The way young boys prey on each other’s
fears as the sun dies out. Hearing the rusted
chains of the porch swing, hearing
the languid fizz of each firefly hovering
just outside the window. We rest heavy
& hard after watching three horror
movies in a row. First Alien—we quivered
while Ellen Ripley stared down the jaws
of something black & malevolent. Even
in the feminine, a trace of masculine
violence. We will enact what we will enact.
The Exorcist bored some of us with its slow
meditation on personal demons. We had
trouble relating. None of us were Catholic.
Nearly all of us had succumbed to sleep
by the time Nightmare on Elm Street flickered on,
perhaps because most of us knew our sleep
would be untroubled. There would be no nightmare.
We lived on cul-de-sacs & avenues,
not streets, & with fireflies humming
at the partition, a shadow couldn’t be
more than a shadow. I couldn’t sleep—
consumed as I was by my trembling—
but felt their sleeping, their dormancy,
how it stirred in me a hunger
black as a pocked tooth. The pain
of that night was like the pain of a tooth:
it swelled, it ached. It was growing.
Their snoring rolled like thunder tumbling
down a promontory. Their snoring
settled & echoed like a stampede at the bottom
of a valley. I was an alien, visible
& then not, creeping on all fours
across the floor, taxidermied in mid
-prowl between the pauses in their breaths.
Those pauses killed me. Will they wake?
Or keep sleeping? Will they wake? What am I
doing? Moving in darkness—my movements
so strange, so threatening, so creepy—
I couldn’t stop. I was a creature possessed,
habits governed by a sense of threshing.
Maybe I drooled acid, could twist my head
180 degrees like an owl. Between thumb
& forefinger, between thigh & thigh,
I chanted do not wake, do not wake, instead
Dream how much you love me & wake
loving me. Let me lurk a little longer in twilight.
I knew I wasn’t the only one awake—
they only pretended to be sleeping so they could
feel pleasure without acknowledging it,
without swallowing the beaded guilt
growing heavy between us. At that age,
we were all xenomorphs—strange
shapes—& we didn’t want to dream
that we were monsters, that our bodies
could slowly fold together like hands in prayer.
The dream came anyway, curled slowly
around our inner ears humming:
I am, I am, we are—even in the flashing firelight,
thunder still rolling like runoff down my back.
I fed steadily on the dark matter in the space
where their brains should’ve been.
When they woke, we could finally look
at each other without pretense, brush
our fangs at the sink. Together we peeled back
our rinds, cut nooses from their centers.
Tory Adkisson‘s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Linebreak, Colorado Review, Third Coast, Boston Review, Sou’wester, Best New Poets 2012, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA from The Ohio State University and is currently a PhD student in English and Creative Writing at the University of Georgia.
Image via Wikimedia Commons