tate hair
whispered that drowning wasn’t so bad
try being an adult, that’s really something to fear
go back to reading Narnia and sleep easy
it’s years till then …
You hear inebriate adults chanting downstairs
10! 9! 8! 7! 6! 5! 4! 3! 2!
stop listening before they hit one
hot faces, kissing pungent disease, passing keys
burying your head beneath Snoopy pillow
another year might be good, might be terrifying
that’s how ice storms grow in a child, how they
take root, form Cyclopeans in furniture and gloom
licking with leviathan tongue, the sugary axis of innocence.
The record player they crowd around, sounds like caramel
an argot needle playing smooth, hot vinyl, swirled cream; eyes half-mast
singing la chanson du réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre
you knew fear then in her myriad forms
sprouting from the heads of adults like a triffid on acid
urging you to leap from your bedroom window and run
into the eyes of the forest, where at least terrors are obvious
not the pinch of a man reaching through your bedclothes
not the scold of a day without color, without kindness
a leach in darkness, the fear of being blinded, a car crash
the flood and drowning of all worthy and good.
Fear has many faces; you learned early, not to look too close
avoiding horror the way children
hopscotch over cracks in pavements
singing loud as they skip to murder songs
from generations before, blooming
(*Lines from the old skipping song Ring a Ring o’ Roses).
7 Replies to “Ring a Ring o’ Roses”
Do we outgrow the fears of childhood, or do they just seem less significant beside the ones we find in the adult world? And when we learn that even the innocent nursery rhyme we skipped to had a dark and fearful past, teaching the symptoms of plague?
Exquisite, heart breaking, beautiful.
apropos for today either way! I think the latter. But hey, the past had the terror of what you did not yet know, while the future has the terror of what you do not yet know too. mmm.
Hmmm – Yes, at whatever age, the terrors we do not yet know offer the greatest range for the imagination.
I soo love this piece.
That was an adrenaline rush! I often feel like I’m navigating this cataclysm of future horrors. If I didn’t meditate I know I’d be quite insane by now… Also, only you, dear sister, could drop into my head the perfectly vivid image of a triffid on acid. 😁
Thank you so very much 💜
Haha!! I love that you and I always know what the other is saying. That’s unusual. These days.
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