Ernest Hilbert’s poem “Scream Queen” appears in the latest issue of Smartish Pace, number 27, Spring 2020. The issue contains poems by Pamela Alexander, Mary Jo Bang, Brian Brodeur, Michael Brown, Anders Carlson-Wee, Caroline Chavatel, Morri Creech, Katy Day, Meli Broderick Eaton, B.H. Fairchild, Ed Falco, Tammi Falkenstein, Joseph Harrison, Clarinda Harriss, Brooks Haxton, Ruth Hoberman, Carlie Hoffman, Katharine Johnsen, Dorianne Laux, Sandra Lim, Heather McHugh, Paul Muldoon, Alessandra Simmons, Karen Skolfield, Eva Skrande, DLuke Stomberg, C. Talamantez, Adam Vines, and Brad Vogel (among others!). Click here to learn more and to subscribe. Two terms worth knowing before reading the poem are Scream Queen and Final Girl.
I wake. The voice from the neighboring chair
Says (I must have asked) “I’ve always wanted
To be the Final Girl. I’ve had hammer claws
To the face—twice!—once dragged by my hair
Into a lake, ripped up by a haunted
Hay baler, barbequed alive by inbred outlaws,
“And, last one, acid fog made my skin
Bubble up and made my eyelids melt.”
Okay. We’ve all had it hard. I suppose it’s work.
Clouds creep in to dull the yard, and I begin
To miss the weirdly-shaped shadows that felt
So strong around the trees that droop and lurk
On the flawless lawn. The elephant ears
Are so heavy their leaves almost touch the ground.
The warm breeze can hardly even move them.
The rye grass, sage, and pines, swollen with years
Of nutrients and fertilizers, breathe all around.
I imagine the pool’s chlorine colored black with chum—
It bleeds weirdly into the blue,
So deep with sadness I could dive down
My whole life and not reach the bottom. I hear
Her terriers lap at something greasy and chew.
The air goes dead. I pinch a lime and drown
Smaller cubes in gin. There’s nothing to fear.
The afternoon’s all used up and bruised.
The sun returns, and with it a breeze,
Sparkling the pool’s surface almost white,
So stunning I have to blink to get used
To it. The shadows around the trees
Grow strong again, veiled from the light.