I was dwarfed by the big chair I sat in,

reading a book, as the sun slowly set,

taking the words with it.

I was too small to reach the light-switch,

too weak to do anything but feel the dark close in on me.

It was so quiet. The room was like a cave.

The wall clock ticked loud but was no company.

If anything, it was an intruder, like the ones

my father warned me about.

The book fell from my trembling hand.

My dangling feet seemed so far away from the carpet.

I was trapped, couldn’t t run away,

as vulnerable as a canary in a cage.

A hand could reach in any moment and

squeeze shut my skinny frame.

I tumbled as I tried to stand, fell to the floor.

It was black in all directions except for a thin light

under my father’s bedroom door.

I wanted to pound so fiercely to let me in.

But I was warned, many times, that when

the door was closed, I should never interrupt.

Sometimes he went in there with the one

he called Flossie, a loud woman who I despised.

But once, the door was half open and I saw him

on his knees, praying to a photo of my mother.

his face as pale as mine and his eyes watery.

When he was with Flossie, I pressed hands to ears.

But seeing him in such a weakened paralyzed state,

I began to doubt him, wondered if, when it came

to the darkness, he could really protect me

from all that dwelled inside.

I was embarrassed for him, even worse than when he drank.

And I was afraid for myself.

I lived at number 43. Everything evil knew that.

I was small and couldn’t defend myself.

Surely that was the news the wind bore

to a thousand horrifying destinations.

“Go get him. His father’s otherwise engaged.”

I didn’t notice him enter the room.

His unexpected “What do you want for dinner?”

sent my nerves haywire.

They calmed when his familiar face emerged.

No monster, no demon,

just my hero, my villain, in this together


Yes, there are days

I imagine diving into the water

to rescue you from drowning,

hauling you ashore,

pumping the water out of your lungs,

kissing the life back into you,

carrying you home in a blanket,

pouring hot tea down your throat

to drive the chill from your bones.

And there are times

I feel the world intrudes too much,

that I want to place you under

my lock and key,

when rescue becomes so selfish

that it’s no longer rescue at all,

more the convergence

of what is

and what I couldn’t bear to be.

Yes, 1 drag you from burning buildings

more than you know.

I toss the muggers, the rapists, aside

like my childhood super heroes.

1 bump you out of the way of speeding cars.

I even take the hit myself

if that’s what my imagination needs.

But sometimes 1 can feel the good guys

invading this house to take you out of it.

And where does that leave me?

The hugging, having, controlling,

villain of the piece.

I trap them in the hidden room,

cackle unseen through the walls, “You’re mine.

No, I trap you in my loving arms.

But they’re my words, just the same.


You wonder who my heroes are,

watch my knuckles flex like a boxer’s,

but my eyes flush, swirl,

with reading something wise.

You warm to who I will someday be

but the chill of what I might become

keeps you awake.

Night after night,

your heart has sons,

your dread gives birth to more of them,

Some crawl across you

like disease spreading cockroaches.

Others are sucked up to the window

where they dazzle like stars.

You awake with the fever

of all things prophetic.

You sweat the ardor, the deceit,

of growing.

About the Poet:

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Hawaii Pacific Review, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty with work upcoming in Blueline, Willard and Maple and Clade Song.