Self-Portrait at Midlife as Horror Movie

I am the children, left alone in the house.
I am the phone that rings into darkness.

I am the woman who drops her keys
in the parking lot. I never look in the back seat.

I am the moon, ominous above the scene.
I am the caw of crows, our free-floating fears.

Suddenly we are in a storm. A swarm.
We are unseated, undermined, interred.

I am the hand reaching out from the grave.
I am the séance where you speak with the dead.

I am the Ouija board, the Tarot deck, the fortune teller,
all about bad omens and missed opportunities.

I devour girls that have sex and teens who drink too much.
I come back in the form of a man in a mask, a doll with a knife,

an alien wearing your skin, a sharknado. Frankly, you’ve all
become a little jaded. I’ve lost the shock factor, the jump scare.

After the beheadings, the stabbings, the plagues, the evil twins,
the clones, the ghosts and ghouls and goblins, now our American

landscape has become barren of its colorful nightmares,
its erratic embrace of the tropes of our youth.

Now it’s just a woman screaming, from somewhere far away.
An abandoned train track, an empty factory, casting shadows in the dark.

Jeannine Hall Gailey portrait

Jeannine Hall Gailey is a poet with Multiple Sclerosis who served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She’s the author of six books of poetry: Becoming the VillainessShe Returns to the Floating WorldUnexplained Fevers, The Robot Scientist’s DaughterField Guide to the End of the World, winner of the Moon City Press Book Prize and the SFPA’s Elgin Award, and, upcoming in 2023, Flare, Corona from BOA Editions.  Her work has appeared in journals like The American Poetry ReviewPloughshares, and Poetry. Her web site is Twitter and Instagram: @webbish6.

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