A Halloween Poem

Author:
Publish date:

I love Halloween in a big way, and I don't even mind how gory it's become over time. There's something healthy about confronting mortality, laughing in the face of death and its brutalities, and flirting with some of life's darker mysteries (whether we actually believe in ghosts and spells or not).

The poem below is about an incident that happened to my cousin exactly 40 years ago last week. Eleven years old, he was goofing around on his bicycle, showing off for a girl in his class, when he hit an uneven patch of pavement and shot over the handlebars and landed in a way that caused severe internal injuries.

Things were a little uncertain for my cousin for a few days. They took out his spleen and later had to remove one of his kidneys. He was in the hospital for weeks. I was thirteen that autumn and shaken by the possibility my younger cousin could die. "Haunted" is one way of describing my feelings, which stayed with me over the years. Later, my aunt confided how the accident had haunted her, and the poem tells the story from her viewpoint:

Image placeholder title

You catapulted toward death
over butterfly handlebars,
on an afternoon of smoldering leaf piles,
cornstalks painted on the bakery windows.
We got the news that evening
just as a storm arrived to bear you away
on blasts that made the trees toss
like keening women. The first bolts crackled
as your mother headed home from the hospital.
Confronting her was the skeleton
she'd hung on the front door that afternoon.
It grinned with a phantom cackle,
flapping its cardboard bones
while you lay endangered
in intensive care, your pumpkin-
round cheeks highly colored,
a triangle of flame in each eye.

You survived that night,
although you lost the damaged kidney,
shrivelling in your recovery
like a hollowed gourd.
Your mother later said
she neither cried nor prayed,
but swept the house
of those emblems of death
and malicious spirit. To this day
she has no fondness
for the hallowed eve, for the
snaggle-toothed deity
who stared her down.

(from Clifton Magazine, (C) 1994)

Here's wishing you benign hauntings this Halloween.

--Nancy

Adapt vs. Adept vs. Adopt (Grammar Rules)

Adapt vs. Adept vs. Adopt (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use adapt vs. adept vs. adopt with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

wow no thank you

Nuggets of Humor

Bestselling humor author Samantha Irby talks about her writing process and finding funny topics for essays.

April PAD Challenge

2021 April PAD Challenge: Guidelines

Announcing the 14th annual April Poem-A-Day Challenge on Poetic Asides. Here are the guidelines for this fun annual poeming challenge that starts on April 1.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Call for Submissions, Free Downloads, and more!

This week, we’re excited to announce a call for submissions to the WD Self-Published Book Awards, free resources for writers, and more!

Flash Fiction Challenge

2021 February Flash Fiction Challenge: Day 28

Write a piece of flash fiction each day of February with the February Flash Fiction Challenge, led by editor Moriah Richard. Each day, receive a prompt, example story, and write your own. Today's prompt is to write a story using only dialogue.

Nicole Galland: On Returning to Familiar Characters

Nicole Galland: On Returning to Familiar Characters

Bestselling author Nicole Galland explains what it was like to dive into writing a series and how speculative fiction allows her to explore her interests.

6 Tools for Writing Nonfiction That Breathes

6 Tools for Writing Nonfiction That Breathes

Nonfiction author Liz Heinecke gives her top 6 tips for crafting a nonfiction book that will really capture your subject.

Flash Fiction Challenge

2021 February Flash Fiction Challenge: Day 27

Write a piece of flash fiction each day of February with the February Flash Fiction Challenge, led by editor Moriah Richard. Each day, receive a prompt, example story, and write your own. Today's prompt is to write something that makes you laugh.

Poetic Forms

Ars Poetica: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at ars poetica and the art of writing poems about poems.