What Were You Scared Of As A Child?

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My mother barely let me watch television
and then only educational stuff like Sesame Street
that couldn’t possibly damage my young mind.
As a result, I had waking nightmares
that Cookie Monster was climbing out
of the TV set shouting ‘Cookies, Cookies’
and trying to shove me into the blue furriness
of his open mouth with the crumbs falling out.
The thought of those crumbs still makes me
feel slightly queasy. Fear is what we make of it.

When you were little, your mother pulled
the cushions off your eyes because
she was determined to demonstrate
that you were being ridiculous and there was
nothing remotely creepy about ET.
Everybody’s favourite Extra Terrestrial.
By twenty two, you completely agreed with her
and sat down to watch it again thinking
it was about time you got over this.
But the moment the ball rolled into the bushes,
you broke out in a cold sweat and switched it off.
Even now just a photo in a magazine
of that glowing finger makes you start in surprise.
Fear has no intention of phoning home.

When you were in bed, you saw the witch
from Snow White appearing at your window,
you heard Gollum whispering precious,
you felt the cold hands of China dolls
touching your face, you smelt zombies
breathing in your ear. You worried your aunt
would turn the sun off, you’d lose your Mum
at a party, that a hook would shoot up
from the pavement and drag you down and kill you,
that Santa would come into your room on Christmas Eve.
You feared that moment when the horse bolted
and the saddle slipped off, not the fall itself
but the moment you knew you were going to fall
before you hit the ground. People wearing masks
in shopping malls, the Chuckle brothers, the toilet monster,
being alone, dying unhappily, finding yourself far from home
when you lose your loved ones. Fear never grows old.

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