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Poem: "Unspoken Noise" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Unspoken Noise"

This poem came out of the September 18, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from DW user jb_slasher.  It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette.  This poem belongs to the series Monster House, which you can explore further via the Serial Poetry page.


Unspoken Noise


When objects suddenly fly through the air
or the pipes rattle in the walls at my house,
it's no big deal.  Happens all the time.
But at my little sister's house?
Deal.

I couldn't find anyone who seemed to be responsible,
though, no monster housemates in sight;
my sister's family had always been ordinary.
I hadn't heard of any violent deaths in the neighborhood
that might make a poltergeist, but then again,
people might not talk for fear of lowering the property values.

So I sat still, and watched and listened,
and pretended that everything was still ordinary
while it obviously was not,
just like everyone around me.

My sister and her husband held hands
until their knuckles turned white,
and chattered about everything and nothing
while my niece preened over her cheerleading role.
A rumbling growl jiggled the family pictures on the wall,
leaving them to hang askew.
"Big trucks on the streets today,"
my sister said faintly, "heh heh."

Then my nephew came downstairs,
his dark eyes darker with some hidden thought,
the shadow of a fading bruise feathered across one cheek.
"Forgot my textbooks," he muttered, snatching them
from the pile on the couch.  Beside me,
the drawer of the end table clattered
and began to inch its way open.

And then I remembered
the other  source of poltergeists,
not the angry dead but the angry living,
particularly adolescents choked by something unspoken
that tore its way out in noise and disturbances.

"Well, it's been a nice visit," I said brightly,
then added to my nephew,
"Care to spend the weekend with us?"
He eyed me suspiciously.
I rarely invited relatives over to my house,
not since that first Thanksgiving years ago.
Then he shrugged.  "Whatever," he said.

He stayed silent the whole way home,
but once we arrived,
he dropped his backpack casually on the couch
as if he came over all the time.

The furniture quivered, though,
and the screen door buzzed against its frame.
I glanced at my nephew, who rounded his shoulders
as if trying to fold himself out of sight.
Pictures rattled against the wall,
and the wall knocked sharply back.
The rocking chair froze in place.

"House meeting," I called loudly.
"Everyone into the living room, please."
My wife came out of the kitchen,
drying her hands on a towel.
My daughter and son came downstairs.

The radiator dragon lifted its head
from the spiral of pipes.
The monster-under-the-bed
emerged somewhat hesitantly
from the hide-a-bed couch,
and his cousin from the hall closet.
The lurking shadow slipped down the wall
to join the lean pale form of the bogeyman.
The little old lady ghost appeared in her rocker,
misting into view like a photograph developing.
"Present," said the troll in the basement
through the speaking tubes.  "Just busy."

I turned to my nephew.
"My family is rather larger and weirder
than I may have mentioned to your mother,
who never has liked surprises or oddities,"
I said to him.  "Anything you'd like to share?"

"I have a boyfriend," he blurted.

"How sweet," said the little old lady ghost.
He gaped at her.
"There's nothing new under the sun, dear,"
she said serenely.

The quivering furniture thrummed,
slowed, and finally fell still.
The knocking stopped.

"People pick on me because I'm gay,"
my nephew added.

"We will just see about that,"
said the lurking shadow.

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13 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
siege From: siege Date: September 20th, 2012 08:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Something worth mentioning is that, if the events are inherent in a person, rather than spirits that follow them... then there's ability waiting to be recognized and trained.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 20th, 2012 09:52 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

That's true. Young shamans have a tendency to polter even if nothing goes wrong.
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: September 21st, 2012 12:34 am (UTC) (Link)
More stray thoughts about the recent poems than about this one in particular.

The lurking shadow has been a lot more active in the poems this time around than in previous ones, where it mostly, well, lurked, and said little. Nice to get to know the quiet one a bit.

Where does the Bogeyman sleep, and/or what space does he call his own?

Having a lot of monsters in the family had repeatedly been a convenient way to make an end run around some light -- and not so light -- social problems. With this family, which is full of good-hearted folks, that's easy to cheer for. With monsters incorporated into a less good-natured family, more or less similar things seem like they could get very bad very quickly for mundane folks who have no defenses against them ...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 21st, 2012 12:46 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>The lurking shadow has been a lot more active in the poems this time around than in previous ones, where it mostly, well, lurked, and said little. Nice to get to know the quiet one a bit.<<

He did delurk more than usual! Some people are shy until they get to know you.

>> Where does the Bogeyman sleep, and/or what space does he call his own? <<

That's a prompt worth holding onto for future reference.

>> Having a lot of monsters in the family had repeatedly been a convenient way to make an end run around some light -- and not so light -- social problems. <<

They do have a little extra leeway in that regard. You use what you have.

>> With this family, which is full of good-hearted folks, that's easy to cheer for. With monsters incorporated into a less good-natured family, more or less similar things seem like they could get very bad very quickly for mundane folks who have no defenses against them ... <<

In my observation, no group is all one way. There's a jerk in every crowd, but there are also nice people in unexpected places. I suspect that the monsters who have a genteel streak would tend to seek out like-minded families, pretty much the way anybody tries to find compatible housemates. The more vicious ones ... probably have a wider selection of houses to choose from.

Someone mundane and unknowing might well be defensely. Someone mundane but alert to preternatural creatures, and savvy enough to do some research? There's a reason "our" monsters are wary of humans. I mean, sheesh, look at history and how people treat each other. Then look at how they treat the ones they've decided "aren't people."
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: September 21st, 2012 01:21 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm thinking that a bully who's buddies with a not-so-nice lurking shadow or bogeyman or similar could do a *lot* of damage, physical or emotional, to an supernaturally-oblivious but otherwise perfectly nice mundane. Or to a lot of them.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 21st, 2012 01:29 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

Lurking shadow, yes; bogeyman, probably not, they have certain rules.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 21st, 2012 01:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Well...

Dealing with bullies is within the rules. Terrorizing a genuinely good child isn't. There's a moral factor there, which is a spectrum, that's a big part of determining what a bogeyman can and can't do. An unscrupulous one would push as far as possible, which is creepy; but there are limits. Because that's a fundamental aspect of what a bogeyman IS, a threat against bad boys and girls. Sometimes people misinterpret that (as in "Not Mine") but the foundation is pretty secure.
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: September 21st, 2012 01:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Interesting! But gremlins and shadows and probably some other monsters, not so much with the rules? And there seem to be things like the niggling suspicion that are inherently bad/evil/problematic?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 21st, 2012 02:11 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> Interesting! But gremlins and shadows and probably some other monsters, not so much with the rules? <<

Some types of entity have more rules than others, or firmer ones. They can also have very different types of rules. They are creatures born of thought, and their stories shape what they are and what they can or can't do.

So for instance, the monsters under-the-bed and in-the-closet relate to specific places. They can leave, but their powers particularly correspond to those locations, so they can fit where a body that size normally wouldn't, and travel between congruent locations, etc. They can bend the rules slightly (hide-a-bed couch sort of qualifies as a bed, locker sort of qualifies as a closet); but not, say, under a table or inside a drawer.

>> And there seem to be things like the niggling suspicion that are inherently bad/evil/problematic? <<

There are certainly things that overwhelmingly tend to have negative effects. But then, look at the creepy kid who's gotten attached to the black cloud. That thing is normally worse than a niggling suspicion, but well, some people keep pet tarantulas or scorpions. Conversely, gremlins are usually a damn nuisance, but there's one working as a guide. So there are hard rules, and then there are some traits that may simply be the path of least resistance or a matter of interpretation.

Then too, everything has a place and a purpose. A rattlesnake isn't evil, it's just a snake, and if you kill all of them then you're likely to have an excess of mice and rabbits.
siege From: siege Date: September 21st, 2012 02:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

Gremlins aren't necessarily bad; they're tinkers, but their focus is often on creative destruction, rather than destruction for its own sake.
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: September 22nd, 2012 01:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Again from elsenet, "Oh, just read "Unspoken Noise" and the last few lines made me laugh in an "ooh whahahahah" sort of way. "We will just see about that," said the lurking shadow. Indeed."
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 22nd, 2012 03:20 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm happy to hear that.
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