Horror & Dark Fantasy

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Poetry

The Returned

I’m deeply inspired by the dark surrealist photography of Christopher McKenney. His work is ethereal, haunting, and filled with dread and the onset of violence. When I was writing “The Returned,” I asked myself what the creatures and specters in his photographs were saying, and as I expected, each one had a terrifying tale to tell, each one more horrifying than the last.

—SMW

A walking erasure, I return to earth
hungry, a devourer: the musk of moss
and jasmine a repressed memory,
these horns my bloodborne right.

I am blind but thirsty, these forests
a drought, the taste of aged bark
scratching on my tongue, a stray
dog, the laughing hyena, I walk
on the whispers of lost girls, follow
the footsteps of the stolen, the taken,
the misplaced.

You stand there, quiet, still, the beating
of your heart a hummingbird’s,
a rabbit’s. I don’t breathe, but my teeth
sharpen, the sound of your sweat
a beating drum, it pounds into the
dirt like spilled milk, like rotted fruit,
every dial tone cut off, you are made
of wanted posters, fueled by nights
of sleepless mothers.

I drape a red cloth around my shoulders,
not in mourning but in violence: these
echoes of screams, those imprints of
burials six feet and climbing, the scent
of soured urine covers your feet,
your face an avalanche of tears,
empty promises.

Hush now my pet, I lick the fear
from your eyes, bleeding and bloodied,
a child of men, of monsters, you are meat,
a sack of bone meal for my roses
and I have starved centuries for you,
waiting in fog, in closets, your rage
an invitation to this night, this moon:

Now bow your head and say
grace: the Devil is here.

Stephanie M. Wytovich

Stephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction. Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, Brothel, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare, and most recently, The Apocalyptic Mannequin. Her debut novel, The Eighth, is published with Dark Regions Press.

Follow Wytovich on her blog at stephaniewytovich.blogspot.com and on Twitter @SWytovich.