Skip to main content
SearchLoginLogin or Signup


"But I knew, even then, that he would always climb back up"

Published onJan 03, 2024

Photo by Man Dy:

The childhood dream
of the gnarled beast beneath
the bed. Long rotting grin
slowly opening and closing
with a castanet click
in thick darkness.
Waiting, still.

My father would have to kneel down
and reach in and make great play,
a dumb show in the shadows,
of pulling him out and
wrestling him to the top of the stairs
and then throwing him down.
It was a nightly ritual.

But I knew, even then, that
he would always climb back up,
his pale scaly belly scraping
the bare edges of each stair
and then silently across carpet
to creep back under the bed
to wait once more.

Yellow peg teeth in darkness,
stoned eye, like a well, in darkness, 
the weight of him, in darkness,
black carved claws in darkness,
saw-edged tail heavy in darkness,
a spell, occult, in darkness,
stilled, apprehensive, in darkness.

To wait once more
for the unsleeping child
to drift or forget, and let
limp foot or finger
fall from between sheets,
and linger within reach.
Waiting, still.

And now, even now,
when the night is unquiet
and sleep is a shadow
I slip into and out of,
I hear the slow slither,
the click-clacking teeth,
and know he climbs up still
for me, and always will.

Ben Tufnell is a curator and writer based in London. His poems have appeared in Anthropocene, Entropy, La Picioletta Barca, Pangyrus, The Rialto, Shearsman and Smartish Pace, amongst others, and stories have been published in Conjunctions, Litro, Lunate, Storgy and Structo. His debut novel, THE NORTH SHORE, is published by Fleet (Little, Brown).




No comments here
Why not start the discussion?