The House

Boundaries were defined
by harsh words
and bolted doors,
yet by night I snuck

past sleeping sentinels,
the dark air pregnant with
unanswered prayers,
the page of each wall

scripted with shadow,
seeming to swell
with pressure, as though
something passed through it.

Rain tapped at each window
where the gloating stars
peered in like patient
voyeurs, the rhubarb

blanched in moonlight
as the clematis
loomed, scaling the house,
rending foundations

I could not fortify.
Spiders were hatched
from cracked corners.
I searched for clues,

listened at keyholes
for conspiracies,
my memory mapped
with creaking floorboards

that betrayed my presence.
I would spend hours
in prayer and soliloquy
trying to subsume

the guilt I had
inherited. Before they
could be caught or killed
the spiders

would scuttle back
to their dark dimension,
as though a gash
could suck up its own blood.

Somewhere in hiding
was the eight-legged
mother of them all,
her deftly strung web

a grid of carcasses;
wings, shells, corrupted husks
mauled and festering.
I couldn’t sleep for fear of it.

Sometimes I would try
the cellar door:
deep and forbidding,
that underground lair,

where steps descend
into a darkness
that writhed with
apprehensions.

I couldn’t reach the light-switch
to dispel my suspicions
which grew like rumours
of a secret sin.

One day I would confront
whatever was down there
and return victorious
(if return at all)

to where another, like me,
would dare to descend
along the cellar’s corpse-cold walls,
dank and mildewed,

the treacherous gloom
now bristling, bristling
and black with all
that is unassumed.

Jim Newcombe lived in Derby before uprooting to London in 2006, where he works as a judicial transcriber. He is currently working on a novel, a play and a series of short stories. He has had work published in numerous publications.

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