Starter


The perfect starter, the realtor is saying.
A tidy backsplit on a thirty-five-foot lot;
nearby, a clutch of shops – pharmacy,
hairdresser, tanning salon, cafe.

I’d discovered a new Thai restaurant in the west end,
coaxed her to lunch. But all throughout, she’d
dampened my triumph, pensive over nasi goreng and tea.
Then, without warning: It isn’t far from here, you know.
What wasn’t far? Where it began.

We drove past. It was the FOR SALE sign
that took us both aback. For days our conversation
wavered around letting it go, going further –
until she rang up Re/Max.

Might we go in alone? Nodding, the realtor
takes out cigarettes, ushers us in.
Freshly painted, he says as he retreats
out to the yard. Windows completely redone,
.....everything like new
.

In every doorway a tormented ghost,
every room stabs at her heart.
Under the whitewash, plaster and paint,
revenants linger. I know she sees them, the way she
circles around the edges of the empty rooms, her hand
running across the walls, willing them to speak.

And I her memory’s accomplice: each hesitant
confession, each whispered intimacy, as we continue
our ritual dance to a vapid incantation –
living room, dining room, kitchen, bath
coalescing into reality.

Are you afraid?
He’d asked her, that first night,
twisting her arms behind her. She'd whimpered;
no use pretending, as before, that she was asleep.
He’d laughed, unsheathing his belt.
You should be.

As in a trance, she leads the way upstairs,
fourteen steps up, across the landing, to her old room.
Scuff marks where the bedposts scraped the wall.
The indentation of the legs still mar the floor.

And when she's found it all, proven to herself that
it was real, an unimagined life, when she's sifted
and cataloged the evidence, the forensic minutiae
of innocence unravelling, she weeps:
for who she was, for why she is,
here in a whitewashed starter,
where it all began.

Eleven years old again, pulling me close,
a coverlet against night.


30 comments:

  1. The pacing is fabulous, the imagery stark (as it should be), the last stanza just right. Beautiful work. This will stay with readers for a very long time.

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  2. My brain, my soul, both love your poetry.

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  3. Mesmerising and engrossing. It's really a fantastic piece.

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  4. Sheer unveiling...whitewashed in color. Weeping indentation at marred, scuffs...took me, yet I gave as well. Marvelous, just marvelous.

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  5. Thank you all for your kind words.

    Short link - http://bit.ly/s4starter

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  6. This is amazing. So glad to have found.

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  7. A riveting piece.....jolting in its reality

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  8. Stole my heart on this one.

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  9. I was completely unprepared for where this went Sam. Ghosts everywhere

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  10. This was very, very moving, Sam. Seemed so very real....and who knows, maybe it is!

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  11. Some nightmares are relived every day, and exorcising them is a life's work. Fine gradual build of tension in this Sam, up from the qoutidian details into the horrific in fourteen steps.

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  12. Real or not real? Someone said they knew the story was fiction because of the nasi goreng. I answered by showing them the menu of that particular restaurant, which advertised itself as Thai. I bought Tylenol in the pharmacy across the way. And the FOR SALE sign? Real.

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  13. Compelling, so much left to the imagination ... you scared me and I am still wondering

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  14. Very good retelling Sam. The stanza of coming face to face with the nightmare or ghost of the past, made it really frightening ~

    Thanks for sharing this ~

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  15. As in a trance, she leads the way upstairs,
    fourteen steps up, across the landing, to her old room.
    Scuff marks where the bedposts scraped the wall.
    The indentation of the legs still mar the floor.

    Samuel- this floored me.The stanza above actually made my skin crawl and gave me goosebumps. Such vivid storytelling, I pray to god this isn't rooted in reality- although I'm certain that for some it is. This is a perfect example of what I mean by Nightmare- I find real life far more frightening that any monster or ghoul or demon...real life as you write here- quite terrifying. One of my faves for this prompt so far for sure

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  16. ugh...def high on the reality scale...the marks on the walls and floor and when you said the eleven year old self at the end tears rimmed my eyes and my chest tightened....great spin man

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  17. Stunning write! So real and terrifying, then heartbreaking. Excellent write!
    http://charleslmashburn.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/blood-on-the-moon-3/

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  18. Wow, tonight's reads have been hard on this formerly abused woman. My younger self went away to hide a few hours ago. The steps brought this into horrific relief for me. Your work is stunning.

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  19. This is my favorite line: "And I her memory’s accomplice" ... before I realized where you were going with this, the moments when you stabbed me in the gut and twisted me hard.

    "fourteen steps up" ... This is the most brilliant line, the entire poem in summation. The counting of the steps. The description of what would have been insignificant before it became her salvation and endurance. Bravo.

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  20. The echoes are what get us, are so nightmarish, as the traces of evidence with the long, long shadows going back to the scene of the crime. Scarred psyches ride nightmare bare-backed, no interface enough between dream and waking. A well-nuanced and terrifying passage into a house of old horrors which no amount of paint can conceal. - Brendan

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  21. Very well done, Chilling, k.

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  22. oh dang sam...i'm in tears...those are the real nightmares...hits like a knife in my stomach...very well done...wow...kudos..excellent take on a damn hard to approach topic..

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  23. This is so powerful and real. Nightmares shared pulled from the haunting realities of life. I think dreams pull us into a world where we find roots that tether so deeply and securely that it changes out lives. The brutality of what life spends out to us is often so overwhelming and undeserved, we must have a means to find resolution in a reality that is often not the reality of sense and experience but a realm where what's unseen has its own truth. This so good because it evokes not just the immediacy of the nightmare but the context in which nightmares can bring us closer to each other, revealing who we are for those who care.

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  24. You draw is into this story so subtly, bringing us inside, opening up this house of nightmares and unheard screams. There is something truly dark and evil when a child is involved. You have brought us from present to past, and shared the pain that still lives:
    "she weeps:
    for who she was, for why she is,
    here in a whitewashed starter,
    where it all began.

    Eleven years old again, pulling me close,
    a coverlet against night."

    A wonderfully written piece.

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  25. Sam, this is both fabulous and horrific. The writing is brilliant, the story-telling is superb, but the back story ...
    Suffice to say I've met too many young women who've suffered like that.

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  26. Wow! That went in a direction I sure wasn't expecting. Wonderful!

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  27. Once I thought this was only a woman's nightmare; one every woman fears, considers, tries to shield herself from. But now I know any one, man, woman, child can face this reality and have to live with its scarring consequences. Brilliantly conceived and executed here, Sam.

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  28. Nightmarish certainly, Sam! Surprisingly it can affect everyone not just a woman.

    BTW, 'nasi goreng' means fried rice.If you are ok with hot chilly then tom yam, a kind of soup is a delicacy!


    Hank

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  29. it seems real because of all the great description

    semantic feeling

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