Nightmare on Elm Street

By T. J. Sandella

Featured art by Vrouw aan kaptafel

Though they’re meant to be our protagonists,
we detest these teenagers
who fall for the same tricks and traps
in every film
and because they keep coming back
dumber and hotter
decade after decade
with their perky breasts and discernible abs
and the way they throw themselves mercilessly
against one another
in backseats and on twin beds
and because they smoke cigarettes
and slug soda and beer
and because dialysis and diabetes
will never creep like Freddy
into their dreams.
Because they’re always in love
and loneliness is as unimaginable
as feigning sleep
so the person next to you
will stop kissing your neck
though you still care for her
and he’s still beautiful
or maybe you don’t
and maybe he’s not
or maybe the workday has emptied you
of desire for anything
but seven hours of silence
and maybe these are the words you say
that can’t be forgiven. Curse the children

for not knowing
that if you live long enough
life is mostly washing dishes
and may they suffer
for not believing
that young love dies
when the first person
goes to college
and meets a sorority girl
who can put her legs behind her head
or the backup point guard with the bulging
biceps. Twelve bucks is a bargain
to see these brainless babes
pierced by pitchforks, their chiseled flanks flayed
and hung from hooks. It’s because
their failures will never grind them
into something so small
that they’ll go to a theater alone,
buy some popcorn, and sit in the glow
of another slasher reboot, trying to distract themselves
from their disappointing lives.
It’s because they’ll never rise
between slaughters
and walk out into the night
in a relatively safe neighborhood
on the west side of Cleveland
and sit on a bench
with a pen and some paper
and write this poem,
like I’ve been doing all this time,
trying to find a way to drag
my bloody heart home.


T.J. Sandella is the author of Ways to Beg (Black Lawrence Press, 2021), and is the recipient of two Academy of American Poets Prizes, an Elinor Benedict Prize for Poetry, a William Matthews Poetry Prize, and two Pushcart Prize nominations. His work has appeared in the Best New Poets anthology, Poet Lore, The Chattahoochee Review, Poetry Northwest, and Hotel Amerika, among others. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

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