Treatment and Trickery

It is the week we kill the lights –

as when the carol singers come,

hum out of tune what they don’t know –

for this tradition’s weak in Wales

where coal seams dark, shrouded enough,

with ghoules and ghosties, unemployed.


For treats we kept a biscuit tin,

but callers mocked, rejected them –

or chalked the path as vagrants do –

their sign of tick or no welcome.

We’re scared that neighbours take offence,

beyond the pale, their kids’ treatment.


So still, we dread that knocking door,

the volume low on news events,

and whisper, crouching, curtains closed,

from upstairs, scare, fence leaping shapes.

And soon fireworks, thatch rocket drops,

and jumping jacks through letter box.


It covers weeks our mother died –

her at rest, we wraiths inside –

that wreath we choose, three spinsters’ care,

gravely laid this time of year.

For now masked terrors on the step.

It feels like lockdown come again.

Used by permission of the author.

Stephen Kingsnorth

Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had over ...more