The Landing at the Top of the Stairs

My five year old self sits on the toilet,
door open so I can see the top flight
of stairs inhabited by shadows from a skylight.
There’s a closed door at the end of the twilight;
escaping from the keyless lock is sunlight
full of dust motes that float. 

I am torn between a monster 
in the plumbing that I know is coming 
and the unknown behind the door.
I’ve never pulled the chain before,
believing that the water’s roar
would rouse the ghost in the room.

In winter, the bathroom has an icy chill
and the added terror of a paraffin heater,
its overwhelming stink and the wavy thrill 
of heat warning the bogeyman to stay
away. And then one day,
the door is open, its secrets spilled:

a broken chair, worn cushions, a battered  
suitcase full of old lady’s tattered
underwear, pinafores and canvas shoes - 
remnants of the wizened ghost 
we’d visit every Sunday afternoon,
shut up in a different kind of room - 

my great grandmother, locked in her head
with her own ghosts, lost and demented.
Kim M. Russell, 19th April 2023

Image by Sebastian Hermann on Unsplash

It’s Wednesday, the middle of the week, and the nineteenth day of NaPoWriMo. The optional prompt asks us to read Marlanda Dekine’s poem ‘My Grandma Told Stories or Cautionary Tales’, which draws on a common feature of childhood: monsters; ones under the bed or in the closet; odd local monsters that other kids swear roam the creek at night, or that parents say wait to steal away naughty children that don’t go to bed on time. Our challenge is to cast our minds back to our own childhoods and write poems about what scared  or was used to scare us, and which still haunts us (if only a little bit) today. I revived and re-wrote an old poem about something that will always haunt me.


14 thoughts on “The Landing at the Top of the Stairs

  1. When we were children, everything can, scare and, frighten us, and, as we become adult, we become, a little more, fearless, thinking nothing can, destroy us, then, we start, fearing the inevitable, end, as we become, older, adults.

    Liked by 1 person

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