It could be the month we’re in. it could be that Hadley’s reading the Twilight series, but lately I’ve been thinking about vampires.
I am the scariest scaredy cat you will ever meet, but there is something enticing about a vampire (and no, this has nothing to do with Edward Cullen). Or maybe it’s the idea of the vampire — a thing so mysterious, so cunning, and so dark it is impossible to look away.
I was on the drill team in high school, and winter was our competition season, which meant early, freezing cold, still-dark mornings at the high school, climbing onto a bus that would take us to another high school in the Chicago suburbs, so we could spend the day performing routines we knew so well at that point it was hard to tell where the dance ended and we began.
Maybe because it was still dark, or maybe because we were all restless, or maybe because it was just fun, but some of us would sit in the back of the bus and tell scary stories. We’d scooch ourselves to the end of our seats and as close to the aisle as we could. Elbows on our knees, whispering and grinning, we were eager to be spooked.
One of us would cry, but it was the kind of crying that happens from peeling an onion. She wasn’t sad or scared, she was just listening. Tears would stream down her face as though a faucet hadn’t been turned off completely. And like a sink that water would continuously trickle down, nothing about her face changed. Her eyes remained wide, her head held high, her hands folded. She looked like she was listening to a somewhat-interesting lecture.
That her face didn’t change is what freaked us out the most, and what we were also craving. “THE STORY’S TRUE!” we’d all squeal at the first sight of her tears. “KEEP GOING! WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?” we’d demand, all watching our friend to see if her tears were still flowing and feeling out-of-our-minds exuberant when they were.
This girl was no wuss. She was strong, like, bulldozer strong. We were about the same height, and often she and I stood next to each other in kick lines and dance formations. Something true radiated off her when she danced, and it wasn’t scary. It was powerful. She reminds me of Hadley.
Maybe what made us so giddy over my friend’s tears wasn’t so much that we believed they proved the story true, but rather that she could handle the truth. What’s more, she wouldn’t succumb to it. The sun would rise, the bus doors would open, and she’d march down the steps and into the high school, where she would dance — strong, confident, determined — unshaken by what’s true.
Left to herself, the serpent now began
To change; her elfin blood in madness ran,
Her mouth foam’d, and the grass, therewith besprent,
Wither’d at dew so sweet and virulent;
Her eyes in torture fix’d, and anguish drear,
Hot, glaz’d, and wide, with lid-lashes all sear,
Flash’d phosphor and sharp sparks, without one cooling tear.
The colours all inflam’d throughout her train,
She writh’d about, convuls’d with scarlet pain:
A deep volcanian yellow took the place
Of all her milder-mooned body’s grace;
And, as the lava ravishes the mead,
Spoilt all her silver mail, and golden brede;
Made gloom of all her frecklings, streaks and bars,
Eclips’d her crescents, and lick’d up her stars:
So that, in moments few, she was undrest
Of all her sapphires, greens, and amethyst,
And rubious-argent: of all these bereft,
Nothing but pain and ugliness were left.
I take offense to this poem. I don’t like the suggestion that when Lamia is left to herself the monster within is nothing but a savage beast licking up stars and leaving pain and ugliness. I don’t think that’s the kind of truth we were hunting for while we traded scary stories, and I don’t think that’s what Hadley’s looking for when she hangs out with Meyer’s vampires and werewolves.
As treacherous as the teenage years — and life — can be, I refuse to believe that left alone, all we are is pain and ugliness. I think that the monster within is capable of much more than that.
This week, write a poem about a vampire or other mysterious creature. Make the monster more than scary — give her something hopeful to fight the ugliness and pain. Maybe she can turn it into something beautiful and bearable.
Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here’s one from Jody Collins we enjoyed:
Babies come in lumpy boxes, all
folded porcelain pudge, surprises
buried in gurgle, shriek and smile.
Experts have feigned understanding
documenting stages, development
what-to-expects along the way,
when all the while in infant-speak
their coos belie what’s going on
inside those beribboned, noisy
containers—neurons firing in a
multitude of synapses, ligaments,
sinew and bone growing invisible
and cell-deep in the dark.
We know nothing now.
We’ll spend the rest of their
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