of the dark began on a winter evening
at the age of eight in Queens

when I walked down
the creaky wooden stairs
of my childhood home
to the kitchen for an apple.

When I looked to the snow-filled yard,
under the full moon,
my eyes caught a clown-like figure.

With onyx dots for eyes,
a woolen mask was slipped over his face.
Behind him,
a large shadow on the sparkling snow.

Was he a ghost looking like a joker?
He jumped from side to side and signaled me
towards him. I wanted to run,
but hovered between a child’s curiosity
and an adult’s fear.
My instincts made me leave.

I scurried back upstairs,
so fast, the railing burning my hand.
At the top of the stairs,
I peered down the dark stairwell—
was the swooshing sound
the joker or the wind?

Safe in my room,
I landed in the arms
of my Tiny Tears doll
holding space on my bed.

Diana Raab, PhD, is an award-winning memoirist, poet, blogger, speaker, and author of 10 books and is a contributor to numerous journals and anthologies. Her two latest books are, “Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life,” and “Writing for Bliss: A Companion Journal.”