There’s a door that won’t open I’m in a trailer of brown formica which should’ve been white as Christmas lights a shadow-man on the other side with pretty red eyes presses hairy face against screen he’s got gentleness to his terror I want to be his friend

The shadow-man at my dad’s house lived between kitchen and laundry I saw him when I was ten looking through front screen door I’ve always seen ghosts like Barbies I collect and keep them in a tender place 

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Without memory I’ve no security bereft I mourn things I can’t see I’m scared of being wrong about myself and the memories I have I think this is true in the shadow-man house my step-mom beat my brothers maybe it wasn’t a beating maybe it was just a spooning they were allowed to pick the spoon I can’t speak for them anyway I watched 

One time she and my dad cornered me in the black La-Z-Boy and yelled about God because I was confirmed Catholic and they were all Christian rock and projectors it was a betrayal he asked Do you call your stepfather Dad

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Because of my inability to remember things about myself I remember things about the dead Castlereagh saw a ghost in his fireplace a small boy glowing yellow Napoleon’s tent had a ghost of a friend who died on top of him vomiting blood and later Napoleon stepped through the face of a dead man as dogs howled dogs howled the night of Caesar’s assassination in England there’s a dog who appears before you die some people marry ghosts and live with them in quite retirement then go away because of cancerous stomachs

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A good Christian child I pray every night I’m at the shadow man’s house which is my dad’s so now I lay me down to sleep I pray the lord my soul to keep if I should die before I wake I pray the lord my soul to take God bless me I’ve got such sins and God bless my step-mom she’s got a ghost eating her and God bless my mom because I don’t want to be the reason she cries it’s hard because there’s nothing there for me to be crying about but I am I wept good in my aunt’s car when she dropped me off here and I remember a dog chasing me through a neighbour’s yard I peed myself and was more scared of my step-mom knowing I peed myself than the dog I made my aunt swear never to tell 

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My head’s moved out of the shadow-man house so when my mom asks about my dad’s I say only the nicest things which makes it hard to explain why I can’t simply call them on Christmas or answer an email my mom doesn’t know how everything in me clams up when I think of my step-mom how I send birthday cards instead of calling I’m afraid I‘ll be yelled at for something I don’t remember or I’ll be hit like my brothers and I don’t want to be in pain I don’t want to be hurt they used to cry so loudly I didn’t know what to do I have a terror in my chest that is ten year old me I can’t look at the shadow-man’s face because it’s probably nothing I should be stronger and able to hold it all and be fine nothing actually happened after all 


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My step-mom had a cat named Inkspot who could see ghosts my step-mom has an ex-husband who wouldn’t help take down Christmas lights they had been coloured red but left up became white like Florida’s Jesus 

My step-mom saw the shadow-man in the pantry by a cookbook covered in birds it fell off the shelf which is an omen or maybe that didn’t happen she’s as unreliable as I am 

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Even now that she’s healed herself from herself around her I’m still small 


Sara Patterson is a Toronto-based writer. Her work has appeared in publications such as Electric Literature, Minola Review, Plenitude Magazine, Sinking City Review (forthcoming), and Rag Queen Periodical (forthcoming).