In honor of Halloween, I posted a poem called “A Horror Story” here, where I explain the circumstances that inspired the piece.
On this blog I thought I’d post a couple more Halloween poems. Happy haunting, everyone!
TRICKS AND TREATS
AT SHORTY’S SALOON
A warped pumpkin face leered
from the ring-marred bar top.
We peered through eye holes
at an electric beer sign where
the Cincinnati skyline brightened
with noon-time radiance.
From the jukebox a banshee yowled
her hair-prickling lament.
Hunchbacks lined the bar,
breathing smoke, red ash
singeing their knuckles.
They watched us without moving,
eye sockets shadowed,
foreheads purple and green with neon.
The bartender had the eyebrows
of a madman; he was
not to be trusted, shiny-cheeked
and glib. From a cauldron
of wrapped sourballs he clawed
a crackling fistful. Our paper sacks
rattled, we backed away. One
of the zombie hunchbacks shifted.
C’mere, youngsters. The dull nickels
he fished from his pockets
were doled with yellowed fingers.
Gloom deepened as the beer sign city
plunged into midnight. The moaning singer
gave up the ghost, a heart-stopping silence.
We shoved each other out the door
as the madman cackled at our backs,
mixing and pouring his poisons.
(from Best of Ohio 2004, © Nancy Breen)
THE MUMMY SPEAKS
He showed up for open mic night,
poems inked on the stiff bandages
across his crusted palms.
It took him half the evening
to work up his nerve, took half
that long again to totter
between the folding chairs
to the front of the room.
The crowd murmured,
grew excited. This promised everything
they’d heard poetry was about–
death, a voice echoing
from the grave, deterioration
and its impact on the poet’s art.
He opened his mouth to recite.
Stale breath blew dirt
and dried moths. He started
with an imagist poem
about the Nile at sunset,
another about shadowy camels
in sandstorms, ended with a brief verse
about how everything depends
on a little green scarab
glazed with dust in the burial pit.
The audience grew restless.
Where was the decay? Where was the madness?
He knew he’d lost them.
Their indifferent applause mocked him
as he humped into the night.
He became a recluse after that,
dressed all in white gauze,
wrote batches of poems
he tossed into a sarcophagus.
Future generations would discover his work,
declare him the genius he knew he was.
And after all, he was the living dead.
He’d last long enough to see it happen.
(from How Time Got Away, © 2005, Pudding House Publications)