I’ve always had a great love of Halloween. I have fond memories of singing ‘Halloween’s Coming!’ at school assembly, reading Meg and Mog books and Mrs Brown in Infant 1 reading us the story of ‘Little Dog Turpin and the Hobyahs’ when we were probably all far too young to hear it.
This is my love letter to my childhood Halloweens and maybe a little to my parents as well. But mostly to my Halloweens of yesteryear.
I don’t know exactly what you’d call it, it’s somewhere between a long poem and a piece of prose, with strong elements of both but firmly commiting to neither. Either way I hope you enjoy it.
(or The Last Halloween)
Home from school, greeted by spotty dogs
and the flatulent smell of cabbage cooking.
Me Mam tending to pans of veg and tatties on the stove,
and in the oven, mince and onions in gravy.
On the worktop there’s a turnip sat bucket like,
waiting for my Dad, with his working man’s hands,
to hollow it out with a knife too sharp for me to use,
and cut in triangle eyes, a triangle nose and
a toothy mouth to my design.
Tea done. Bellies full. Warm clothes on.
My scary faced turnip threaded with heavy string to carry it.
We troop out into the night, to see what the dark will bring,
the smell of burning root vegetable
gently wafting through the air.
We walk down the road into the darkness of the park,
the sinister face flickering in the wind as it lights our way
on a cool October night.
‘What was that?’ My Dad asked,
and he pointed over to some bushes.
He said to go and see, but even with my turnip head
for protection, I was too scared to go.
I said he should go and he said ‘No’,
it was safer if we moved on,
some things were best not disturbed,
which scared me even more.
We survive the walk through park unscathed,
no zombies or demons to be seen
and arrive at the playground where
it’s a little lighter due to a single streetlight
and we establish this isn’t where monsters hide.
I put the turnip down and he rolls on his side,
the candle snuffed out, wax dripping from its mouth
like it’s drooling. He can rest for now,
this is a ghostie free zone.
My Mam is on the swings next to,
but not going as high as me.
Dad leaning against the pole, having a smoke.
For a minute, he looks like he’s one of the older boys
who sometimes hang out in the park,
and scare the younger kids, and not my Dad at all.
I catching him smiling at my Mam, she’s smiling back
and I feel, just for a second, that something is
happening here that I don’t understand,
so I lean right back on the swing and stare at the stars.
The sky is mostly clear and the moon bright,
I start thinking of aliens and UFO’s as
I watch for shooting stars
then I snap back to why we’re out,
to explore the places I always go,
but specially tonight, while the space between
the living and the dead is as thin as it can be,
I’m hoping to catch a glimpse of a wraith or a banshee.
Dad has finished his smoke and relights the turnip head,
even swinging on the swings, it’s starting to get chilly,
it’s time to move on.
We walk to the estate, swerving streetlights,
trying my best to navigate by turnip light,
despite the occasional car headlight.
Somewhere near someone sets off a firework and we
watch it cascade across the sky,
but there’s no ‘ooohh’ and ‘eeeee’
tonight, it’s unwelcome and I’m scared
it’ll put off a creep or a ghost or a ghoul from getting
near enough for me to see.
My Mams turn this time,
’look in the sky, a witch on a broom!’
I cast my eyes upwards, lifting my turnip lantern up,
casting its grim visage to the sky,
as if it would help me to see better.
‘Where, where? I can’t see her’
Mum says she’s gone behind the cloud,
the only one in the sky,
it seems too thin to hide a witch from Pendle Hill,
yet she’s nowhere to be seen.
A rocket dances past, throwing sparkles in its wake
and Mam says that’s the magic dust,
the witch has left behind to show she’s gone.
I spend the rest of the walk peering in gardens
and dark corners looking, half hoping,
half hoping not, to see anything
that has escaped from the other side tonight.
the turnips candle burned away to nothing,
Dad’s carrying it now, it’s purpose served.
Though instead of throwing it in the bin
it’ll be strung up on the washing line
in the backyard for a night,
maybe two, with a new candle,
to protect us from any evil spirits,
that might have followed us home.
We are all holding hands,
my Mam says she’s ready for a brew,
and another firework screams across the sky,
and ends with a loud bang that makes my Mam jump,
I laugh at her being scared of a noise and I start
to look forward to Bonfire night thinking that
maybe next Halloween,
I’ll see what it is I so want to see.