The medium taps the tuning fork three resonant times.
The candle dims, and our tentative mood folds itself
into the dark’s black crepe. Tilting back,
I see a man in a double-breasted suit, but not his face.
The widow notices her sullen husband, subtle
as the bluish plume of a cigarette.
The nervous niece, new to the foster home,
has conjured up an orphanage on fire.
My ex-wife tells of a dream
in which she gazes across a brown, swollen river.
On the other side, a gray wolf stares, then turns
and vanishes into an emerald forest glistening from rain.
The widow thinks of the gossamer ghost
as a homeless person who secretly lives
in the wall.
The niece, asleep, is sitting in bed.
She hears the metal girders shriek,
observes a snake of silvery smoke uncurling
from the keyhole in the lock. How the hinges glow!
The wall crinkles to flickering snow.
The floor cracks, and children, like matches, burst
She stands by the bed and tells you names
when others couldn’t tell you boy from girl.
A marble barn owl perches on a pedestal,
and the widow begs her husband,
“I can’t accept the stifling calm at night,
the crass radio dying out, that blinding moon,
your stubborn presence. I broke an ashtray the other day.
What should I do?”
And the morose voice answers, “The end is a glittering frost
sealing the house in a glib silence. I learned how to love you
for a long time. The knowledge is unforgettable.
I go on loving you even in that cramped, moldy box.”
Just before dawn, I stroll across the lawn
to my father’s neglected garden.
The fig tree counts its age in a fig’s wrinkles.
The rose bush sheds its final wilted bauble.
Beyond the ditch, in the neighbor’s yard—
the silhouette of the big pecan tree
where I fell and lay there, stunned,
the air knocked from my lungs. I think of how,
for falling wrong, my life, like breath,
has flashed from my mouth— a lavish wreath
of calla lilies tilted on the stone.
Empty chairs embrace a round marquetry table.
The illusory séance fades out of sight
to the dovelike murmur of cars below
and the rising tide of voices.