The Dread


A recurrent family scene;
long ago, childhood days.
Late afternoon; mother
in the kitchen.  My brother
upstairs, or in the garden.
My father in the armchair
next to mine, snoring, or
reading a newspaper.
Aromas filtering
through the kitchen door,
enticing our slumbering appetites.

Suddenly, a knock on the door.

Alarm, fear, immediate;
tangible as a dangerous
wild animal, now with us,
in the room.

My father jerks in his chair;
turns to me, and on his face
is a look of dread.
A dread I share.
Pure, strong; distilled,
from the earliest of times,
into my very soul.

The dread is still with me,
after all these years.
I hope to God
the old myth is not true:
the final portals;
the family ghosts,
all there, waiting for you.

My poem “The Dread” is inspired by childhood memories.  I’m sure that most people have memories of visits from family relatives, during childhood years.  I don’t know whether I was particularly unfortunate or not, but it just seemed to me, at the time, that our relatives never gave any warning of their visits, always arrived unexpectedly, and always arrived at the wrong time.  It may seem exaggerated to ascribe a feeling of “dread” to such humdrum family experiences, but I can assure you that my father – for whatever reason – did genuinely evince such feelings, and they had a real and lasting impact upon me.


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