List Wednesday – Five Creepy Halloween Poems

By next Wednesday, Halloween will have come and gone. Always one of my favorite holidays, it conjures up newly frosty nights filled with the scrape of bare tree branches, swirling leaves, and a newly graveyard grey landscape. In college, I used to love to wander the local graveyard which was filled with very old gravestones, ornately carved and bearing melancholy sentiments. The long twilight of this time of year reminds us that it’s time to gather for stories and poetry to bind us all together. So, here you go. Five scary poems for your Halloween or Samhain  pleasure.

  1. The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe – this one is kind of a “gimme.” Sure the content is pretty spooky, the depressed narrator, the creepy giant bird, but it’s really the incantatory quality of the rhythm and rhyme scheme that fuels this romp through the macabre.
  2. Empire of Dreams by Charles Simic. It’s the combination of the nameless black dog and the fact that the speaker carries a mask with him of which he is terrified that makes this plainspoken poem so odd.
  3. The Emperor of Ice Cream by Wallace Stevens. It’s the frighteningly cold feet that protrude from the sheet that get me every time. Or perhaps it’s the sly way that Stevens asserts that death awaits all of us with a reference to ice cream which really gives me the chills.
  4. Patsy Sees a Ghost by Lola Haskins. Haskins simple language and everyday details make this encounter with the ghost of drowned girl a truly haunting experience.
  5. All Hallows by Louise Gluck.
Even now this landscape is assembling.
The hills darken. The oxen
sleep in their blue yoke,
the fields having been
picked clean, the sheaves
bound evenly and piled at the roadside
among cinquefoil, as the toothed moon rises:
This is the barrenness
of harvest or pestilence.
And the wife leaning out the window
with her hand extended, as in payment,
and the seeds
distinct, gold, calling
Come here

Come here, little one
And the soul creeps out of the tree.

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