That night, like so many before,
I retraced the twenty paces: bedside to kitchen.
My footfalls crackled, as if edging over brittle earth;
The house heaved ponderously—
The grousing of an ancient generator, slumberous from its cradle,
Those boards beneath my nocturne passage
Sawed and snapped like restless teeth.
The kitchen’s tiles swept my feet in a glissando.
Stillness, save the utterances:
The purr, the staccato, the hiss,
The stealthy whispers of slippered feet,
And the touch down of fingers on the counter.
The gloom-lit window there,
Was a brimming greenhouse by day;
Yet on moon-starved nights,
The lure of its strangeness
Has pulled me in like some misshapen horror—
From the Hadalpelagic Zone.
Clambering toothedly, from the dregs of unlit ditches, hollows.
No ravening beast—
To trouble the tame shores of an Irish night!
The maw of the night had long closed,
Having swallowed all diurnal things;
Only echoes remained, chasing round the empty spaces
Into the vastness of night—
Fodder for the intellect!
Never a care then—
Except the dominion of the mind,
Over eye, ear and touch—
With such potency as to pacify or perturb.
The night bestows such gifts.
But what fearsome fable was this?
That one Piseog, flickering upon the edge of reason—
To accost my idle fancies—
Looming blackly and brazenly from my mind’s eye.
That was to walk in the wake of a nightmare.
What of that something settling behind the press of glass?
An ill-begotten specimen
Sealed by the four pane corners—
Like some nameless deity.
Her smile pealed back expectantly, into the curl of the lips—
A twisted mockery of my face.
I drowned in the shadows of that face,
The tales of ages still rooted in my heart.
I awaited her foray—
To reach through, to overwrite—
To rip me from this life.
Then, a single qualm wavered into existence,
Expanding tremulously into the night;
My finger alighted on the kettle switch
To quell those quickened thoughts.
With a final shotgun crack,
The spell was scattered.
The shadows withdrew, like fingers into a sleeve.
I sheathed my face.
I walked that routine beat tonight;
This was an ambit I often came under,
A time when the sun rolled back—
Dropping over the precipice of the earth.
I picked through the remnants of a conscious plain—
The thunder of sleepers, wind rasping, drizzle plinking glass.
Then, the silence descended from the starlessness—
Distilling like an extraterrestrial melody.
It dampened like a miasma.
The pipes did not clang contents—rowling like overfed guts—
Gloom settled like sediment on my soul.
My teeth locked into nerveless acquiescence—
Tethering my faintest of hearts.
It amassed—rising yet, from a deep recess of my mind—
Like an exhumed nightmare—rekindled!
She was pressing palms against the rectangular cell—
Her anticipation mirroring my own!
I cornered that visage, unpolished by moonlight—
Floating in her glassy ocean.
My pulse stammered in fright. I rationed my breaths.
I stoked my bravado, steeling my very mettle—
To spurn that shadow!
My gaze snagged on a new phenomenon—
What new haunt had been loosened?
The night enshrined him,
Embellishing every hallmark sign of predator—
The magnificence of feline.
I marked the smooth progress—
His profile stealing across patio paving,
One fluid motion over kindled stone.
Each paw was placed reverently—
To denote his mastery over movement.
A light stumbled on, stripping back the shadows—
Painting my reverie with sudden colour.
It broke the monotony of the night—
In sunlit profusion.
A beacon separated him from his cover.
The cat froze—as though cornered—
His clandestine purpose revealed,
Under the oscillating eye of an unshuttered lens.
His face lifted towards the light—
All whiskers glittering a warning.
His eyes fell open wide, pupils paring to points—
The green glare pinning me.
Wild fires smouldered, accusing, from out of the cold—
Before he melted into shadow.
Light pervaded like an ocean—
Traffic lights strobing flowered sleepers,
Swilling the perimeter of the garden—
As if it was a sumptuous feast.
The entirety blazed—like an alfresco stage.
Light refuted shadow, as any good sun would—
But these pale faux suns were many;
Nothing escaped their notice!
Searchlights moved to frame and capture—
No bolt holes for night revellers.
I gazed out like that—one hand held in repose,
While saucepans steeped in the sink.
Grease was filming the water and the kettle whirring
Under twisting columns of steam.
The clouds towered, hastening onward—
And, as I attended them,
My vision shifted—as if relapsing into myopia.
They were reeling backwards,
Into a quieter space.
And as it descended—with a pinprick of silence—
The spell scattered.
Holly Darragh-Hickey is an Irish poet and writer. She catalogues challenging experiences from her life, endeavouring to create beauty from the darkness. She also writes about the solace of nature. She writes for Libero Magazine, where she discusses mental health. Holly is due to be published in Bua Collective and Shine in early 2021.
Find her on Twitter/Instagram: @HollyAliceDH