Thursday, April 2, 2015

Haunted House

It was haunted, the house I grew up in;
some old bastard from olden days,
mostly hanging out in the basement, by the water softener.

Many times I stopped my stuffed animal games mid-sentence and froze.
"Get the fuck out," he'd say by turning the air thick and heavy
like green sky late on an April afternoon.

I'd take the slime-colored linoleum stairs two at a time,
my tail on fire, a little spark in a hurry to hit the sky.
Oh god oh god oh god...but no god down there.

Upstairs, better wear a parka, better be a hidden rabbit
if my mother was in one of her silent rages.
She didn't like imperfections, and there I was, made of them.

Daddy's books were birds that flew off the shelves
into my hands. "What's this one?" I'd ask
a million times and always got an answer.

When they got divorced, the dead man came upstairs;
He'd crawl up my back sending every hair on end,
then clatter the cutlery in the kitchen when nobody else was home.

My father had taken his books and a second wife.
My mother's parents had just died, and she'd had to get a job at fifty-five.
After she tried to kill herself and failed, she switched to me.

I wouldn't die, though;
there were enough pissed-off ghosts there,
and so I made the world my basement stairs and ran.

For "The House That Built You" at Real Toads.



hedgewitch said...

They always live in the basement. Thank gawd for stairs. You twist the knife into every childhood trope here and make it bleed gold. Fine fine writing, Shay.

Kerry O'Connor said...

I have never underestimated a child's imagination and their way of turning the real demons of their lives into ones that haunt their sleep or creep under the bed - and just as we learn to defeat them, real life happens and we know what it is to bleed.

ellen abbott said...

I'd guess most demons could be spelled 'parent'.

Anonymous said...

That last line is a winner.

TexWisGirl said...


Sherry Blue Sky said...

Whoa. Your poems about your childhood are your most powerful. And I love them. Love the "little spark in a big hurry to hit the sky", and the strength it took to survive being alive in that house. Especially love the escape at the end.

Buddah Moskowitz said...

This made it perfect, and by perfect I mean it resonated with me:

"She didn't like imperfections, and there I was, made of them."

Sending a hug word hug to a true artist. Love, el Mosk

Marian said...

Yes, I agree that last line is killer. Almost literally, and it really brings all of this together so well. I want to say this is a wonderful snapshot, I mean, it's wonderfully wrought and delivers a big, big impact. Thank you.

Mama Zen said...

This is so damn powerful, Shay.

Anonymous said...

Woah! Love. You keep taking those stairs two at a time. Strong legs, fierce mind. Excellent writing!!

Hannah said...

This tears at my heart, Shay. You captured it all so well and I especially love that your dad's books grew wings...and the use of stairs in the end...brilliant.

Ella said...

I am thankful you escaped~ I agree the last line-haunts! Are we all haunted by our childhoods? Hell, yes!

Bravo, brave princess~

Other Mary said...

Yikes! You should have come to live with me. I always wanted a sister.

Susie Clevenger said...

Oh my, I can relate to parts of this. My mother was too angry to nurture us and my father was too silent to encourage. I love your ending. "I made the world my basement stairs and ran."

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

My mum didn't go that far, but I did grow up with her trying to cure my many imperfections. And we had scary basement stairs, but the ghosts we feared and suspected didn't actually manifest. I'll just bet you ran! And I'm glad you did.

grapeling said...

damn ~

Kerridwen said...

This is a very powerful poem - I like all your little metaphors and images, but it's also quite a sad poem. Glad you escaped.

Shawna said...

These lines are so powerful:
"She didn't like imperfections, and there I was, made of them."
"After she tried to kill herself and failed, she switched to me."