Excerpt from "The Complete 'Dark Shadows' (of My Childhood)"

Monday, July 16, 2012

I understand, Maggie—I, too, expected
Barnabas would break into my bedroom

in the middle of the night. My jugular
was yours in close-up, moist bite marks

throbbing double-time. “That room
the nurse had left open just a crack,”

the doctor says, pointing at the window
where Maggie disappeared, “was wide open.”

Poor Willie, everyone’s sadomasochistic
toy, beaten by Barnabas with his serpent-

head cane and, now, slapped bloody
by Jason who claims, “I’m prepared

to go all the way, my boy.”

David (Trinidad, not Little David, the psychic
child) sent an Amazon link this morning

for Dark Shadows: The Complete Original Series,
1,225 episodes (I will compose one sentence

for each), priced $539.99—he’s written
three hundred Peyton Place haiku over three years,

understands I’ll find a way to afford it—
and I noticed a customer review anticipating

a “soon-to-be-released” Dark Shadows film
starring Johnny Depp (who would require

several coats of Barnabas’s eye shadow just
to resemble a vampire); I worried all day

the film could rob my poem of relevance,
as if I’m writing star-fuck verse instead

of excavating childhood night terrors,
though I really tried to feel gratitude

for Depp: after all, as David reminded me,
Dark Shadows: The Complete Original Series

exists only because of the new movie,
as a promo vehicle—in a coffin-shaped

DVD box I want, badly, to own, even if
the medium is obsolete by the time I write

this poem’s 1,225th and final sentence—
and after preordering the complete series

tonight, I witnessed the most terrifying
episode thus far: down went the coffin lid

on screaming Maggie, the scene shot
first-person POV, an utterly psychotic way

for director Lela Swift to tell this story
(what compelled Swift, who also

directed the first and last episodes
of Dark Shadows, to decide that all of us

watching on 6/7/67, especially my mother
and me, her toddler son, should feel

as if Barnabas just buried us alive?).

There’s something about that room
in the basement: keeping it under

lock and key for eighteen years is bound
to invite a certain amount of curiosity—

especially for those of us who can’t shake
the image from our heads of Maggie

buried alive for a night in the Collins tomb.
It’s taken forty episodes to hear the echo

of my mother’s name, Margaret, in Maggie,
who sits at the Victorian gothic mirror

in her bedroom prison, locked inside
by Barnabas, and tries fitfully to remember

who she is—“Maggie, yes, Maggie, that’s
your name,” she says, “that’s my name,

I must remember that, Maggie for Margaret,
I am Maggie Evans”—the night after I dream

my mother, Margaret, now ten years dead,
appeared in the kitchen of an abandoned

house where I squatted in Chicago’s
Logan Square neighborhood, wanted

to hear about my new writing projects
as I made her a grilled cheese sandwich;

and if she were alive tonight, I’d ask:
back in 1967, when we watched this episode

together (ten days before my first birthday),
was she angry like I am now, in my living room,

that Maggie opened her shameless music box
once more and inflicted its merry-go-round

melody on us, over and over and over.


Sunday, July 1, 2012