Beware the trick of treats, my little one,
of sugary ideals, of endless halcyon

as you go forth this hallowed eventide
your begging pleasure bag held open wide

go not oblivious, bewitched into oblivion.

Candy corn spits from a saw-toothed gun
marshmallow ghosts devour a skeleton

behind your mask’s deceit remain clear-eyed:
beware the trick of treats.

This world’s a mixing bowl of bleak and fun
of up and down, of swapping rain and sun

two one-eyed tadpoles circling inside
give a close chase that’s never satisfied

and bitters dwell with sweets, my little one,
beware the trick of treats.

59 responses »

  1. What a wonderful admonitory poem—with a bit of tongue in cheek, it seems. Are you referring to the yin/yang symbol? If so, it’s a brilliant image. As always, the sound of your words is deep and rich. I love the swap to “trick of treats” from “trick or treat”. This clever and true poem plunged me back 60 years—and more. Thank you so much!

    • Yes, Natalie, I am referring to the yin/yang symbol, and I’m tickled you spotted it and liked it. Halloween always takes me way back, too… a time when trick-or-treating was actually a lot freer and safer for children, at least in our little town. Halloween was my favorite holiday, better than Christmas or even my birthday. Strange….

  2. Cynthia, I am in love with your diction and the liquid locomotion of the words. The grim portent with which the poem opens is musical to a fault and grislier for the effect. The hallowed eventide is fraught with saw-toothed guns that usher to oblivion β€”the music continues and so does the warning getting intense by the syllable. The inevitability of co-existence of the up and down, bleak and fun, and bitter and sweet has been marvellously captured by the imagery of two one-eyed tadpoles gyrating in a vicious circle. The recurrence of the caveat at the end solidifies the magma.

    • Isn’t Walter de la Mare just perfect for this season? His “All Hallows” is incomparable, and I have liked reading what he has to say about imagination—in the child and in the adult. I’m honored that you are tacking this one up on the wall, Ginene…Walter and I will have a merry old time swapping rhymes!

  3. I can see the black clothes and pointy hat, the broomstick and the black cat… are we to take advice from such a deceitful person pretending to be nice?
    This rondeau is wonderful, Cynthia. I can hear the “hee hee hee” hidden behind the wise admonition. Swapping rain and sun indeed!

    • You’ve reminded me…I must get out my black cape and my pointy black hat —which has long stringy bright orange hair attached. At this stage of the game, I don’t really need a mask, but I blacken a tooth or two with licorice chewing gum. Clutching a big bowl of candy and my broom, I enjoy greeting trick-or-treaters this way. You should see the big eyes on the littlest ones..and they’re never sure about my rendition of hee…hee…hee…

    • Re-reading some of these comments I just realized, Bruce, you made a poem too:

      I can see the black clothes and pointy hat
      The broomstick and the black cat…

      Are we to take advice
      From such a deceitful person
      Pretending to be nice?

  4. Superbe.

    two one-eyed tadpoles circling inside give a close chase that’s never satisfied…bitters and sweets.

    And the advice to expect some bitterness with sugary treats is good for no-talent pop divas as well as for children. Naturally the music scene is scarier than the ghosts and goblins of Halloween, but that’s because we’ve gone soft and no longer use chemotherapy to lend authenticity to our zombie costumes, to give one example.

    • Merci, mon ami.

      I heartily agree that the music scene is scarier than the ghosts and goblins of Halloween. I think it has been so since at least the 1980’s. Consequently I don’t follow it or any of the pop divas. Consequently I can’t really “relate” to the earbud generation in many ways and consequently the only zombies I’ve seen locally weren’t wearing any special costumes. I don’t know whatever happened to the foot-and-a-half long syringe my Dad used to employ in the embalming room.

    • Ah, yes, the sugar load. We used to return home on Halloween with our treat bags loaded and we were not allowed to have but one or two sweets and sent to bed. Then I would hear my father (who was diabetic) raiding our haul. In the morning we discovered most of the really good chocolate bars and caramels were all missing. What was that you said about listen…heed…learn?

  5. Just love this one Cynthia! I hear the doors creaking as they are opened, slow and anxious music filling the air, and a very distant cry into the night ~ a very loud and hollow laugh greats us here. The reference to the world, so true it is ~

      • I went into a Haunted House, back in 1979 – I remember because I’ve never been so scared in my entire life. There was a guide walking us through, well and I kid you not, at one point something scared me so bad that I literally grabbed onto his suit vest and ripped it in two! I’ve never been back to one since – I laugh now, but man talk about nightmares!

  6. Cynthia, I love it how you come up with appropriate poems for the season/time. And with words of wisdom…. Halloween was not part of my growing up in India and neither my boys’ because Halloween was mostly unheard of in Australia. Now the retailers use it to the full. Times have certainly changed. I love it how you caution the “child inside” – another poem that I love πŸ™‚ Thanks again Cynthia for the reading pleasure

    • It’s so sad, how commercialized everything has become, and it seems exacerbated as the world gets more and more connected by technology.

      When I was young (back in the dark ages) November 1 was All Saints Day–a Christian holy day in remembrance of the hallowed dead. The night before–All Hallows Eve (which became Hallowe’en) had a more pagan flavor of all the dead souls returning to spook us.

      The idea was to dress up and wear masks so they couldn’t recognize you! We children spent weeks planning our disguises; they were not commercialized Disney characters or any bought costumes, but elaborate concoctions we created from old clothes in the attic and such. And it was safe, then, for children to wander about the neighborhood after dark so we went from house to house, pretending to be ghosts, devils, witches, or whatever, begging for sweets, which the good humored householders would give us in order to keep us “dead souls” from playing any tricks on them. (Trick or Treat).

      It was all a great deal of fun….at this time of year when the days are getting shorter, the trees are losing their leaves, and everything is a bit foreboding.

      Now, without the cultural underpinning, the whole thing has blown up into a really stupid excuse for eating too much sugar and spending too much on costume parties. And it has spread to places…like yours…which I hope are recognizing it for the crass marketing that it is, and rejecting it.

      Such a long-winded reply to your comment, Shubha, but I thank you for your kind words.

      • That was an enlightening reply Cynthia and I loved it! Thank you. My local 2 dollar shop is full of costumes and webs and plastic pumpkins!!! I’m all for having fun and you are NOT from the dark ages please πŸ™‚

        • Those 2 dollar shops can be very entertaining…second only to art supplies and hardware stores. So funny, about the webs and plastic pumpkins, there in Australia where it is spring! Do have fun, Shubha…that’s what it should be about….

  7. I have been warned. I have been warned. Unfortunately, when I was young in Delta Colorado, the townsfolks closed down Main Street so that the kids, including me and my brothers, could go out into the street and parade the spookiness we thought we made just before our trick or treating began. The old legends of dangerous things in candy or apples was seriously given in stern tones, but then our parents walked with us and made sure we only went to houses they knew were okay. So spookiness and parading turned to sweetness, and even all these years later I hear the strains of the music they musicians played during the parade, haunting, filled with the darkness of a night sky splendid with stars, warning us, warning us, but never really making plain what the warning signified. Ah the sound and fury of your verse, Cynthia. The sound and fury!

    • It sounds like your childhood Hallowe’en, like mine, was full of what are probably now wonderful memories….and without the fury…

      ….indeed, methinks mine sometimes does seem “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

      Many thanks, Thomas

  8. Out of curiosity, I googled the term “trick or treat” to find out how far back it goes, and was surprised to learn that I am only 9 years younger (the earliest known reference appeared in an Alberta, Canada, newspaper, on Nov. 4, 1927). What a trick — now I feel even older than I did before. But at least your poem was a treat.

    • That’s very interesting, mistermuse. I seem to remember reading once that the practice of going from house to house begging on all hallows eve was once called “guising”, from the fact that people dressed in disguises. That practice goes all the way back to medieval times, though….so when you think about it, you’re really a whole lot younger than the middle ages, aren’t you? πŸ™‚
      Thank you very much for your lovely comment.

  9. Speaking of the tricks of treats, I think trick or treat nights were the only times my parents wouldn’t allow us to accept fruit as it was too easy for pins and needles to be disguised in them. Only sealed hard candies and carefully vetted chocolates were permitted. I don’t know if the ‘dangerous fruit’ caution was warranted by anything other than myth. Maybe it was a blunt way of teaching us children the caution that your poem speaks to much more elegantly.

    My favorite part of Halloween was eating the pumpkin pie Grandma made from our scooped out pumpkin heads.

    • We had the same “myth”…the only fruit given, here in the colder climate, were apples, and we all had bushels of apples at home in the fall, so they weren’t considered a true “treat,” unless they were dipped in candy, and nuts or coconut, and on a stick. Actually, most goodies were homemade…caramel popcorn balls, homemade fudge, all-day-suckers, decorated cookies (biscuits)…and since everyone knew everyone in town, it was pretty safe. These kinds of treats would never be trusted today.

      It was a lot of messy work, as I recall, scooping out those pumpkins to make Jack O’Lanterns. I haven’t done it in years….but I can still taste the pumpkin pie!

  10. What an incantation! Echoes of Yeats and Shakespeare and scary fairy tales. So delightful to read out loud. One of the things I enjoy about poetry is learning new words or using old words in a new way (at least, new to me) and you did that with “halcyon” which I’ve always thought was an adjective. I like the play of it in your opening stanza and how it made me think of not only the old cliche “halcyon days” but as a candy. Probably a molasses candy, but sweet and sticky. Great fun.

    • Oh…I like your invention of that molasses candy. Quite appropriate since molasses is sweet but has a tinge of a bitter edge. Maybe we could start our own candy company, Susanne, and sell it throughout Canada and the US…..”Halcyon, the candy of poets….”

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