“With the Light On”

~Esther Mitchell, 2014~

When I was six years old,
I learned to sleep with the light on.
I was not hiding from monsters beneath my bed,
Nor from spectral arms that reached from within my closet.
I had no fear of the ethereal creatures children are taught to fear,
Because in one bright, sunlit afternoon,
I learned where monsters are really made.

When I was six years old,
I learned the difference between a scream and silence,
Is the width of a palm,
That the difference between care and apathy,
Is the length of a hallway,
The screams of glee from a sunlight temple to Poseidon,
The faint echoes of my descent into Hades.

When I was six years old,
I learned you can drown without ever touching the water,
That glass walls keep in water,
Keep in light,
Keep out peace,
A churning of bubbles,
Darting of bright bellies,
While a monster gorged itself on my flesh, my soul.

When I was just six years old,
I learned secrets are kept tucked in the back of your mind,
Like mismatched socks stuffed beneath the squeaky floorboard,
Meant to keep sound from waking the dead,
Waking the sleeping,
Waking the truth,
The price of acceptance,
A secret that strips away the very fabric of being,
Claws ripping through the fragile silk of a soul.

I am thirty-six years old,
And I still sleep with the light on,
Not because I’m afraid of what’s beneath my bed,
But because I’m still afraid of the monster,
prowling inside my head.



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