walking dead, dressed in tracksuits
and Levi’s 501s
what big blind eyes
in conference rooms
drinking stolen car oil
from robotic corporations
zombies in front of
TVs, drooling, snapping from
the price of amputation
pesticides, radiation, SSRIs
to your crosses
inviting you to
Tonight I’ll go into the forest
in search of old bones
I’ll return in the morning
at your bedside
count the new
These are the vices we share, you and I: defying beauty, eternal youth.
Your stepmother is a blood bather. You fear she’s lost her reason, takes
more than her share—wants to shatter the mirror of its illusions, but half
of you wants it too. Man-eating Madmen Escape from the Asylum—Good
Morning America proclaims through harbringing, white-haired wailing
banshees. Zombies are turning our cities upside down, you tell me they’re
devouring human limbs and souls so I mask myself in ghostly white to warn
children who wet themselves; then follow suit, terrorizing our schools and
neighborhoods while Bigfoot stays in hiding, a notorious sociopath, as trolls
and ogres tend to be. Once Frankenstein’s monster said, dadadadadada like a
giant baby before becoming a psychopathic serial killer storing human hearts
in your freezer. He comes from our parts, you know, from grave-robbers and
mad scientists searching for immortality. You swear it’s the last time you’ll
prophesy to your stepmother; she’ll be forced to dance in red-hot iron shoes.
Like all those witches, tell no one what you see or they’ll stick a stake through
your scales, chant: Gorgon, Gorgon burning on a pyre! You can thank the gods
your glass coffin is hidden deep in the forest where you’ll resurrect like a mummy,
a living dead. With a taste for revenge, you’ll torment her to dance until she drops.
Werewolf howls some archaic prayer to the moon god. Man transmogrifying.
The pistol at our sides, maybe all this lunacy will end with one silver bullet.
Maybe. Mirror mirror on the wall, I wonder, Why can’t we see our reflections?
She follows me home after visiting the hospital,
even the dogs sense something has attached itself
a lost girl looking for love.
Her name like her face is familiar,
braided hair down her back used in a choking game
erotic asphyxia, ligature strangulation.
She knows illness, once it was all she ever knew,
but pain doesn’t show in her eyes now, only
concern that she’ll be left again with
short-fused orderlies, strict nuns and discontent,
doctors who prod and probe with cold foreign
instruments into a girl's private parts.
Inside my cho-cho, thoughts pop inside my
head, then dirty, nasty child rings as
as unforgiving as a church bell and
there’s period smell, clotted red cotton in the
trash—Trash! Someone told her before
gas and smoke and burning skin.
I find myself talking to her on the car ride
home as if she’s sitting in the passenger’s seat,
a real girl unbroken and good as new.
The blood rinsed out of her honey hair,
Rosy-red breathed back into alien blue,
she holds my hand, calls me Mommy.
I test her: How did you pass?
Gas, gas, Mommy! Gas! a bit of blood
running from the corners of her mouth.
I can’t fathom why she’s chosen me,
by chance or circumstance, what little
coincidence can make a frail mind snap.
Now when I sleep, I see a wooden house,
fumes spreading through the rooms and
the sick girl pasting pictures of my family
in an old photo album. She
whispers in my ear:
They’re not just dreams you know,
they never are.
Tausha Johnson is part ghost whisperer, part Cherokee. She received her MFA at St. Andrews (Scotland) and a BA in Literature from UC Berkeley. Her prose and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in various online and print publications, including Folk Horror Revival: Corpse Roads, Haikuniverse, HWA Poetry Showcase 2 & 3, Danse Macabre and The Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, among others. She currently lives in the countryside of Spain, but sometimes surfaces as the program director for The Horror Writers Workshop in Transylvania.
You can channel her here: http://killyourdarlingswriter.com/