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

beneath them.

(*Lines from the old skipping song Ring a Ring o’ Roses).

7 Replies to “Ring a Ring o’ Roses”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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. 😁

  4. Haha!! I love that you and I always know what the other is saying. That’s unusual. These days.

Comments are closed.