halloween vignettes

Seven ravens NYPL

NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY courtesy:: digital collection

And it’s said that the dead come back to life on Halloween,

the anglicized All Hallows’ Eve.

But do the saints

and the souls

really truly leave?

I try not to get caught by the smoky ropes each October,

the orange plasticky bowls,

tin foil trinkets,

calories we’ve consumed;

regarding the celebration:

Halloween makes me very sad.

Maybe it’s the last night of the true summer,

the beginning of

the holiday trifecta,

darkness, cold, the bus stop at 6:30 each morning.

My first Halloween,

four months in the world,

I was a Jersey devil,

New Jersey’s eponymous monster,

with a red onesie and paper horns,


Four, five, six,

a witch,

NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY courtesy:: digital collection

NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY courtesy:: digital collection

the powerful kiddo,

curly false violet hair,

a broom,

black Puritan clothes.

We drove around the District,

leafless trees scratching the car,

visiting the Rapps,


old colleagues,

getting candy, pats on the head,

smelling smoke from a paper cigar,

he got lung cancer later.

I was eight,

and found a book in

my Catholic grammar

school’s library

about the traditions of the Celtic occult and Samhain,

the ancient ceremonials

later fading

into a Christian celebration.

ST. JOE’S, photo my own

Still later, still lower,

into a Victorian past time.

At nine I stopped trick-or-treating,

and began to give the candy to neighbors,

sometimes older boys with classmates came,

asked again and again for more candy,

and I’d say no.

NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY digital collections

NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY courtesy:: digital collections

They’d go behind a tree,

switch costumes,

still no.

And it was cold, and dark and we’d watch the Great Pumpkin,

and then at twelve I was a Heather,

killing only myself,

no candy for anyone that year.

And fifteen,

a scary movie,

walking to the bus

thick-aired All Saints’ Day,

I prayed for myself,


and asked for Thomas Aquinas’ intercessions.

My grandfather died the next February.

I am still mad sometimes.

At seventeen,

I was at the Center,

allergic to

and forced to

eat horrible things.

The party my sister held was my funeral.

blinding (2)

BLINDING, photo my own

A bright friend came over,

and we talked,

giving allergen-free candy to the


So many ice queens,

so few witches,

is that good?

I fell asleep with tea lights refracting into my room,

shrieks from the dancing woods

the glass moon glowing

again in my room.

NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY digital collections

NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY     courtesy:: digital collections

L. died this year.

I am still sad.

I don’t think I will dress up again,

and the parties are a no,

but I am living

and breathing,

and when I told him about my love of Yeats,

I didn’t mean the cemetery gates thing.

I meant Aengus,


looking for his apple blossomed bride,

 but he didn’t understand.

That was last year, too.

And Halloween is a beautiful tragedy,

but we are stronger this year,

and we are not tragic.


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