I.IN THE DENSE, DRY HEAT
the Candy Man sleeps
and dreams of cyanide.

 

He dreams, too,
of colder climates—
the cool blue
of a lake or an ocean—
a humpback whale
spraying its mist
into the mist
along a scenic drive,
the fog on the horizon
so thick it looks like
something material—
cotton candy in the sky.

 

The Candy Man
opens and closes
his pocket knife
beneath his deacon’s
robe during church
eyeing the young
man in the third
row who is a chemist,
thinking of approaching
him during the after
church meal.

 

Halloween is coming,
and the Candy Man
wants to be prepared.

 

II. THE CANDY MAN
buys Pixy Stix
and staples
at the H-E-B.
He trusts a child’s
hands can’t
open them,
but he will help
the right pair
complete the task.

 

The Candy Man
calls the insurance
company. He is
sloppy. All he says
is that he has
a bad feeling
and wants
to be safe.
The Candy Man
doesn’t notice
they are suspicious.

 

The Candy Man
goes through six Stix
before he gets it right.
First: pocket knife sticks in
plastic, must be
forced, slices tube
vertically
when he finally
gets the blade
to move.

Next he sends
three distinct colors
into the air—
pink and blue and green
(and dust is everywhere).
And for the last,
he blames his
scratchy eyes,
blood-
shot little tiny cracks
in porcelain—
coughing up
something sweet with
pink and blue and green
tears cool
on cheeks as dry
as desert dirt.
But he gets one—
then two, then three,
four, and five—
perfectly assembled—
almost factory sealed—
angel dust
silver square halo
gleaming, keeping
them shut
too tightly
for a child’s hands
to open.

 

When his work is finished,
he goes to the bathroom,
still coughing,
a bit sick
to his stomach,
and looks
in the mirror at
his eyebrows.
Brown and grey and
pink and blue and green.

 

III. HALLOWEEN HAS COME.
The Candy Man
works all day

and cannot contain
his excitement.

 

For he is some-
thing truly of the
season.

“We’ll go trick
or treating any-
way,” he says.
“To spite the rain.”

And so it drops
on a little white robe,
his son dressed
like a deacon—
dressed like Daddy.

 

Door to door,
they go,
the Candy Man
and his two kids
and three others.
No house has
Pixy Stix.

 

Damn.

 

Finally they reach
a house where
no one answers.
The Candy Man

vanishes as the group
goes on, then reappears
with five tubes
in his hands of vibrant,
violent colors—
pink and blue and green—

 

and silver quiet
at the end
of each one.

 

IV. THE CANDY MAN
is a good father.

 

He lets his son
have one piece
of candy
before bedtime,

 

and as the
little deacon
is struggling
to decide,
the Candy Man
reaches in-
to the pile
of sweets
and collects
the long,
thin tube
hard like
a bone,
fingers’
length
into his
fingers.

 

The son
trustful
in his
unknowing
accepts
the tube
from his
father,
stuffed and
stiff and
difficult
to open.
He sees
his face
in the
pocket knife
which lifts
the staples
from the
plastic—

steel on steel
unsealing,
the blade
breaking
apart
each hem-
locked
molecule.

 

Not knowing
it will be
his last
candy
this
poor
beautiful boy
with
beautiful eyes
takes the
bitter
on his
tongue

like he
would a
communion
wafer
from his

father’s
hands.

 

Coughing
a little
he spits
it out and
asks for
something
sweet. His
father gives
him cherry
Kool-Aid,
hoping

the boy
will sleep.

 

“I’m burning!”
he cries, some-
thing’s burn-
ing inside—
some ugly
chemical
something
feels like
it’s in there that
shouldn’t be;
small hands
squeeze
his stomach
until he wants
to throw up—
squeezing
even though
it hurts—
the way
you can’t help
but flick your
tongue at a
rotten tooth
inside your
mouth—
the way you
feel the tooth
vibrate
through your
whole skull
and conceive
of it as a
city of veins—
a system of
veins
and cables
supporting
a bridge
about to snap.
Only it’s not
his tooth it’s
his whole body,
and he feels
himself flatten—
his blood rising—
his body filling
with a thick
sludge that’s
coming out
his mouth.

 

He must have
realized
he was dying—
not consciously,
but the way
a de-winged wasp
stops twitching
as it collapses
under a thumb
or its head crumples
between two
fingers.
The way
a dog chooses
a place to lie down
one last time
about fifty feet
from where
your tires slit
its throat open.
Timothy O’Bryan:

dog, boy, insect
begging for life
beneath the weight
of this great cruel
powerful engine:

 

Ronald Clark O’Bryan.
The Candy Man—
holds his
cyanide son,
becoming the lifeless
mannequin his wants
need him to be.

The Candy’s Man’s
white shirt is staining
cherry red, then
pink and blue and green
in pungent puke.
Timothy cries clinging
with a tight grip—
hot wind hissing
from his mouth—
slimy snot scattered
recanting remorse.

 

Finally he
passes out—
and sleeps—
and twitches—
and goes limp.

 

V. THE CANDY MAN’S
excuses are as thin
as his hair,
the circumstances
sticking like
its sweat
on his scalp.

 

No friends in prison
and numerous fruit-
less appeals to an
unforgiving public,
the Candy Man
dies of poison,
too, his last feeling
the heat in his veins

he was trying
so desperately
to escape.

 

And the strangest,
saddest thing
is that such cruelty
could only come
not from a monster
but a man.

 

For the Candy Man
is a man, a man made of
flesh and blood and dust,
with favorite things—
his pocket knife,
the season of Halloween—
his favorite colors:
pink and blue and green.

 

The Candy Man sleeps
and dies and dreams
of cyanide
and cooler climates.