The Dungeon of Hell

Written by: Gwendolen Rix

On our tippy toes
Peering from the old basement window-
…was a dingy dungeon of hell

“The girls’ are napping,” mother said
“Please visit another time"
The car door slammed 

...grandmother drove away

An ancient light fixture barely illuminated the basement 
Purposefully, I broke the string  
Then mother couldn’t turn off the lights without 
Scolding her fingers on the yellow light bulb

...light was our survival 

How else could my sister and I spot encroaching insects…
Our basement was their kingdom
To us it was the bowels of hell

Not a soul could hear us weeping as we sat in
The middle of the old mattress on the
Cool damp concrete floor

...well, maybe a mouse 

They were everywhere
Staring at us with delight
Eventually we grew immune to fright

Above us 
Beethoven and Tchaikovsky blared 
As mother dealt with the disappointment of her daughters 
and nervously waited for the  barbiturates to have their desired effect

Hours we waited to hear two sets of footsteps
…then dad would temporarily rescue us from the pit

Musty, dusty, and chilly
I remember using a single pillow case as a blanket
And leaning against the rusty hot water heater 
In the corner where the spiders
Laid their eggs…

As months passed
We resolved to be their new friends
The largest ones I named as I held them in my palms
Curly and Jo Jo

Later grandmother taught us that
Flowers cannot bloom in the darkness
And children should not defecate in jars
Would she not think there would be 
Permanent scars…

Angels kept us entertained 
And a sisters’ bond grew through rage
Even at this age
We are inseparable
As we try hard to forget the time 
We spent in our childhood dungeon of hell

Written for Debbie Guzzie’s Contest “Down in the Dark Dungeon”