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Three Poems by Tony Trigilio 

Episode 737: January 1, 2020

from Book 4, The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood)

It’s New Year’s Day 2020 and I’m trapped in a Dark Shadows 1897 time-travel fantasy with frock coats and evening gowns that look like awkward prom dresses while Laura, who was burned at the stake in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1896 but brought back to life the following year—just as her enchanted children were shipped off to a New England punishment school—dies yet again, this time by romantic candlelight on a luxurious rose and lemon, floral patterned velour bedspread, an uncomfortably erotic death scene in her boudoir with Quentin, who kisses her and remarks on the coldness of her lips as she takes her final breaths. Or so it seems, since this is necromaniacal Collinsport, after all, where the dead never perish, they just change into different period costumes (the afterlife is a wardrobe). Later, summoning her last ounce of occult energy before the credits roll, Laura gazes boozily into the crackling bedroom fireplace and prays to Amen-Ra at an exotic fever pitch until, eventually, the Egyptian deity manifests as Collins family servant Dirk Wilkins, who brings Laura back to life, Egypt’s King of the Gods suddenly taking great interest in the decadent melodrama of a wealthy, nineteenth-century family living in Nowheresville, Maine.

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Episode 781: April 6, 2021

from Book 4, The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood)

There is danger for me everywhere now

Carl knows what you are—he saw you yesterday in your coffin

I must find another coffin to rest in

I challenge you, Barnabas—stay in this room with me till sunrise

 

Carl knows what you are—he saw you yesterday in your coffin

Carl is dead—because he discovered my secret

I challenge you, Barnabas—stay in this room with me till sunrise

What has the dawn to do with me

 

Carl is dead—because he discovered my secret

You will have to return to your coffin before morning

What has the dawn to do with me

The sight of the cross disturbs you—doesn’t it, Mr. Collins

 

You will have to return to your coffin before morning

It won’t be easy to find out where I keep the coffin

The sight of the cross disturbs you—doesn’t it, Mr. Collins

There is no coffin in my cellar

 

It won’t be easy to find out where I keep the coffin

Are you getting nervous, Mr. Collins

There is no coffin in my cellar

Show us where you keep your coffin

 

Are you getting nervous, Mr. Collins

I didn’t tell you—I moved my coffin

Show us where you keep your coffin

Very well—I shall return at dawn

 

I didn’t tell you—I moved my coffin

We’ve made considerable progress finding the coffin

Very well—I shall return at dawn

Dead by day, alive by night—without a coffin, you cannot exist

 

We’ve made considerable progress finding the coffin

I must find another coffin to rest in

Dead by day, alive by night—without a coffin, you cannot exist

There is danger for me everywhere now

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Bent at the waist, straining against

her corseted, floor-length beige

gown with cornstalk-yellow lace

collar, Charity covers her face

and shrieks as Quentin’s portrait

 

turns into a werewolf’s, and Charles

Delaware Tate rushes to console her,

moving nimbly in his loose-fitting,

cobalt-blue painter’s smock (topped

with a black cravat) to pour her

 

a glass of sherry, calming Charity

just enough for her to venture forth

into the haunted Styrofoam forest

outside Collinwood, blonde shoulders

covered with a purple knit shawl,

 

at which point Dan Curtis, the show’s

creator, directing his 20th (and next-to-

last) episode, cuts to a pair of oxblood

candles in close-up—just one burning

when the scene opens, yet both aflame

 

by the end, thanks to a resourceful

stagehand with a pack of matches—

on a table behind the black iron

bars of the Old House dungeon where

Barnabas locked up Little Jamison,

 

the camera pulling back for a shot

of the boy calling for help, his cries

summoning Magda, who charges into

the scene, her jet-black wig askew,

twilight-blue peasant skirt swishing,

face smeared with thick, amber-tan

greasepaint, an oily sheen evoking

once more the network’s fetish for

daytime soap blackface—its ongoing

struggle to transform Grayson Hall

 

into a convincing 19th-century Romani

fortune teller with a Viennese psycho-

analyst accent living in rural Maine—

Magda’s black velour blouse wreathed

in so many costume necklaces her body

 

jangles when she dashes to Jamison’s

cell door, where, later in the scene,

the enchanted little boy, still dutifully

wearing Count Petofi’s black leather

gloves, dupes Magda into believing

 

he’s no longer possessed by the Count,

whose supernatural butler Aristede

watches Tate return to tonight’s episode

in a black fedora (with silver-black hat-

band) tilted to the side, Whitman-like,

 

and a nightingale-green Inverness cape,

complaining in his signature croupy

whine that the Count bewitched his

painting career (I have to confess,

I wasn’t listening, distracted by the scaly

 

gold frippery gilding Aristede’s vest

and the gigantic, disc-shaped matching

gold pendant on a silver pearl chain that

hangs down to his stomach and whose

goofy excess calls to mind the enormous

 

black-and-white clock that Public Enemy

co-founder Flavor Fav used to wear

around his neck and that, like Aristede’s

pendant, dangled all the way to his belly,

too), the Aegean-green, ersatz stone walls

 

of Aristede’s super-villain hideout aglow

with a touch of mausoleum-gray beneath

the harsh soundstage Klieg lights as Tate

paces the cavern grumbling over Count

Petofi’s occult tampering with the lousy

 

portrait of Quentin (whose werewolf face

Charity ran screaming from) he painted

by the dim light of three cerulean candles

in Sam Evans’s cramped 1968 studio after

arriving tonight by steamship from Paris.

Tony Trigilio's recent books include Craft: A Memoir (forthcoming from Marsh Hawk Press); Proof Something Happened, selected by Susan Howe as the winner of the Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize (2021); and Ghosts of the Upper Floor (BlazeVOX [books], 2019). He is a Professor of English and Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago.

Episode 807: July 3, 2022

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from Book 4, The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood)

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