Tony Trigilio’s recent poetry collections are Book 1 of The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood) (BlazeVOX Books, 2014) and White Noise (Apostrophe Books, 2013). He is editor of Elise Cowen: Poems and Fragments (Ahsahta Press, 2014). He hosts the monthly poetry podcast Radio Free Albion and plays in the band Pet Theories. He is Interim Chair of the Department of Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago.


“Inspired by the restless dead of Collinsport” and 
“Love, American style” 


Tony Trigilio

“Inspired by the restless dead of Collinsport”

From Book 2, The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood)

Inspired by the restless dead of Collinsport,
I returned this weekend to Camp Chesterfield,

the American Spiritualist community
founded in 1886, with Liz, David Trinidad,

and Jeffery Conway, and on July 20,
the day my mother would’ve turned 87,

she appeared to Rev. Cindy Spencer
during a public message service

in the Chesterfield chapel (we sat with
numerologist Patricia Kennedy, who cares

for the four of us like a psychic grandma),
identifying herself to Rev. Spencer

as “Margie,” the nickname everyone
used when she was alive instead of

calling her “Margaret” or, yes, “Maggie”;
it’s time to open all the graves—Barnabas,

Josette, and now Margie Trigilio: possessed
in shamanic thrall by my mother, Rev. Spencer 

began to mimic my drumming, her arms
and wrists snapping as if she sat behind

a clairvoyant drum kit, and told me
to change the time signature by which

I live (no such thing as coincidence,
I’d been playing one of my band’s newest

songs in my head before the service,
breaking down the musical notation

to figure out if the song should be in 5/4
time instead of 4/4)—”you change the beat,”

she said, “you change your whole life”;
later, eating cream of tomato soup

at a Panera in Chesterfield, David said
he cried when my mother reminded me,

through Rev. Spencer, I used to hold on
tightly to her pointer finger as a toddler

anytime we left the house (immediate flash
of memory, walking with her to the car,

age two, late-August sun’s prickly reflection
off the rusted chrome door handle of our

Dodge Dart as I gripped her finger in my
tiny left hand, always excited to leave

the house with my parents and be driven);
“I wanted to cry, too,” I said to David—

it’s been a decade since I felt her
spectral presence this strongly,

except in dreams—”but I knew if I did,
I’d forget everything my mother was saying.”

I’m not as brainy-tough as I thought,            
if a stranger in a Spiritualist chapel

in the plains of rural Indiana
can bring my dead mother back,

talking more lucidly than she did after
her stroke—I haven’t been able to speak

Italian since she died—with everyone frozen
around me like the wooden owls my

brother-in-law whittled at his garage work
bench in the 1970s; fitting that the eccentric

5/4 opening bass line of Jethro Tull’s
“Living in the Past” comes to mind

(definitely not hip to make allusions
to prog rock in a goth poem, but I can’t

help myself—once, in a graduate school
workshop, I brought a poem to class

that unironically, I confess, appropriated
lines from “Thick as a Brick”), but this only

confuses me more, since I’m actually trying
to live in the present moment of the past, 

even though I’ve been mired in the past,
the 1795 plotline, for 67 episodes, and tonight

Little David, the psychic child, returns
as sensitive Daniel Collins, Millicent’s little

brother, and immediately is preyed upon
by Rev. Trask, as he is by Barnabas

in the twentieth century (all children are
unsafe in Collinsport, no matter what

millennium they live in): “You have been
touched by the Devil,” the witchfinder tells

frightened Little Daniel, “a devil was with
you daily, teaching you, playing with you—

your only hope is to talk with me.”


“Love, American style”

From Book 2, The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood)

Love, American style: Angelique suffers
insomnia on their wedding night, Barnabas

misses cues and stumbles over his lines. 
Just in case we forgot the end of yesterday’s

episode, Angelique talks to herself,
narrating the entire final scene—

Ben Stokes caught stealing a black hair
ribbon from Abigail Collins’s bedroom—

the witch-bride’s maniacal reflection
glowing in an Old House mirror;

Angelique’s voiceover speaks right
back to her, garbled and distorted

like a desperate ham radio transmission.
Rev. Trask celebrates Episode 400

with another clumsy exorcism—
this time using a dowsing rod whose

tips he set on fire (how often I followed
the smoke that rose in double-helixes 

from my mother’s Salems, transfixed,
watching her watch Dark Shadows,

vapors wending their way to the ceiling).

Poor sap: Ben Stokes escapes the Collins
family dungeon in the Old House

basement—where Barnabas will imprison
Maggie Evans in 1967—only to find

himself trapped in the prison-house
of language: “I know who the witch is,”

he says, “but I can’t write her name.”

“‘A’ is for Angelique,” Barnabas says after

Ben scratches the witch’s initial in dust

(Cold comfort for the vampire-in-waiting).
Don’t listen to Barnabas, Countess du Prés:

Everyone you’ve met in the haunted Collins
Family is enchanted by visions, wisps,

Ghosts, exorcists (and now a 1967 bat prop
Hovering above Barnabas and Josette).

I admit I’m growing fond of 1795:
Josette, puzzled, studies the chroma-

Keyed, time-traveling bat, its fox face
Leering back at her vintage art-school

Mourning dress; a fake bat—Little David’s
Nemesis, last seen flitting about Episode 341—

Ominous red eyes and distorted, low-fi
Prerecorded chirping: the prop’s bloodstruck

Quiver as it dangles from a stagehand’s string.
Rainy April night in Chicago, and Angelique

Slings her dying hex, finally, upon Barnabas;
Taking one last breath, the spurned witch-bride

Utters a spell that brings back the chirpy
Vampire bat (the shabby little prop 

Wobbles when it bites Barnabas’s neck),
Explaining, after 40 episodes of 18th-century

Yacketyakking, how Barnabas Collins got
Zapped for eternity by a vampire curse:

“A” is for Angelique—and Abecedarian fatigue!