When I ask, the seller admits a man died in the house,
but nearly a century ago, of glanders, a disease he says
no one even gets these days, asserting, Disclosure’s overrated.
He’s right—lift up a rock and pill bugs scatter
from the unwelcome light—life I could gladly have left unlit.
Yet the abandoned past is a burr, demanding attention.
Left alone, paint peels and boards separate,
requiring resolve to muscle them back.
I find your letters surrendered, your photographs, curled
as if to shield themselves from dangerous exposure, as if
they might have averted their once-vivid colors fading to dun,
sure as your memories of me.
I pass daily this gingerbread house, whose wooden doilies
have survived a hundred winters without breaking, though
much less weather has stripped every artifice I possessed.
Locals say the man who built it bridled sick horses.
Let a sick horse nuzzle him, a fatal affection.
In the wind tickling the dovecote, I hear his imploring the heavens
to spare him, like a forsaken lover pleading in one last billet-doux
no Earthly lover or heavenly god would answer.
My birthstone is not April’s naked diamond, clear
enough to see through, but October’s smoldering opal,
fire seen only through smoke’s veil.
Born on the cusp, a cur—alloy, stronger
than iron, yet diminished, bereft of essence.
Scorpio’s untamed itch toppling Libra’s balance.
Yet I heard you through a hundred miles of mountains,
narrow two-lane roads and hogweed’s armies,
through melodies scrimmed by static,
their lyrics telegraphic.
You unwittingly taught me that love needs intercessions,
so I became Eve, looking to retrieve what I had yielded:
remembering half-heard refrains whose absent notes I’d sing,
lyrics to be divined, more potent than those stilled in song.
Wishing for opal’s cloaking smoke,
in exchange for austere knowledge, guilelessly hoping,
like one who waits for a rescinded love.
Corner of Coldwater and Addison
By chance, I passed the old house we rented, now derelict.
The casement window hinges have rusted shut, sashes peeling
like birch bark none but weather cared to write on.
Optimism once divined in its sky-blue board-and-batten exterior
has weathered to a non-committal gray.
We saw flying buttresses and cathedral arches in its wooden frame,
but the house proved sturdier than our vision.
Even as we broke, its old bones remained unbent.
By now, the Santa Anas must have swept every room of us—
though I’ve hosted you in all mine since. Itinerant ghost,
you follow me, only to fall like dust in the blanching sunlight.
I revel in the over-grown trees and shrubs,
obscuring sidewalks leading to an open front door, inviting trespass,
misread as a summons.