B. H. Fairchild
Before the lights went out, looking back
in a full house, you must have seen
old faces, child-like with expectancy.
The strangest things can happen. Here.
And then you knew we wanted dreams
where all the terrors that we learned
weren’t real, were real, here, in the dark:
dreams that flickered like venetian blinds
in a white-frame houses where we stood
in halls with roses on the walls, stared
at doors the wind slammed shut, yelled
up stairs before we took one step,
and then another, up. And ran back down.
You took us only where we’d been
before, and then made every fear
come true. The hall that darkens
at the end, leads to darker rooms.
The door that keeps the unknown out,
lets it come in. The winding stairs
that draws us from our mothers’ laps,
won’t let us come back. We stand there,
looking up, and all the shrieks and
flapping wings we ever woke up from,
we wake up to. And when we leave,
glad for light outside dim movie houses,
we grow back into day and wide, white streets.
I have to admit I’m not terribly fond of this poem. There are a couple of phrases in it that make me wince, and I think the end is terribly weak. Plus, frankly, I’m tired of the whole Hitchock: Master of Suspense thing. Yes, the man was brilliant at building up that sense of nerve-wracking tension, of fear and foreboding. But to focus exclusively on that is to miss out on so much more in his films – the quirky little comic turns, the natural ease of his characters, the sheer audacity of combining light-hearted romance with tales of murder and intrigue. Admittedly this is probably more true of his early British films than of his later work (why, oh why would someone with Hitchcock’s talent waste it on Tippi Hedren?), but still.
Having said that, Fairchild’s poem does accurately capture the nightmarish menace of Hitchcock’s films, the way he shows us, again and again the possibility of terror in the heart of the ordinary, so that we can never step into a shower or stare out of the rear window at a neighbor or watch birds gathering on a nearby tree without experiencing that slight premonition of horror, without imagining, for only a split-second, how things could turn out terribly wrong.