Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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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.

Tags: community, cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, writing
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