HERE THE HILLS RISE WILD
The roads here are not idle;
they do not sit on their beds of flattened dirt.
They hunt, and catch, and kill.
When they’re hungry enough, they’ll take anything:
the family man driving hard
through the ice
to get home before the sitter leaves,
The nurse on leaving a 19-hour shift,
eyes sinking closed.
They’ll take that,
if it walks into their jaws,
but what they like best is youth.
Fat with life and promise,
bursting out of its constraints;
blossoming into some new thing.
That is their meat.
If you don’t run while you can,
with the cap still on your head,
the gown still on your back—
if you linger—
they will wrap their asphalt
or ungraded gravel coils around you
and squeeze and squeeze
until you shatter.
When Mike came back
by way of rehab
and stayed in his parents house
past the safety of August,
we knew he would be marked.
He built up his grades
at community college,
got a job,
got his license back.
It almost seemed like he would make it.
He was on his motorcycle
at a four way.
The girl driving the car
had had her license for four days.
She was left-handed
and as she approached the stop sign,
she put her foot down on the wrong pedal.
The funeral was closed-casket.
I didn’t go,
stuck at my own out-of-state job,
my out-of-state life.
I wondered if the girl went,
if she stood in the back, the way they do
in the movies. If she did,
if I had been there,
I would have leaned over and told her:
It wasn’t you.
This place always gets
what it wants.
You go now,
while they will still
Every ten weeks or so, my roommate
tells me he's quitting drinking.
Within a few days, I find beer bottles
in the trash. By the third week, he's back
to a half gallon of vodka a day.
His girlfriend has hep C,
she tries to keep up with him.
I can hear them screaming.
Sometimes I hear what sounds
like fists on flesh.
She has assured me that it is nothing.
Sometimes, she tells me
she likes it this way,
that this is part of their thing.
I have stopped calling the police,
she tells them the same.
It is all killing her.
I see her blood
in the shower in the mornings.
I used to think about my mother,
about how to save her,
about taking him to a meeting.
Now, I think about
making enough money
so that I don't need roommates,
about arranging my time
so that I can best live life
in their absence.
The other day I was on the subway,
the train was stopped. They told us
there was a medical emergency
at one of the transfer stations.
The man across from me,
all going-out cologne
and slick black shoes
why why why
medical emergency? what is that?
somebody fall down
the boy next to him,
not quite sixteen, said
I saw it.
He had walked back to our station
in the hopes of avoiding delay
in the hopes of pushing things
down the line. Minutes later,
we did start moving.
When our ghosts come home to us,
we will not know what to do with them.
There will be no room for all the figures
who cram into our tiny houses,
blocking the TV, filling the doorways,
jamming into the corners
and sitting on the backs of couches.
When we are forced out
through the back door,
we will look back at that place,
we now see never had any space for us.
There is an old Christmas tradition
I would like to bring back:
the Victorian custom
of sitting up on Christmas Eve
and telling ghost stories.
Not just fiction or fairy tale,
no, the authentic article.
Even if it happened to the cousin
of a friend's mother.
Maybe it's some connection
to the old pagan sentiment
the longest darkness of the year.
The slow progression back
into light and warmth.
The idea that on this holiest of nights,
whatever creature of blood and terror
might be called up by hearing its own
name and story spoken aloud
would be rendered harmless.
If you and I could light a fire
this year, three great burning logs,
the ends turning to the soft glow of coals.
We would tell each other the same tale,
the darkest one either one of us knows:
the story of a house,
and a monster,
and a child,
of secrets kept,
and not kept,
of evil done in the dark.
When we get to the end,
the part where the truth of the specter
is revealed, we will lean into each other
and whisper through our teeth the awful truth:
that the monster is still here,
walking the floors of this house.
We will turn quiet, listening
to see if the spell has worked,
if the horror summoned
by the telling has indeed been bound tight.
Here on the one night that every person,
no matter how many shackled spirits
they drag behind them, can steal home,
tell a ghost story—one true tale
to anyone who will listen,
and then fall safely asleep.