The Guest Room Closet by James H Duncan

Castleton on the river where Dutch
sailors roamed with Henry Hudson
in an age of haunted hollows and
autumn winds blowing cruel through
the valley, a small village grew and
survived and now the line of crooked
homes overlook a narrow street and
railroad tracks, a slight embankment
to the Hudson River, I sit at dinner
with family friends, their grandmother
cooking corned beef and cabbage
and telling us of the decades and
lifetimes spent in small tenebrous
homes and shuttered factories
all along the river, and in that very
house, be careful where you step,
she says, for the man who owned
it before her was a dark and cruel
man, twisted in body and soul, she
said, and hung himself in the guest
room’s closet — now, who wanted
second of the corned beef — but
our widened eyes met each other’s
and wasn’t that the room where I
was to sleep that night, oh honored
guest? it was, and I did, lying in a
hideous state of cold terror and
exhaustion, staring at the black
doorless hole across the darkened
room and watching, waiting for
some moaning wail, some iridescent
tentacle writhing with hellish hunger
to reach out and overpower me
where I’d lay frozen with horror, but
the hours passed, and I gave in to
sleep sometime before dawn, waking
alive and well though never able
to walk the streets of Castleton and
not think of that room, that night,
that man hanging from the beam
spanning the guest room closet
waiting for the right night, under
the right moon, to reach out and say

James H Duncan is the editor of Hobo Camp Review and the author of We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine, a new collection of poetry from Unknown Press. His work has appeared in Writer’s Digest, Drunk Monkeys, Five:2:One, American Artist, and The Battered Suitcase, among other publications. For more about his work and to read his reviews of independent bookshops, visit

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