?

Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile PenUltimate Productions Website Previous Previous Next Next
Poem: "Whatever We Feed" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Whatever We Feed"

This poem came out of the September 18, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from kelkyag.  It has been sponsored by janetmiles.  This poem belongs to the Monster House series; you can explore that further via the Serial Poetry page.  In order for this one to make sense, you should read "Thunder Without Rain" first.

Warning: This is one of the creepier poems in the series.  It contains seriously unpleasant entities, some violence, and disconcerting emotional dynamics.  If you've been reading Monster House for the fluff, you might want to skip this one.  If you like the occasional dark fantasy/horror elements, that's where this poem goes.


Whatever We Feed


It was a scrawny thing, a bit like a drowned rat,
but cute in an ugly way that made me wonder
what it was as I held out the crust of my sandwich.
"Don't feed that," the lurking shadow said sharply,
who hadn't said anything about my sister feeding gremlins
or about the radiator dragon snitching food in the kitchen.

"Why not?" I asked.
"That is a niggling suspicion,"
said the lurking shadow.
"Whatever we feed grows stronger.
We do not  want that kind of trouble
getting any bigger than it already is."

I felt sorry for the poor little thing,
but I left it in the alley behind our house.
A week later I saw it riding on a man's shoulder,
head buried under his skin like tick,
body bloated to the size of a soccer ball.
I didn't feel sorry for it anymore.
I felt sorry for him.

The lurking shadow beckoned to me
with a curl of shade under the big tree,
and I drew back into the yard away from them.
"Now you see why I told you not to feed it,"
he said, and I nodded.
Some monsters were safe,
others not so much.

The one that really scared me
was the black cloud that followed
the boy in my sister's class that she didn't like.
He came home with her after school one day,
calling taunts from a few feet behind her.
I jumped off the porch swing
but the lurking shadow swirled in front of me
and said, "You let me deal with this."

As soon as the boy set one foot on our grass,
the lurking shadow pounced from a tree
and knocked the cloud onto the ground.
They rolled and fought, squalling like alley cats,
but the lurking shadow was bigger
and soon the cloud lay tattered on the sidewalk,
leaking something clear as rain.

And the boy,
that awful  boy with the dead-fish eyes,
dropped to his knees beside it
like someone had run over his cat.
He held the cloud against his chest
and tried to feed it dark chocolate
from a crumpled candy wrapper.
His cheeks were wet as he carried it away.

"That's the first time I've ever seen him cry,"
my sister said, fingering the purple eye of her necklace. 
"I hope I never see it again."

"Me too," I said.
The lurking shadow nodded,
and herded us inside the house.

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Current Mood: busy busy

21 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: September 20th, 2012 01:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Interesting. I think next time Monster House comes around, I'm going to prompt for background on that boy -- or future. You're right, this one was disturbing, but I keep coming back to it.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 20th, 2012 03:07 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>Interesting. I think next time Monster House comes around, I'm going to prompt for background on that boy -- or future.<<

It's worth a try, though I don't actually know much about him. He's among the more reclusive characters.

>> You're right, this one was disturbing, but I keep coming back to it. <<

Thank you!

I find it interesting that this series is usually light with a wry twist, sometimes pure fluff, and then occasionlly goes to incredibly dark places.
laylalawlor From: laylalawlor Date: September 20th, 2012 02:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I like this one a lot! Very creepy-cool (and a little bit thought-provoking too). I'm with janetmiles - I want to see more of that boy!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 20th, 2012 03:02 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> Oh, I like this one a lot! Very creepy-cool <<

I'm happy to hear that.

>> (and a little bit thought-provoking too).<<

Me too. I wasn't expecting him to have any kind of emotional attachment like that.

>> I'm with janetmiles - I want to see more of that boy! <<

Well, we can try. He's not the most forthcoming of characters. But if he pops up again, I'll do my best.
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: September 20th, 2012 06:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Yup, that's creepy alright.

Why didn't the lurking shadow do more about the niggling suspicion than discourage feeding it, I wonder?

In Thunder Without Rain, the daughter thought the boy with the dead eyes couldn't see the cloud, but now it seems he can? That ... doesn't seem like a positive development. And I worry about his reaction to this.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 20th, 2012 07:03 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> Why didn't the lurking shadow do more about the niggling suspicion than discourage feeding it, I wonder? <<

There is always a balance of positive and negative influences in the world. The more you mess with it, the more erratic the whole system becomes. So if you can avoid a disaster simply by stepping out of the way, that's usually a good idea.

>> In Thunder Without Rain, the daughter thought the boy with the dead eyes couldn't see the cloud, but now it seems he can? That ... doesn't seem like a positive development. <<

There are two possibilities: 1) He knew about it before, but didn't show that. Given that they only interacted in public, that's plausible. 2) He may have developed the awareness later, with more exposure.

>> And I worry about his reaction to this. <<

Yeah. Certainly he did something very far out of his usual routine, in revealing that attachment.

The interesting question this raises for me is: does a relationship count as symbiosis if the parties involved feel that they are gaining something from it, even if there is harm involved; or does it only count if there is mutual benefit without harm? Because I don't think they're really all that good for each other, but the attraction seems to be deep and mutual at this point in time.
rix_scaedu From: rix_scaedu Date: September 20th, 2012 09:07 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

Oh dear, worrying thought. What if he thinks the cloud is the only one who cares about him...?
siege From: siege Date: September 20th, 2012 07:03 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

Encouraging such a belief is one way that social predators and abusive relationships persist.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 21st, 2012 02:27 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

That is an established technique, yes. What's worse is that it's most effective when it's accurate. Way too many people fall through the cracks and have nobody really good in their lives. That leaves them vulnerable, and there are a lot of humans and other things that prey on that.
aubergine_pilot From: aubergine_pilot Date: October 10th, 2012 04:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

^ this

Yes.

I don't think I should go into detail (nobody likes having a life story puked on them when they're minding their own business, after all), but, ah. Yes. Yes, that is very true.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 21st, 2012 03:23 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

... which it could be, even. 0_o
rix_scaedu From: rix_scaedu Date: September 21st, 2012 08:38 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

Which as you said above, is bad.
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: September 20th, 2012 04:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
So if you can avoid a disaster simply by stepping out of the way, that's usually a good idea.

They can avoid a direct disaster for themselves, but the disaster the niggling suspicion might cause for someone else has the potential to create a lot of collateral damage which might affect them, even if they don't care about the damage to the person directly affected.

does a relationship count as symbiosis if the parties involved feel that they are gaining something from it, even if there is harm involved; or does it only count if there is mutual benefit without harm

I don't think I know enough about how what the cloud is or does, what's wrong with the boy, or how the two of them interact to make much of a guess. We know from other stories and backstories that what started out as human can become something else, and that what looks human might not be, in this place. That cloud seems like a bad thing for a normal human child, but perhaps that's so unlike what the boy is (now) that that's not a good yardstick -- perhaps they're a crack team of emotional predators, and while that's all kinds of bad for the folks around them, it's a pretty dandy matchup for them.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 21st, 2012 03:33 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>They can avoid a direct disaster for themselves, but the disaster the niggling suspicion might cause for someone else has the potential to create a lot of collateral damage which might affect them, even if they don't care about the damage to the person directly affected.<<

To a certain extent this is true. On other hooves ...

* Messing up the environment by killing things really can cause more damage.

* People who get into negative thought patterns tend to attract trouble. This is just one example of that.

* Sometimes the consequences of a poor choice can be a wakeup call.

>> I don't think I know enough about how what the cloud is or does, what's wrong with the boy, or how the two of them interact to make much of a guess. <<

I haven't figured it all out yet either. But the questions are interesting.

>> We know from other stories and backstories that what started out as human can become something else, and that what looks human might not be, in this place. <<

True.

>> That cloud seems like a bad thing for a normal human child, but perhaps that's so unlike what the boy is (now) that that's not a good yardstick -- perhaps they're a crack team of emotional predators, and while that's all kinds of bad for the folks around them, it's a pretty dandy matchup for them. <<

Yeah, it's definitely not good for people around them. I am starting to think they're a mutually loyal match though.
e_scapism101 From: e_scapism101 Date: September 20th, 2012 12:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
It makes sense that he'd become attached to the dark cloud. It's what he knows, it's familiar and comfortable - when you lose that darkness it's really scary at first. When you're in a state where something like that has become normal, to be without it is jarring.

Without his darkness, he may not know what or how to be.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 21st, 2012 02:18 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

The black cloud is a motif that appears across cultures and over a long period of time, primarily in visual arts but also in some stories. Thought becomes image, image becomes entity. It is, however, inherently malleable and can have different effects; consistently associated with negative mental states such as depression, sociopathy, aggression, etc. Think about the contexts in which you've seen or heard about a black cloud hovering over a character, and you'll get an idea of the range.

Also, terrifically apt icon.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 21st, 2012 01:55 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

... and it may be like armor. Sometimes, what looks fucked up and dysfunctional may still be an improvement over the previous situation.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: September 21st, 2012 06:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Let this poem be a wakeup call that there are monsters and MONSTERS in the world.
:[
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 21st, 2012 07:44 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

... and a reminder that it's not always the teeth and claws that make them so.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: September 22nd, 2012 01:21 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

Words and actions can often wound us far worse than mere teeth and claws.
Emotional abuse is the "gift" that keeps on giving.
:{
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 22nd, 2012 03:15 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

Very true.
21 comments or Leave a comment