Robert Gibb

Trick or Treat

Propriety’s little red brick house. My stepmother insisted that my father 

have it built, on the hill above the cemeteries where she wouldn’t see

the steel mills churning out smoke or suffer the daytime darkness in 

which the streetlights burned. 1952. Which meant Korea and lots of flags 

on the graves and lots of parades, including the ones on Halloween. 

That first year I can’t remember if I was among the ghosts and goblins 

being paraded down Main Street or was taken instead from door to door 

in our strange new neighborhood. The second Truman Administration.

A newly-formed family working out its notions of itself, which involved

trying on costumes as well—Mom and Dad and just who might you be?

What I do remember is the dead of night and being in the bathroom.

Had too much candy made me sick? A minor mystery, unlike the why 

in which that mask was hanging on the back of the door. For hovering 

in the darkness before me was the red horned head of the devil who’d 

been lying in wait, just like they said he did, and though I’d said my 

prayers about dying in my sleep, I couldn’t get by him to save my life. 

Or escape those waiting midnights when I’d costume into furnace greens

and battered orange hard hat, passing once more among the flames.

Robert Gibb is the author of Sightlines (Poetry Press, 2021), his thirteenth full-length poetry collection, winner of the 2019 Prize Americana for Poetry. Other books include Among Ruins, which won Notre Dame’s Sandeen Prize in Poetry for 2017, After, which won the Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize for 2016, and The Origins of Evening (Norton, 1997), which was a National Poetry Series selection. He has been awarded two NEA Fellowships, a Best American Poetry, a Pushcart Prize and Prairie Schooner’s Glenna Luschei and Strousse Awards.