the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Philip Miller

Like a Movie

You see it in movies all the time:
demon possession, like one October night
I was walking home, a little wind pressuring
me along, and then some old man in his yard,
raking dead leaves, turned, leaned on his rake,
gave me the bad eye, like he was on to something.
I kept walking, opened my own front door,
watched my mother, father, kid brother
all glance up at the same time,
looking funny, and I was pretty late,
but they'd been talking and had to cut it short
as I walked in: I wanted to say,
"Hey, I got things on my mind," but just said
nothing, made it upstairs to my room,
where I could still hear their voices, snatches
of laughter. Then I remembered demon movies,
how devils got hold of souls of perfectly
innocent people. I thought of my parents' smiles,
of my damned little brother, grinning like he knew
something I didn't: the way their eyes slanted
back after I'd given them the bad eye, myself,
and the murmur of voices rising from downstairs
sounded like a chant, and I really felt scared,
like they were ganging up, but I felt mean, too,
as I stomped across my room to give them something
to think about, then clomped downstairs
where they all sat staring at TV,
huddled like conspirators, all right,
as I walked past them, heading for the door—
to get some air, to make some outside contact—
and I didn't say a word, kept my eyes hard
and straight ahead, though I knew in my heart,
all they were doing was watching some dumb movie,
and I realized I couldn't tell who the demons
might have gotten—them or me—that maybe I was
the one possessed. Outside wind blew cold
and a big white moon had risen.
And I knew even if I had knocked three times
on some old tree that the way I felt wouldn't
go right away, that it would stay with me,
tracking along behind like a shadow.

(Previously published in "The Ghost of Every Day")



Back to Poetry