9 to 5 Poetry Project, Poem 19: A Nightmare Before Christmas

Hello, internet people! My “weekend” ended on Saturday (depressing, right), but since I closed again I decided to wait for morning lucidity to write you the next poem in the 9 to 5 Poetry Project. So good morning, and welcome to poem 19.

This one is a bit of a stretch in regards to being “inspired by work” since the subject is from 8 years ago, in high school. But since something that happened at work got my brain in that train of thought, I’m going to say it still counts.

Get out your reading hats for this one, because it’s a bit longer. Enjoy!

A Nightmare before Christmas

Those arms—wrists delicately lined
With faint, carefully aligned pink stripes,
Hidden by a stack of thin black bracelets—
Were the first non-familial arms to hold me,
Wrapped around me like the oversized
Black skeleton sweatshirt you let me wear.
I flaunted it like a prize, my eyes tracing
The white lettering that labeled each bone.

Those lips—the ones that caressed words
With a strangely sexy feminine lisp—
Were the first lips to press against mine.
At fourteen I thought I’d always remember
The brush of a first kiss. Now, all memory
Of the sensation has passed—all except
The mischievous glint in two ice blue eyes
As they locked on to me, choosing a target—
Though of course, at fourteen, I didn’t know.

It was 2006, and I was a high school freshmen,
Expecting to be the “never been kissed” type
For at least two, maybe three more years.
My mother dropped me off at Northgate Mall,
A friend in tow, to keep company while I waited
For my first real, high school date to arrive.

The holiday wreaths—more vibrantly
Christmas themed then—twinkled down at us,
Though it was not yet Thanksgiving.
He walked through the door in a skater shirt,
Black gel bracelets on one arm, a leather band
On the other. His sand-colored hair tousled,
The perfect illusion of unpracticed allure.
It hurt to look at him, he was so exactly my type—
Tall, thin, with muscular arms and a lopsided grin.
Somewhere in my fourteen year old body,
Yearning became a part of its vocabulary.

Less than a week later, his words slashed
Me like a pocket knife had cut, deliberately,
The skin of his wrists—gentle enough not to kill,
But calculated to leave an indelible mark;
“I just wanted you to know, I cut myself sometimes.”
At fourteen, this seemed exactly the kind of thing
True love was supposed to endure, to fix.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas Day,
We sat on a worn old couch in the basement,
Watching A Nightmare Before Christmas in semi darkness.
Perhaps, had things gone differently, I would understand
That cult affection for a claymation monstrosity,
For creatures shaped, unnaturally, out of fear.
But as it stands, I am reminded of cold calculations
To show a fourteen year old girl that love is not real.
To hold her close and push her away until youth’s elasticity
Seems faded.

I see a penciled-in mural of the film’s iconic scene,
Marring the white walls of a teenager’s bedroom—
This, like anything else he did, a thoughtless whim,
Leaving a trace that may fade or be erased,
But which would leave its mark even beneath
A fresh, white coat of paint.

Note: I promise there’s a connection–however faint–to work in here. The other day a few of my coworkers started talking about A Nightmare Before Christmas, debating its merits and eventually singing the “This is Halloween” song. Ever since I first saw it in my ex boyfriend’s basement, I’ve had a pretty strong distaste for the movie, both because it creeps me out and because it reminds me of my high school naivety and the bad situation that could’ve been a lot worse. So I wrote this poem about it, which I hope makes at least a tentative amount of sense.

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