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This is my entry this week for therealljidol. I invite you to read and vote for the many fine entries. This week's topic is "bupkis."

One of the eeriest poems to appear in children's anthologies is "Antigonish," by Hughes Mearns. For many years I thought it was by A.A. Milne, confusing it with a clever poem he wrote about his favorite stair for sitting.

The most famous stanza of the creepy Mearns poem reads:

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away...

It reminds me of a tale my mother once told me: about how, in her childhood home, she heard something bumping down the attic stairs and then crashing into the door. When she opened the door, there was nothing there. She later learned that a little boy, as a child, had perished on those steep attic stairs, falling down them and breaking his neck.

Turns out Mearns had written the poem about a ghost that haunted a stairwell in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Even though I didn't know this, I always found this poem eerie. Why is it that that the absence of something is often scarier than its presence? Is it because, in the absence of anything to view, the most horrible fantasies creep into the imagination? Is it because we are ancient hunters who are more intimidated by not being able to see the creature who might turn from hunted into hunter and pounce?

Haven't you ever felt your skin crawl, alone in the house? Or fancied, like me, that you once heard someone in an upstairs hallway call your name? Do objects get misplaced or damaged, and you have no memory of it? Haven't you felt eyes on you when no one was there?

What if the non-entity, the man who wasn't there, got a chance to speak his piece? I imagine it might sound like this:

I am the man who wasn't there.
I wasn't sitting on the stair.
I wasn't the naughty devil who
filled your shoes with Elmer's glue.
I didn't overturn your mush;
didn't sneeze on your toothbrush.
I may be bad, but I am not
the one who sprayed your scarf with snot.
I did not break your favorite truck
nor cover Dolly's face with muck.
I did not tangle all your strings
or do a hundred other things
the household may accuse me of,
done below stairs or above.

When you're asleep I do not creep
into your room to steal a peep.
I do not stalk you through the park
or tap your shoulder in the dark.
Despite your nightly bedtime dread,
I do not hide beneath your bed.
I do not lurk behind your seat
or look for ways to grab your feet.

No matter all your icy fear,
I'm not to blame; I am not here.

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( 45 comments — Leave a comment )
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Dec. 8th, 2011 07:17 pm (UTC)
This is a lovely piece, and has a great voice for a children's book or a poem to read aloud - thanks, I enjoyed it!
Dec. 9th, 2011 12:00 am (UTC)
Thank you! I was trying to capture the rhyme and meter of the original, while adding my own flair.
Dec. 9th, 2011 07:15 am (UTC)
I really enjoyed this, especially the poem--we never stop creating bogeymen, do we?
Dec. 9th, 2011 07:52 am (UTC)
No, we don't! Which is why I can't watch scary movies lately. Oddly enough, I'm less spooked by real-life ghost stories than by Hollywood effects. Go figure!

I'm glad you liked this piece. I had fun writing it.
Dec. 9th, 2011 03:55 pm (UTC)
Deeply creepy, in the best of ways. And I agree with whipchick; it does sound like a children's book.
Dec. 10th, 2011 11:17 pm (UTC)
Excellent! This might just inspire me to write more children's poetry.
(no subject) - theafaye - Dec. 11th, 2011 05:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 9th, 2011 06:46 pm (UTC)
I thoroughly enjoyed your observations and take on the non-entity's voice here. :)
Dec. 10th, 2011 11:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I had fun with it; could have gone even further, but I didn't want to overdo it.
Dec. 9th, 2011 08:43 pm (UTC)
Love the poetic response! Very clever.
Dec. 10th, 2011 11:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I was a little worried about doing poetry two weeks in a row, but I was hoping people would read it for its own merits.
Dec. 10th, 2011 12:48 am (UTC)
This is wonderful!
Dec. 10th, 2011 11:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Dec. 10th, 2011 02:14 am (UTC)
You're right that it's the absence rather than the presence which scares us. Perhaps it's because it's the Other we don't understand? Even real people who do terrible things to us (and who are much scarier than ghosts, really) have a lack of something which makes them frightening.

Great entry.
Dec. 10th, 2011 11:15 pm (UTC)
You're right. With certain evil-doers, there's a lack of compassion or something in their eyes which is completely unnerving.

Thanks for reading. Glad you liked it.
Dec. 10th, 2011 04:28 am (UTC)
This was awesome. I love the topic and the idea that something which isn't there is scarier than something that is. I know that feeling all too well and you captured it perfectly. Well done!
Dec. 10th, 2011 11:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you! For me, there is nothing scarier than some of the fears I had in childhood.
Dec. 10th, 2011 07:54 pm (UTC)
Well done, a combination in-between scary and funny. I like!

Dec. 10th, 2011 11:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I deliberately started off being funny and then made it a bit darker, and I was hoping the balance would work.
(no subject) - muchtooarrogant - Dec. 11th, 2011 02:41 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alycewilson - Dec. 11th, 2011 02:56 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 10th, 2011 11:56 pm (UTC)
Lovely. Well done.
Dec. 11th, 2011 02:57 am (UTC)
Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it.
Dec. 11th, 2011 11:44 am (UTC)

I think the scariness of absence is partly from the 'don't think of elephants' effect combined with how it's easier to prove something exists then that it doesn't. I mean, if someone says there's a Thing in my closet, I can check, and not see a Thing, and know they're wrong. If someone says there is definitely not a Thing in my closet . . . well, I won't feel safe, because suddenly all I can think about is the Thing. And if there really isn't one in my closet, what else might be?
Dec. 12th, 2011 05:40 am (UTC)
Exactly! Which is probably why, when he's old enough, I shouldn't tell my son there's no monster in his closet.
Dec. 11th, 2011 02:01 pm (UTC)
Ooh, I just loved this. It gave me a nice chill (which makes me glad it's broad daylight)!
Dec. 12th, 2011 05:40 am (UTC)
Great! I creeped myself out a bit, writing it.
Dec. 11th, 2011 03:57 pm (UTC)
The rhyming style really appeals to me. Liked it a lot.
Dec. 12th, 2011 05:39 am (UTC)
Thank you. I'm glad you liked it.
Dec. 11th, 2011 06:33 pm (UTC)
I loved this. Absolutely loved it.
Dec. 12th, 2011 05:38 am (UTC)
Great to hear! Thank you.
Dec. 11th, 2011 09:04 pm (UTC)
I read this to my kids and they loved it! I hope this was as much to write as it was to read.
Dec. 12th, 2011 05:38 am (UTC)
Great to hear! How old are they?
(no subject) - dblicher - Dec. 14th, 2011 06:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
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( 45 comments — Leave a comment )

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