Two Poems by Kevin Ridgeway


At nightfall, before Mom got home
from work, I wouldn’t turn on
any of the lamps. Our television
played old movies to light
the living room while I plopped
down into a beanbag chair on the floor,
duct taped in five different places.

Turner Classic Movies
and overdue library books
kept me company when
the rest of the living world failed me,
on dark noir screens without parents
where I felt safer than I ever did,
a warm place lit by celluloid dreams.

I grew up, my mother retired
and then she died—that’s when
they locked us out of the house
we used to lock ourselves in
after we had no choice but to sell it.
I looked in the window
I used to look out of,
the room empty because
we took everything in there
that we could and sold the rest,
so find a place to lock yourself in
while you can, lost in reels
of old movies and classic texts
until you find yourself out here
with the rest of the world,
when you no longer have a choice
but to unlock your fear and face it.



Mom gave birth
to a chainsaw nightmare:
a son who dresses as her
for Halloween,
a son who cleaned the house
in a teenaged manic episode
until it was spic and span
telling her not to make a mess
or she’s grounded
a son who complained
she wasn’t invested in his future
while he walked four miles
to school every goddamn day
to rescue himself from
breathing in hairball grime
to exhale white trash guilt
in primal screams of shame
against walls where
photographs of family
I never met in this life
all hung dead, an audience
for a kid who locked himself
inside alone long enough
to chop through all the scenery
my stay-at-home television father
influenced me to stage
my amateur hour around
until she found me there
bleeding out lost daydreams
the doctors told her
in the emergency room
that I inherited a shipwreck


Kevin Ridgeway’s latest books are Invasion of the Shadow People (Luchador Press) and A Ludicrous Split 2 (with Gabriel Ricard, Back of the Class Press). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in New York Quarterly, Paterson Literary Review, Slipstream, Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy, Main Street Rag, Heavy Feather Review, Sho Poetry Journal, Trailer Park Quarterly and Beat Not Beat: California Poets Screwing on the Beat Tradition (Moon Tide Press), among others. He lives and writes in Long Beach, CA.

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