Olyver Currant: October by G.M. Palmer

The world is full of masks tonight, children
crowding doorsteps with beggars’ promises
and threats while parents look on, remember
their childhood, and laugh. No one comes to my
door. My light is out, no Jack-o-lantern
lights my steps, my house is dark in the still
October night and everyone passes
quietly, throwing glances in the place
of the occasional egg. In darkness
I am in shock; withdrawal in the months past
from the world has done me little good. Eight
months ago I was a wreck and hiding

from the world. Tonight the world is hiding
and I am still a buried corpse; children
should crumble in terror as they speed past
my gates shrouded in cobwebs and darkness,
telling tales about the haunted old place,
daring the young boys of ten or of eight
to steal trinkets so they can remember
their courage. My silence promises
no fear. Like before, everyone passes
in silence, like a man with a lantern
in an old horror film, but not scared; my
house is not full of ghosts; my house is still.

My house is still and even I am still
afraid of the outside, of not hiding
within myself, opaque to a lantern,
eye, or a voice that searches as it passes.
I fill myself with empty promises
of despairing but the truth is that my
pride is too weak to face the faces past
my window, even innocent children
scare me; I do not want to remember
what I cannot forget, what is in this place,
enshrined in my temple, a cold darkness
instead of light, a darkness that rats ate



at and gnawed at until the thing they ate
became themselves and they were dark and still;
putrescence in the empty still dark place
where a light once was, if I remember
right, a light filled with the joy of children
and of love now replaced with darkness,
darkness impenetrable by lantern
where I have taken refuge in hiding
and where a wasted year has nearly passed,
dwelling on words and broken promises.
The clock rings. Another hour passes
and October nears to its end as my

mock mourning nears its last morning and my
self imprisonment that had drank and ate
on sorrow, anger, and our promises,
vague as the fog that by morning has passed,
approaches the end of all its hiding
me away. A large family passes
my door and a child, studying my place
stares through my window at me, sitting still
and silent; he points his flashlight lantern
at my face and his father says children
come on and looks away. I remember
his face, even in the poor half-darkness

of Hallowe’en I can see, and darkness
shrouding me, he too recognizes my
face and so he hurries his small children
along as his boy shines his bright lantern
on my face as I am sitting stone still;
the boy dressed as Satan, I remember
him too, and his sister, whose promises
she never kept, but the bright girl of eight
and the boy of ten do not know this place
or remember me; even when hiding
behind masks I know your family has passed
and as they pass by, a shadow passes



over me as your memory passes
my heart and as they leave me in darkness,
in solitude and in pointless hiding
that is not. Every day I leave this place
and every day I return, sometimes at eight,
sometimes ten, sometimes when morning has passed
into afternoon and school-age children
are returning home on what were once my
secret trails, guarded by blood promises
of grade-school boys that I am sure are still
bonding today. Someone’s Jack-o-lantern
smiles at me across the street. Remember,

it says, the days of your youth, remember
it tells me, because all that lives passes
one day, slows down, and becomes very still,
leaving behind unfulfilled promises
and expectations and hopes that you, my
boy, hoped for. This neighbor’s Jack-o-lantern
grins wide, and continues, all this hiding,
all your moaning, your love of the darkness,
is worth nothing; you are like these children,
these little boys and girls, no more than eight
or ten; you belong in their shoes, their place,
masquerading as what you are not, past

your childhood but you are not all passed
into adulthood.
It smiles, remember,
it says. It is still smiling wide when eight
wily, wise, and mischievous young children
grab it up and smash it into darkness,
a dark nothing left standing in its place
and me left staring and listening still,
waiting for the voice but madness passes
and I am alone with my long hiding.
The pumpkin has carved his words into my
mind, recalling the words and promises
I once made to myself. The crushed lantern



can no more speak and the Jack-o-lantern
next to my house remains silent. The past
hour has slipped by too quickly and in my
reverie I have been slowly hiding
in sleep. In sleep the whole wide world passes
by unnoticed and quick. Sleep promises
what waking cannot, and in those pure eight
or ten hours it is safe to remember
what once was, because in sleep that time still,
or can still, exist, feeding on darkness
and dreams: a time when we could have children,
a time when somewhere could be made our place

or home. But here this is only my place,
lit by the nerves of a magic lantern,
interrupted with splotches of darkness;
everything here is usually still.
I am sure that it cannot remember
the times before I lived here, when children
came to its doorstep, when it was not my
hermitage, but all its old spirits passed
onto other old homes as the rats ate
the wiring and our old movie passes,
and it hopes for the end to my cold hiding
so I can fill it with life. Promises

you once sang to me, all the promises
we break, from the cradle to the grave
, place
me in despair. But their power passes,
and like Persephone, who in Hell ate
the pomegranate’s seeds and again passed
from that life back to this, so my hiding
will end and I will emerge from darkness,
lead, not by Mercury with his lantern
but by my own head, and my own heart, my
self, on the day that I can remember
without pain. But today the pain comes still
and I weep for our unconceived children.

Costumed children walk on, with promises
of waiting they won’t remember, past my
home. It is dark, my porch lantern is still
off. One child passes, looking at this place.
I light the darkness before he has passed.
He is eight, and not afraid of hiding.

About G.M. Palmer