When I was small, I saw menace
in my bedroom closet most mid-nights,
the silhouette of vacuum cleaner
draped by Sunday School dress
taking flesh.

In terror, I called to my dad, who stumped
from my parents’ room, legs stiff
with varicose sleep, while my feet
never felt so light, two bright arrows darting
across the bows of safe passage.

Now that I am old,
menace haunts me
more directly.
Silhouettes of past acts lump
into embered coals, sit unswallowable
yet still swallowed in ribs’ grate; inadequacy
plays me like a cellist high on crack; and,
in the wakeful darkness that substitutes
for inner eyelid, I pray for a father–someone who, like mine,
will signal me into the haven of all okay.

I hook remembered words like hallowed charms,
new ones like “may peace,”
onto the shorting links of a heart that must be unwound,
uncloseted, pried hard, to make way for even a slip
of grace.

I pray, if there isn’t a father, that my call alone
might take me by the hand, but I pray
to a father.

Here’s a poem still-in-progress written for Victoria C. Slotto’s prompt on dVerse Poets Pub to write about something difficult, using imagery. (I don’t know about the imagery.)

I hope the poem is not seen as sexist. The place I’d run to when my father saved me was my mom’s twin bed. (Twin beds–their marriage started in the fifties.) But I was raised in a Judeo-Christian tradition, and was not Catholic, so I can’t help thinking in these kinds of terms. Also, my own father was a particularly nurturing person, the most loving I can imagine. I miss him every day.

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13 Comments on “Anxious”

  1. brian miller Says:

    moving piece…i was afraid of the dark as a kid…may have had something to do with the graveyard in the back yard…just saying….but nights were scary for other reasons too as that is when my seizures visited and i never knew when i might have one…luckily i let the light in, but there are times i need a bit of help getting it there…smiles..

  2. hedgewitch Says:

    I think there’s a great deal of imagery here–especially the opening, where the childhood fears are painted so vividly. You tap into one of the most difficult parts of adulthood–having no one but oneself left to run to, and I think you make the duality of knowing that but seeking more work well in this. I also just like the way your words combine and feel–I read ‘in ribs’ grate; inadequacy’ as ‘rib’s great inadequacy’ as in that feeling when the heart is pounding too big for the ribcage to comfortably hold it, which I think was the image you were aiming for–anyway, it worked for me. There is always a damn monster under the bed, I find, but we do what we can.

  3. Grace Says:

    When I was a child, I too was afraid by the night ~ I love how you describe this fear now:

    Silhouettes of past acts lump
    into embered coals, sit unswallowable
    yet still swallowed in ribs’ grate; inadequacy
    plays me like a cellist high on crack;

    Praying for that safe haven, our father, our Father ~

    Happy Friday K ~

  4. Mary Says:

    It seems fear of the dark, from your poem and other comments, is a fairly common childhood fear. I remember it too, once sleepwalked into a walk-in closet and could not find my way out among the clothes. Terrifying to wake up there in the dark. It is nice that you had such a loving father who took away your fear. We all need such a nurturing presence, no matter what our age, to let us know that we are safe…..

  5. nico Says:

    This fear of the dark is hardwired in us, most of us anyway. We always fear most what we cannot see. Thanks for this–it was touching in a good way. Excellent work!

  6. Deeply touching, Karin. It seems clear why most religions go to the father image of God, and how all of us feel that anxiety of needing someone to make it all better. The image of your dress hanging on the vacuum was so effective in describing anxiety. And my parents always had twin beds, too. :0)

  7. shanyns Says:

    A darkly powerful piece here, thanks for sharing it. Well done.

  8. Fear.. that dreaded word.. I remember running from the outhouse at our weekend house. Dreadfully dark.. and the worst was when I saw our cat’s gleaming green eyes staring down at me from the top of a tree.. but beeing sexist… I always called for mother.. and I guess I still do.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Yes. I’m not sure I titled it right as it is almost more about internal wrangler – panic attacks, not so much fear of the dark at my age, as fear of the dark side! Ha. k.

  9. I loved the images, the journey in this – sleep, nights, walking light/heavy such a powerful metaphor for the way life advances. It shot straight to my heart, K.

    any criticism welcomed 😉

  10. janehewey Says:

    you’ve pulled up deep emotional beauty here. your strength of living images, for example the “in terror” stanza is nothing short of brilliant the way we can see and feel your father, the description a foreshadowing of sorts. And your following stanza with you as “old”.There is something comforting about “wakeful darkness” This is a wonderful poem, one I can imagine myself reading and rereading for its messages– both subtle and obvious.

  11. “varicose sleep….. inadequacy
    plays me like a cellist high on crack”


  12. Truedessa Says:

    The night can be scary as a child or an adult..shadows drape with their tales and maybe some ghosts lurk..who knows..I liked the line
    describing your father with varicose veins..

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