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KIERON WALQUIST | Here at FEARFEST in Columbia, Missouri

I’m rather unimpressed by the monsters that’re supposed to be scary: the hick

with a toothless chainsaw & Budweiser-belly, the freaky girl & her ragdoll bought at a yard sale.

That hoss hollering about carving me to pieces? He’s a gas station attendant

at Casey’s, the one who chaws sunflower seeds & spits in a solo cup. That possessed princess

combing her doll’s mud-matted hair? She’s the niece of that lady who shampoos dogs with her wedding rings

on. Still, in the October cold, I wait with Joshua for the 20-dollar horror. We watch young couples

hold one another in prom pose & shuffle slow. Already they’re scared: of the night’s

potential, of pissing themselves or using the porta potty. Joshua jabs at my ribs, trying to scare me. But

nothing’s scary out here—just high corn, hormonal teens in hoodies, an old farmhouse. Still, I part

the black plastic & descend into someone else’s fever-nightmare. It’s kind of tacky & thrown together:

a child’s bedroom, a butcher’s meat freezer, a circus tent with killer clowns gone horse from wicked

laughter. But that’s not scary. What’s scary is when a monster pops out of nowhere

& we all touch. We’re not supposed to touch, but we do—Joshua has my waist, I hug his side,

the monster holds our shoulders—& it screams what we can’t. Screams, Don’t stop don’t stop.

Kieron Walquist, a cross between a God-knows-what and a Lord-have-mercy, received his BA from Lincoln University of Missouri, and is currently an MFA candidate at Washington University in St. Louis. His work appears / is forthcoming in Cider Press Review,, Gingerbread House, Gulf Coast, and Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle, and has been nominated for Best New Poets 2020.


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