Julia Gaskill – “A Stephen King Ending” @WANPOETRY (SLC CYPHER 2019)

Julia Gaskill – “A Stephen King Ending” @WANPOETRY (SLC CYPHER 2019)


– This poem is after Brenna
Twohy and Clementine von Radics. My favorite part of any Stephen King novel is the happiness before the fall. The way all the badness
suddenly seeps off the page, how the walls are not yet coated in blood, no fits of madness or
acts of terror in sight. Only smiling families, claiming
there is change on the wind while naively coaxing, “My god, I can’t believe this all going so well.” How contentment nestles itself over the Creed’s new household along with amazing spousal
sex and a zombie cat; And the Torrance marriage resurrected, healing high up in the Colorado hills far from vicious histories. The way Carrie… smiles and feels normal for
the first time in her life, in the arms of a boy who is
not laughing at her – for once. When the turn occurs, when
happiness is taken away by speeding semis, ghostly murmurs, the final straw breaking,
my interest wanes. I don’t need to read a King novel to know it’s not going
to have a happy ending and the solution, I am told, is simple. Don’t read King’s books. Keep your Harry Potter or
something of much safer texture, but when you get your hands on an entity with so much substance, so much deep beauty like
the way King writes, you cannot simple return
it to the library. Like Kurt Barlow, once
invited into your home, it’s impossible to stop
these books from entering. So, I brace myself when Annie
drags the axe from the barn, when John Coffey asks
for no bag over his head, when Carrie does not notice
the glint of a suspended bucket and I find no fright
in these horror novels, but I have come to realize that
I am so over tragic endings. I’m ready to be told that
the monsters are defeatable. That the Pennywises, the
vampires, the Kurt Dussanders of the world are not
looming behind every corner. That the aneurysm that got
my mother is not waiting under my bed with the axe. That my boyfriend’s urge to self destruct will not leave me digging his grave in the local pet cemetary. That the man who closed the bedroom door when I asked him not to is
not lurking in the old house up on the hill. That my small semblance
of sanity will not flee into the backyard hedge
maze or leave me to freeze into the snow, or to be
devoured by hedge animals depending if you like the
book of the film more. (laughter) I find myself rooting for happy endings even when I know none are in store. It is a ritual I perform daily. Optimism is muscle memory. When you’ve stared so many
tragedies dead in the eyes, you can’t help but hope that
the clown won’t reign victor, that Randall Flagg will
not co-opt your shadow, that I am so much stronger
than the monsters lurking in my bookshelves claiming to be. I know that life is more
than a gripping page-turner, misery tantalizing every chapter we face and it may read childish,
may analyze the tragic flaw within myself, but I have always
believed in happy endings, whether in fiction or reality, I know that they are out there. I have to believe that there is a world where Jack suppresses the ghosts, Paul finds the front door
ajar, Brooks is still here, Rachel does not witness the
demolition of her family while still getting to
keep her cool zombie cat. A world where Carrie… gets to be prom queen, the applause from her peers
raining down over her, happiness spilling all over
the dress she crafted by hand, such a prettier color on her… than the blood. (applause)

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