Fear

Edvard Munch The Scream

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Fear

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It never goes away, it only diminishes,
thins out like a bookmark you forget
in one of the books you now rarely read.
Then you find it while dusting one day.

It springs out voluptuous, huge—this
bosomy aunt who always arrives
out of nowhere to stay, suitcases and all,
who manifests her love
by crushing your face against
the solid breasts, the loudly thumping heart.
When she’s done, you’re done with.

She takes you by surprise, yes.
She doesn’t kill you,
though death might seem preferable.
You start eating your meals together.
She sips from your tea, shares
your bed at night, comfortably curled in
between you and your husband, in the crook
of his arm, in the warm dip of your thigh—
incestuous, fascinating.

Like an old dog, she slathers you with her drool,
and you’ll never understand why
your husband takes you so lightly
when you say you hate that.
He laughs it off and you seethe.
You feel murderous.  You
go off to some room to drown
your unhappiness in folding laundry,
or else, yelling at your children.

The fear is there, folding along with you,
carefully smoothing away
all the wrinkles, stocking the drawers
with clean T-shirts and socks.
In the kids’ room she hides
her misshapen body under their beds.
Suddenly playful, she giggles, saying your name
with your children’s voices, grabbing your feet
from under the bedspread.
Her hook-fingers get stuck on your clothes.

So you whisper her name, reel her in
to examine the scaly sheen of her body.
Her eyes fasten on yours and you’re in a trance.
Everything falls to the side:  the house,
its children, asleep in their beds,
the husband, who’s never awake enough
to save you, anyway.  You give in
to this wave of forgetting
as it slowly fills up your shoes.
When morning comes, you’re a still
everglade, fathoms deep,
hiding a body that was, once, yours.

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First published in Crack the Spine, Issue 101, February 2014

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