Escapril 2021 – Day 18: Nightmare

For those who don’t know, Escapril is the brainchild of poet and novelist Savannah Brown, who challenges the poets of Instagram to write and post a poem every day of National Poetry Month. Whilst Brown wouldn’t call herself a leader of the challenge, she is the “managerial ghost” of the @letsescapril Instagram account.

The prompt today is nightmare.” Immediately, my mind went to the worst nightmare I’ve ever had. I had the nightmare when I was eight. I’ve had many nightmares since, but none have succeeded in terrifying me as much as Samara.

See, when I was eight, my mum decided to let me watch The Ring (2002). For those who don’t know, the movie is an American remake of Hideo Nakata’s Japanese film Ring (1998), which is itself an adaptation Koji Suzuki’s 1991 novel of the same name. The plot concerns a cursed videotape, whereby anyone who watches the tape will receive a phone call telling them they have seven days left to live. Once the seven days are up, Samara – or Sadako Yamamura in the original novel and Japanese adaptation – climbs out of your TV and kills you.

We all need to have our first horror film, but this one probably wasn’t the best choice at my age. I was still terrified of the Bear and Lion from Teletubbies at the time.

So, that night, I had a nightmare of Samara breaking down my front door to kill my family. But in the dream she was also half-horse. If I had Photoshop and the skill to use it, I’d show you the Samara-Centaur you’d all then wish you could un-see. Alas, you’ll just have to use your imaginations.

For the poem, I decided to take that childhood night terror and juxtapose it with the nightmare I and many others are currently living in. Jobseeking and loneliness have defined my pandemic experience, and I know that’s been true for many others. Sleep has been one of the few escapes from this monotonous misery.

I thought the contrast of fearing sleep as a child vs. craving it as an adult in relation to different nightmares was interesting. Here’s the poem that came of it:

First two stanzas on a black background, the outline of half a woman’s face looking ahead is cut off by the far-right edge
Last two stanzas on the same background

Here’s the poem again, minus my first attempts at using Canva:

Samara once came to me in a dream,
her torso sewn to the body of a horse.
My veins turned green at her touch
like her palms were sweating with poison.
My shoulder blades were like eggshells,
they cracked and crumbled as she clenched
her fists into them, so tight like she was
terrified. But I was the one paralysed.
My spine could only rock back and forth,
whilst my feet fused into the floorboards.
I was a sickly green metronome, counting
the beats of my mother’s dying screams.
Samara had once been my worst nightmare.
I was eight years old, scared to sleep
for weeks. Now sleep is all I can crave.
My bedroom walls condemn me to safety.
All I do is auction my spine to profiteers
who pass up on breaking my shoulders.
My history of blood, sweat and tears is
never bloody, sweaty and teary enough.
They say I should try bleeding for free.
Samara has become a fond memory
now that I’m skin starved and nostalgic
for nightmares. My back and neck ache
and yet I yearn for my shoulders to break.
I sleep alone with my nothingness. Paralysis
would now mean feeling something again.
Samara once came to me in a nightmare
and made waking to reality hopeful.
Samara, come help me dream again.

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