Christian Sammartino

after Walt Whitman

           Used the knife I found in blades of grass
on Boston Common to make a space
           within myself, like a child gutting
a pumpkin, carving a space in the belly

until there is room for a candle
and there is no more boy, just a jack-o’-lantern
           illuminating the symbols for horror
in the Halloween of my mind.

            Post mortem of youth, haunted house          
in my head that distorted my mind

            until it was a soundtrack of party screams
the gory kind your neighbor plays on his boombox to terrify
            trick-or-treating children—but there are no party tricks,
no vampire teeth, no fake blood, no costumes to disguise

            those bodies in the caskets of the funeral parlor
draped in their palls—those are the people I loved,
            the ones who reassured me I wasn't an alien.
The ones who stayed out past curfew

            with me on mischief night, phoned E.T at home
to ask if love is an intergalactic myth.
            They all got called home to the mother ship
and I don’t own a bicycle that can fly to heaven.

            I still sing their eulogies everywhere—

over the percussion of 21 gun salutes,
            above priests reading from the gospels,
Even over the T driver announcing my stop.

I cut the song of myself out of myself
            until I was no self.

I dumped my not self into Boston harbor,
            as if to say, no horror without representation,
no haunting without the promise of exorcism,
            no song without this blue blood on my palms.


                        This is no place for cowards.

            I cut the song of myself out of myself,
found all the stones of silence I put in my mouth,
            all the weight I used to hold my body down
until I acknowledge what PTSD did to me.

            How he snapped into psychosis,
recited his suicide note by the pond,
            threatened to murder his children.
I cut the song of myself out of myself.

           What I exhume you shall exhume
until we can celebrate our selves and not selves.
           All I want is to loaf in a space in my skull,
luxuriate in a silence so wholly naked,

I no longer see him wearing his death mask.

            I know I can't pull it off his face,
unmask the villain at the end of this episode,
            because this isn't Scooby Doo.
The mystery machine isn't coming.

Neither are the police or an ambulance.

            I cut the song of myself out of myself,
lugged it out of my electric body to locate
            the voice box I unplugged,
the one with the tape recording,

containing the boy’s last words
           before he took his vow of silence.


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