There were ghosts everywhere; I borrowed book after book from the library saying so, amazed and stunned that they kept this knowledge out in the open and available for anyone to read. I read about real life haunted forests and abandoned houses (like so many I knew from my own treks through the woods) and I read about witches, and then werewolves. The werewolf book was the one that stayed with me the longest, its tattered cloth binding faded and tearing, pulled from the deepest shelf of the elementary school library where no conservative school board ethics task force committee would find it. Inside there were ancient descriptions of how to turn yourself into a werewolf, complete with gibberish incantations and lists of roots and animal innards to collect. I often wondered, do I dare go into the wheat fields at night (where I knew the coyotes roamed with their red eyes) and try? Did I dare? Did I wish for that curse? I often wondered these things during October bus rides home from school or rides home from an evening visit with our grandparents, but it never happened. I never worked up the courage to damn myself at the mere age of nine, and to this day I think back and smile about that silly book, even looked for it on the internet once but couldn’t find it. When I walk home from the bars now or from a late night in the office, I sometimes look up at the full moon and think about being nine years old riding the school bus and reading that book, and even standing on the edge of the wheat fields beyond the trailer park fence at dusk, looking out at all of those coyote packs with their nimble red eyes blinking back at me, wondering which fate would be worse. But of course, they all lead to the same road, the same exit, the same howling end.
This poem originally appeared in the author’s book We Are All Terminal But This Exit Is Mine, from Unknown Press.
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 www.jameshduncan.com.