A Man Named Richard Once Made Me Want to Light an Office Max Store on Fire

2018 ODU-Poetry Society of Virginia-Academy of American Poets College Poetry Prize Graduate Honorable Mention

Hannah Trammell


The darkness of 6:00am mid-Fall calls me from my house
like a Hollywood houngan summons
zombie slaves from the grave. When I was young,
and mom and dad were still to be found
in the same room,
sometimes I’d pass the darkness of mid-Fall
trying to rest in a sleeping bag on the floor
in that room.

Shapes with fangs and horns took
form in the open closet in the darkness,
the shadow-cloud-vision of that cursed-house child-
-’s horror story hovered overhead,
a heavy presence, a darker shade, could be
sensed just out of sight of the open door.
They were coming for me.
Dad was snoring.

The darkness of 6:00am mid-Fall muffles
the “Fucks,” “Shits,” and “Goddamnits”
that I hope mom doesn’t hear. The car door slams
and I slump into the seat. I’ve never wanted a fire more.
I light my cigarette, and the nicotine is like God—is like God—is my God—
I worship the high my BIC lighter brings,
As it makes the darkness of 6:00am mid-Fall
and where it means I’m going

Pulling out of the driveway, I thought
about those shapes in the dark—
Seen from mom and dad’s floor from between squinting eyes,
And now I stare out into the dark around my car as it surges forward
From the sides of the road steeped in black, I pretend
I can see:

The customer who wanted 5 hours
of my time for a dime
hovering there and
Demanding me like you demand your rights
and sinking her fangs into my throat
through polite necessaries that are
undying, unending—

Next, I recall:
A fifty-something-year-old man, dirt
under his nails and a beer barrel gut,
who wanted to know if I worked out and
wanted me to call him a bad boy and
give him my flesh wholesale,
While my manager watched—nodded—insisted
On promoting the rewards program,
Telling me this eye-rape is part of the job—
Suck it up.

I tensely watch these imagined apparitions
until they disappear with the rising sun,
Thumbing my BIC lighter as I park,
And the receding darkness reveals the OfficeMax sign—
Only half-lit.

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