Robert Cooperman

Camping for the Night East of Salt Lake City, 1972

After three days of driving from New York, 
we stopped at a Utah state park for the night, 
our bodies thrumming from the ancient Valiant.
Too wired to sleep, we sat around the campfire, 
and since I’d admitted to a Masters in Lit, 
Dwayne, Eva, and Brendan cajoled me 
into telling a horror or ghost story:
“The Cropsey Maniac,” the scary favorite 
at the Catskills camp where I’d been a counselor: 
A burned-down mansion and a madman avenging 
his bride’s death by fire-careless Boy Scouts.
I held the flashlight under my ghoul’s face
while I croaked the fate of the doomed troop.  
Had this been a horror movie, 
my tale would’ve conjured Dr. Cropsey 
into stalking us, picking us off one by one.  
Instead, we woke to the sun’s first 
eye-stabbing rays, stretched to unlock 
stiff backs, and sat on logs, drinking hot tea:
too many horrors back in New York City 
and Vietnam for us to be bothered 
by a cackling maniac gripping a scalpel. 

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