(The Twilight Zone reruns)
October 11, 1963:
I think I saw the premiere of this show,
a month before Oswald shot Kennedy,
when I was seven, half a century ago.
I recognize William Shatner in the lead,
not yet become Captain Kirk in Star Trek,
playing the part of a man newly recovered
from a (I didn't know what it was) nervous break-
down who sees a gremlin on the wing
of the plane carrying him and his wife
home from the sanatorium. A gremlin, the thing
combat pilots reported seeing if
they were tired or afraid or lost.
But it's just early black and white TV now,
its melodrama needing the assist
of sovereign imagination so that, through
propwash and lightning, a child's oatmeal bear
may stubbornly endure a violent night,
intent on doing harm, clawing at the engine cover
as if to extinguish the world's last spot of light.
In fact the world beyond the screen was dark,
my mother bedridden with mysterious illnesses,
my father out of town for work,
and she would be dead in less than ten years,
taking her unappeasable grief with her,
the mute appeal I hated and resisted
instinctively, now given a whole life's leisure
to ask myself What was it that she wanted?
—a question I can't answer, just as once,
through wind and rain, the trembling invalid
twitched back the cabin window curtains' chintz
as if it were to glimpse his own wife's naked
body—and yet instead, what does he see:
a cephalopod face squashed against the window,
writhing and smeared but also brutally
curious, only wanting to get in somehow,
poor monster, evil not in what was meant,
but rather in what would not conjure with
the neither hostile nor benign intent
of desolation seeking human warmth.
Poetry Northwest Fall & Winter 2012-13
Fall & Winter 2012-13
Copyright © 2012 by Karl Kirchwey
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission