“Attic,” “Thalia and Melpomene” and “And So We Sleep”

“Attic,” “Thalia and Melpomene” and “And So We Sleep”


Three chains:

The first hanging in the hall

Just within reach, but

High enough not to disturb traffic through the short hallway

When pulled with adequate force

Stairs materialized

To be unfolded like steps to a

Royal carriage, or

Ramp to an airplane, engines idling on a foggy tarmac, or

Castle’s hidden passage, or

Spy’s escape route

Swinging open, the portal breathed like the opening of a crypt

Dumping frigid air in the winter

Exposing first your groping hands, then your face, then your whole body to

Ferociously hot vapors in the summer

As your legs disappeared through the ceiling in the hallway, just outside the bathroom door

Your spirit infiltrated a nether realm of deep shadow and claustrophobic closeness

Objects registered in the conscious mind as chair, chest, lamp, cabinet

Round boxes (that turned out to contain ridiculous or amazing hats)

Walking sticks and umbrellas

Picture frames, some with phantom pictures (as if they were really empty!)

Piles of magazines and newspapers

All illuminated by the half-light of grills along the roofline

Easily imagined as prison bars, or portholes, or

Wrought-iron grates connecting to unseen streets or passages

In distant destinations on National Geographic maps or

Uncomfortably close realms of the


Or light creeping in through your legs from the retreating world of the hallway

Or light from a flashlight, a handy tool for any treasure hunter (worth its weight in gold!)

Be sure to walk on the planks of wood to avoid the



Vacuum of space

Reach of captured creatures

Grasp of the “damned” (not the curse word, the souls of evil people!)

Swirling rapids

Ocean’s depths

Trolls (especially trolls!)

The air is heavy with dust mites

Alive in this place

Rendering the air as if water in the sea

Or as dust stirred for the first time in centuries with the opening of this holy (or unholy) space

As dust used to conjure the magic of fairies or magi or warlocks

As smoke in a warzone

A burning three-master

A downed bomber behind enemy lines

A crippled submarine running silent after a torpedo attack

A vaporized mechanical warrior in a galaxy far away.

The second chain?

A light switch you pulled

To find the box of Christmas ornaments for your Grandmother.

The third chain?

The attic fan, of course.

The house gets really hot and still from time to time

Just be sure the side vents are open...

Thalia and Melpomene


A poet and a writer, I

never to

break a poem

just for syntax’


just to satis

fy a rule To finish off that thought


To justify some excellence or utter a disclaiming claim

please leave the blessed thing alone to stew in its own juice

you’ve said it nowa poet beLeave writing to that other self



Even if you are a poet, commas should still matter!

If you do not think so, then let’s eat Sweetheart.

You and all others who want to take words and then

“to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

(Do not get me started on split infinitives!)

Emote all you want. Unleash your passion. Bleed on the paper if you must.

Would it kill you, however, to do so with several complete sentences?

What happens when even brilliant, far-sighted people wax too poetic?

You get, “All men are created equal.”

This ideal may be one of the most important claims ever made

by those who wish to govern justly. It also started a rebellion

that led to the establishment of the longest standing democracy.

Nevertheless, it is in the passive voice!

It also did not include slaves and is sexist to boot!*

Penultimately, please get right with the Oxford comma!

That means you, and you, and you!

I am a writer (and a poet). So, bleed away, my other, poetic, self.

Find comfort in no punctuation, but please do not confuse all of that

[unclear antecedent] with good writing.

* From Old English “to bote,” meaning something included in a bargain.

And So We Sleep

Falling asleep, I touch the night

As consciousness creeps out of sight,

Replaced by dreams out of control

To mock the mind and time they stole;

To fill the gaps left by the stress

Of days filled with ungodly mess;

Responsibility gone mad

And joy and hopes and dreams turned sad.

Yet consciousness of love retains

Sweet melodies of life’s refrain,

Of joy and hope and dreams, a song

To sing with those who came along.

And so, these melodies of life

Become the antidote to strife;

They are the angel choir we hear

When loved ones whisper in our ear

And spark a dream, or calm fear,

Or make us laugh, or shed a tear;

When beauty is too much to bear

Our souls cry out, a song to share.

And one of those who came along

Will offer us their inmost song,

Rekindling trust that love will keep

Us safe tonight, and so we sleep.

About the Author

Russell Willis

Russell Willis emerged as a poet in 2019 with the publication of three poems in The Write Launch. Since then, he has published poetry in over thirty online and print journals and twenty print anthologies. He won the Sapphire Prize in Poetry in the 2022 Jewels in the Queen’s Crown Contest (Sweetycat Press). Russell grew up in and around Texas (USA) and was vocationally scattered as an engineer, ethicist, college/university teacher and administrator, and Internet education entrepreneur and pastor throughout the Southwest and Great Plains, finally settling in Vermont with his wife, Dawn.

Read more work by Russell Willis.