My first unsupervised trick-or-treat
as the full moon rises behind the trees
like a cheap pumpkin-shaped bucket—
me, a store-bought Batman, plastic cape
snapping in the chill October wind.
A strange kid joins me on Maple.
Turns out we have the same name.
He’s dressed up like Howdy Doody,
that TV marionette with red hair
my dad watched when he was a boy.
The kid and I bond over chocolate and gummy worms,
fart jokes and hilarious pranks we’ll pull
when we’re teenagers. He’s way too excited
about Halloween, like it was his first
and with a threadbare pillowcase full of candy
he disappears into the autumn mist.
I get home, still buzzing with sugar, tell
my parents everything but Dad gets angry
and runs to the garage. Mom asks in a whisper
if I know why he’s always hated Halloween.
Dad had a sickly little brother
who loved ghost stories and masks
but was too weak to go trick-or-treating.
It was nineteen years ago tonight
that he died— he was the same age as me.
Bartholomew Barker is one of the organizers of Living Poetry, a collection of poets and poetry readers in the Triangle region of North Carolina. His first poetry collection, Wednesday Night Regular, written in and about strip clubs, was published in 2013. His second, Milkshakes and Chilidogs, a chapbook of food inspired poetry was served in 2017. Born and raised in Ohio, studied in Chicago, he worked in Connecticut for nearly twenty years before moving to Hillsborough where he makes money as a computer programmer to fund his poetry habit.