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Stinky kid sneakers peek beneath
ghostly sheets and shredded zombie jeans.
Chatty moms herd sugarbuzzed superheroes
and tween princesses off strangers' lawns
onto frosty concrete to await safe treats.

But half past nine, flashlight batteries die,
buzzing streetlamps flicker to silent black
as scudding clouds blot the gibbous moon;
manly hearts jump as small sweaty fingers
impatiently twist free from daddies’ hands.

And in the sudden dark, for just a moment,
cheap cotton gauze spins to Egyptian linen,
latex and greasepaint become twitching scars,
hairy feral muscle splits wispy nylon rags,
and every smile stinks of clotted blood.

But in a heartbeat, the dire clouds retreat,
the moon shines brave and the lamps relight.
Trembling parents retrieve little tricksters,
ruffle hair, press hands to narrow chests,
unable to feel the monsters burning inside.

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