Is It Real?

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I believe that most artists have one question that drives their work. Through their craft they strive to find the answer or explanation to that singular uncertainty which haunts them.

Does God exist?

Does the devil?

Who is my father? My mother?

Am I a monster?

Are you?

What did happen that night?

What is wrong with me?

What is wrong with the world? What did he mean when he said___________?

What did she mean?

Was it all a mistake?

Did I do the wrong thing?

Did I live the wrong life?

For me, I write to find the answer to this question: Is it real?

Is it real? Is his love real? Is her love? Is this person my loved one claims to be real? Was it all real, all those beliefs and principles? Are your feelings, your affections, real? Are mine? Are you real? The person you assure me you are, are you real? Is everything my life is built upon real? Is all I hold dear real? Is the deer I just saw in my lawn real? Is that color of my lawn, the verdant green of the grass, real? Is that black speck I see out of the corner of my eye real? Is something really there? Those voices I hear as I lie in bed, are those real? That person that I see standing in my doorway as I drift off to sleep real, is she real?

Is it real? This is the most terrifying of questions because it is followed by-if it is real, what then? And, if it is not real, what was it?

Is it real? The answer to this question can be the most assuring or terrorizing of responses, but, more frightening than the answer itself is the uncertainty which drives the question. The uncertainty of what truly is. The terror lies in the not knowing.

I wrote Fade Into Another Place as I witnessed my mother succumb to the horrors of dementia-a disease that damns its victims to an eternity unknowns.  An eternity of wondering, is it real?

Fade Into Another Place

Out of the corner of my eye

I spy

a flash.

It is black.

Perhaps a cat?

Not my cat.

He has long since departed.

But another,

I imagine,

who has found his way inside

this place where I reside.

Funny though.

Not too long ago,

I had a visit from a friend

who everyone tells me

has long been dead.

But oh so real

as we sat and had a cup of tea.

“Don’t you see?”

I asked.

“She is here,

as plain as can be.”

Is it something that haunts this place?

I contemplate

as I sit

and wait

for another friend to arrive.

But, I know.

I know.

This is an empty place,

and I must journey alone.

No friends to accompany me

as I make my way

past faceless strangers who talk and whisper.

I listen,

and I try to hear.

Will they confirm my deepest fear?

Their voices rise-

a cacophonous symphony

as they chatter

chatter

chatter

“Stop!”

Silence is what I need

to concentrate and discern

what is real

and what is make believe.

And so I go

and go

and go

until I fade away

into another place

where, perhaps,

I will be young again.

 

 

 

Halloween Reading

Its a dank, gray Sunday here in New England, the perfect time to curl up with a collection of dark and twisted tales. If you want to set the mood for Halloween, The Cat in the Wall, my small book of short stories, is available in both ebook and paperback formats.

 

Melancholy, Like an Old Empty House

Two summers ago my daughter, who was almost nine years old at the time, and I visited Edith Wharton’s home, The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts. The house was beautiful and impressive, but my daughter was frightened not only in the house but outside as well, even as we walked through the magnificent gardens that Wharton herself designed. My daughter said the property felt haunted and asked if we could leave.

I later learned that The Mount is in fact rumored to be haunted. Surprisingly, Wharton had a deep fear of ghosts, despite having been a talented ghost story writer. Some of her most popular ghostly tales are Afterward, The Lady Maid’s Bell and The Triumph of Night.

It was our visit to The Mount that inspired this poem, which I originally posted in August 2018.

Melancholy, Like an Old Empty House

So, this is what it feels like

-melancholy.

Like an old, empty house

sitting atop a hill

on a hot summer day.

Inside, it is dead, silent, still.

Like a fever, the heat permeates the walls,

the film covered windows

the narrow stairwell-

meant for the unseen,

like sadness

hiding under smiles.

*

Melancholy, like an old, empty house

where the sun emanates a jaundiced glow

and the dust and ghosts

and memories

sit at the table awaiting tea

to be poured into cups

stained with past regrets.

*

But the time to drink is over

and the thirst that remains

is eternal.

If you want to learn more about Wharton, The Mount and her story Pomegranate Seed, please check out this episode of Strange & Scary Story Talk. Also, please note that while recoding I inadvertently say that The Mount is set upon a 13 acre property rather than 113 acres!

 

Late Autumn Visit to an Old New England Home

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Late Autumn Visit to An Old New England Home

The quaint New England village

in mid-October.

Antique shops, country stores.

White-steepled churches

set against the backdrop

of fall’s spectacular display

of crimson and gold foliage.

And the old New England home.

Her porch adorned with cornstalks and pumpkins.

Her flowerbeds full of yellow and rust-colored mums.

Arrogantly she stands.

She knows her admirers.

How they delight in her unassuming

beauty.

So simple.

Tasteful.

Smart.

She leaves them to wonder

whether she is listed in the registry

of historic homes.

No one

not even she

acknowledges that her charms will fade

with the dropping of the leaves.

*

Be patient.

Wait a bit.

Four weeks perhaps.

Then visit again.

This time

go on in.

Meet her.

Push open the door that doesn’t quite want to give.

She’s not easy, you know.

Hear the creak of the plank floor as you step inside.

Smell the mothballs

and the scent of doorknobs

touched too many times

by so many hands

that the odor

that’s permeated their surfaces

can never be removed.

Smell the faint aroma

of dried out pot roasts

from dinners that stole away days.

Feel the lifeless still

of 4:00

on a Sunday afternoon

in November.

Sit in the chair by the window

and see the world

from that filmy view.

The gray sky.

The skeleton trees.

Now, turn your gaze back inside

and watch the dust

dance

in the late autumn sun

that streaks tauntingly through the glass.

And watch

as a single particle

settles itself atop one of the many knickknacks

that sits lazily

upon the mantel.

Hear the clock.

Each tick

reminding you

of how very long

a day can be.

In the sickening stillness

feel the unbearable loneliness.

Catch your breath.

Breathe in deeply.

Push the air past

the knot

in your throat.

As you sit, feel the house.

The weight

of her past.

So close, really.

What’s 200 years?

Certainly not enough time

for the departed

to resign themselves

to their fate.

 

 

The Warden’s House

abandoned ancient antique architecture

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When I was ten years old, my family moved to prison grounds because my father was a warden. There I learned that places have their own energy and, if too many bad things happen in a space, bad things will continue to happen.

On the night of October 22, 2015, nearly twenty-five years after I moved away from prison grounds, I had a dream about that place. When I awoke, I wrote this:

THE WARDEN”S HOUSE

The hill

Four houses

Forest behind

Fields ahead

A dead end

The horizon

A prison

That place

Autumn

Dead leaves

Bare trees

My mother

Speaking in tongues

Secrets and stories

Legends of the dead

Bones in the woods

Sounds in the night

An insomniac child

Wide awake

Midnight rapping on the door

Something crashing to the floor

The dog atop the stairs

Snarling

The house next door

Looming

Once inside

A cavernous red room

A feeling of doom

Something wrong

Innocence knows

A dry fountain in back

Some toads

Chirping of crickets

Honking of geese

The noisy silence of death

and demons

Peaking in windows

Smashing down gates

The song of that place

On the hill

Where the Warden’s house stood.

*

Just the other night

I visited that house

In my dream

The red room

The living room

The basement door

I saw it all

All that dwelled there then

All that dwells there now

In my dreams

Of that house

On that hill

In that place

Where dead leaves fall

in the eerie silence

of a haunted past

 

This poem was originally posted in October 2015.

Strange & Scary Story Talk

 

I have a new project to announce-Strange & Scary Story Talk, my YouTube show where I discuss dark and strange works of fiction, both classic and contemporary, and, at the end of each episode, leave the viewer with a question (or three) to ponder.

During each episode I offer short and insightful commentary on not only a literary work but also its creator. I must say that the writers are as interesting as the tales they imagine!

So far I have discussed Shirley Jackson’s THE POSSIBILITY OF EVIL, Joyce Carol Oates’ WHERE ARE YOU GOING, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?, Edith Wharton’s POMEGRANATE SEED and Daphne du Maurier’s THE DOLL.

Please be sure to check out Strange & Scary Story Talk on YouTube, and, if you like what you see, don’t forget to hit subscribe! Also, share your insights about the stories in the comments section so that we can continue the conversation!

I will be announcing the feature stories of upcoming episodes here on quirknjive.com and on Twitter @heather_nanni.

Can’t wait to talk strange and scary stories with you!

 

 

Poison

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Into my ear you slipped poison

words that ran off your tongue

and clung

to me for years.

Thirty years

of fear,

it’s origin I had forgotten

until today, on my way to a place

of life, not death.

But death is what I thought.

And death is what I believed,

a death delivered by a fork-tongued hag

who was dead herself .