Write a Poem that Scares You
I’m so afraid of pissing off the dead, as if they’ll start 
swatting me with china, black crows, push

me down the stairs—they seem to have so much
time on their hands, like vituperative high school

girls with long afternoons. I developed an uneasiness 
about the ghost of my boyfriend’s mother. 

Sometimes the dead don’t know they’ve died, so he rang 
a bell in three corners to let her know that she could go. 

Then the living room clock stopped the way they do 
in houses of the dead; then, it ran ahead. Two matches 

tossed in the sink, then two wet books as if they’d been 
starting fires in rain. The feeling of light snow.

His mother had Alzheimer’s when she died, 
so maybe it is still confusing knowing where to go.

We went to her grave beside a field of fawny grass,
bright weeds, markers all around like boxes

in the basement. In winter, we ran between 
the dead on the dirt path, red in the face, 

pushing through a minute. He missed his family, 
but the only words I remember are the white

ones in her field, the dead in flight. I want to tell her, 
look, don’t be mad that we sleep in your bed, the electrical 

blanket burning my thigh, his face has the same line 
as mine, and he held my photo in the airport until I appeared.

He gave me a spindle of white thread from your sewing 
box to remember you by.  The space problem seems to 

disappear against the being here. It’s hard to find the right 
train, that lone woman feeling of holidays in a hotel.

I don’t know where you’re going, it’s true, but the daughter
of a magician came to visit and slept in the staring gallery.

We need to put a few photos away. It’s like the story 
of the man who kept the woman he loved dead in a chair, 

a back room, flowers everywhere, but that didn’t help, 
as if the image means no one has to leave.  

We danced a sweet dance in the morning, dining 
room the one room where we were not afraid, 

sweeping each other in arcs elliptical as families 
escaping though there wasn’t any music.
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