There is no one there.
This excerpt from a little poem, entitled Antigonish, has frightened me ever such a little bit since I was young. It strikes me now that it has not a little of the Lynchian about it. It is contradictory, or perhaps paradoxical, it’s a little frivolous, comedic even, and yet that last line, the repetition of “I wish”, has always seemed to me to underline the fact that this man’s ‘appearance’ on the stairs, and his refusal to leave, is less funny than it is terrifying.
The poem goes on:
“When I came home last night at three
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door… (slam!)
Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away.”
Of course the addition in the last stanza of the word “little” brings to mind the man from another place, but it’s more the blatant impossibility of this man that… well, that scares me just a little bit even to this day. I know it’s probably meant as nothing but a piece of absurdist verse to make you smile a bit then forget it, but I never have.
It will not surprise many who know me to learn that from the age of around 4 to perhaps 12 or 13, I had nightmares almost nightly. Sleeping with the light on didn’t help because, of course, when your eyes are closed it’s always dark. Nowadays I very seldom remember my dreams but when I do, they’re often… ‘unpleasant’. And it’s the strange dream logic, the ability of very ordinary or seemingly innocent or only vaguely uncanny things to scare the living shit out of you, that’s something I always think about when I think of the above poem.
Lynchian as all-get-out, I’d say. One thing David Lynch does better than perhaps any film maker or artist I know of, is scare me. Why I happen to like it, is perhaps a question for another time, or indeed a lengthy and expensive bout of therapy.
Another instance of the poem that no doubt anchored it in my young mind, and which also frightened me quite a bit, was it’s use in an episode of Sapphire & Steel, a series often scary as hell, weird as fuck and, if our motif isn’t getting too tiresome, not a little Lynchian:
Despite its dated effects and somewhat overwrought acting, I would certainly recommend Sapphire & Steel to any and all Lynch fans; all episodes of which are available on DVD.
And finally, another echo of the poem from yet another (in)famous David:
“We passed upon the stair,
We spoke of was and when.
Although I wasn’t there,
He said I was his friend…”
– David Bowie, from The Man Who Sold The World