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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Not Mine"

This poem came out of the October 18, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl -- the bonus session with Monster House as a theme.  You can read more about this series on the Serial Poetry page.  It was inspired by prompts from fayanora, aldersprig, and miintikwa

WARNING: This poem deals with child abuse and implies some other violence.  The tone is also a lot darker than average for the Monster House series.  It may be triggery for some readers.


Not Mine


One evening I heard the doorbell
and opened the door to find
the bogeyman with a crying toddler in his arms.

"I need you to take her," he said to me.
"I found her three houses down from here."
She wore dingy pajamas
and bruises layered on bruises,
black and blue fading to yellowed green.

"What the hell is going on here?"
I demanded.

"She's not mine," said the bogeyman.
"I can't take her.  Her parents
beat her for wetting the bed."

"She can't be more than two years old,"
I snapped.  "She should probably still be diapers!"
Our son was, after all -- he had figured out the timing
but hadn't quite gotten the hang of aiming yet.

"I know that," he said,
"but her parents summoned me
and that limits my options.
The best I can do for her
is to get her out of that house.
Just call the police and tell them that
you heard the doorbell and she was on your porch."

"Well, I suppose that's true enough,"
I said, "if not the whole truth."
I helped him unwrap her arms from around his neck
and her fists from the long white silk of his hair.
Then I settled her on my hip.  She was still wet.
"Meanwhile, what are you going to do?"

His smile stretched all the way back to his ears,
teeth glinting as sharp and white as a shark's.
"I only eat the bad  boys and girls,"
said the bogeyman. "I've been summoned,
though I doubt they really knew what they were doing,
and I'm still ... very ... hungry."

"I won't keep you then,"
I said with a firm nod.
"How long should I wait
before calling the police?"

"Give me ten minutes," he said. 
He patted the girl one last time --
her sobs had dwindled to sniffles --
and dropped a kiss on top
of the satiny black cap of her hair.
Then he strode briskly away.

I was glad that my wife and daughter
had gone out shopping;
they didn't need to see this.
I gave the little girl a quick wash
then put her in one of my son's diapers
and a clean sleeper.
Soon they were both dozing
on the living room couch.

Then I gave the police a call
and a carefully edited version of the truth.
They arrived soon after
and were suitably appalled
by the little girl's condition.
They promised to deal with the parents
and see about placing her with someone else.

After all was said and done,
I cuddled our son on my lap
and tucked my nose into his hair
to enjoy the yeasty-sweet baby scent of him
while I waited for my wife and daughter to come home.
Under the hide-a-bed couch, the monster-under-the-bed
hummed one lullabye after another
as the minutes crawled slowly by.

And to think some people believe
that fur and claws make the monster.

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11 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
ravan From: ravan Date: December 18th, 2011 06:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah, how fitting for parents who invoke the bogeyman on a child for being normal.

I wish it was really that easy...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 18th, 2011 06:42 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>Ah, how fitting for parents who invoke the bogeyman on a child for being normal.<<

"Be careful what you wish for" definitely applies.

>>I wish it was really that easy...<<

So do I. But then again, I've seen the world deliver odd forms of justice when least looked for.
drewkitty From: drewkitty Date: December 18th, 2011 07:38 am (UTC) (Link)
If only . . .
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: December 19th, 2011 07:32 am (UTC) (Link)
I wonder what the little girl will remember of this afternoon, later.

How the bogeyman goes unnoticed while walking down the street, even a few houses, with a crying toddler, I have no idea. Do people perceive him as an unremarkable human, just not notice ...? (Nor would "long white silk" hair have occurred to me as a likely feature.)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 30th, 2011 12:54 am (UTC) (Link)

Well...

>>I wonder what the little girl will remember of this afternoon, later.<<

Feel free to bring that up in a later fishbowl!

>>How the bogeyman goes unnoticed while walking down the street, even a few houses, with a crying toddler, I have no idea. Do people perceive him as an unremarkable human, just not notice ...?<<

Magic. Most of the mystical creatures have some ability to conceal themselves. The bogeyman is one of the more able and adaptable examples. Also, don't underestimate the tendency of people to see what they expect and not give a shit about other people's problems.

>>(Nor would "long white silk" hair have occurred to me as a likely feature.)<<

He's all white, actually, the color of freshly burned ash. No, he's not based on any specific rendition of a bogeyman; this is just how he showed up. He's tall and thin and spooky.

kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: December 30th, 2011 02:01 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

Noted!

He's all white, actually, the color of freshly burned ash.
That's not what I imagined at all. Next you'll tell me he doesn't wear a hat, either. Humanoid?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 30th, 2011 02:04 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

>>That's not what I imagined at all.<<

That's okay. Monsters don't necessarily appear the same way to everyone.

>> Next you'll tell me he doesn't wear a hat, either.<<

... sometimes?

>> Humanoid?<<

Humanoid, yes: one head, two arms, two legs, mostly human shape. He does have those sharklike teeth, though.
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: December 30th, 2011 02:14 am (UTC) (Link)
Apparently not. I'm not sure if anything'd been mentioned before that would've prompted or contradicted my notion of him as dark/shadow colored.

Head, torso, two arms, two legs which it walks on, arranged in roughly the human layout is about all I expect for "humanoid". Doesn't have to pass for human to someone who's actually *looking*.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 30th, 2011 02:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>I'm not sure if anything'd been mentioned before that would've prompted or contradicted my notion of him as dark/shadow colored.<<

I think his pale coloring has been mentioned once or twice before, but not in so much detail. He does rather play against the stereotype; I think that's part of his charm. And we do have the lurking shadow to cover the far end of the spectrum.

>>Doesn't have to pass for human to someone who's actually *looking*.<<

True, and there seem to be a few humans who can see through the glamour.

kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: January 5th, 2012 07:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Feel free to bring that up in a later fishbowl!

That seems not to've been necessary ...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 5th, 2012 07:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

I just didn't want to blow it earlier, since "The Girl He Brought Home" wasn't published yet. I hope you like it.
11 comments or Leave a comment