My ghosts line up, mouths full of bitter
greens and sweet grasses,
names chalked on the walls
of ruined buildings, the night
smelling of their breath.
One wears a split lip,
saxophone-blown. Sometimes he calls
in sick. I am not your splendid harness.
Don’t wait up. What is sleep anyway.
Barnyard animals, goats and owls sleep.
Even the earth with its seeds and vegetables
rooting underground can rest.
The joists of the house squeak.
Like stuttering bells, pipes gurgle
all night. Frost sets a breakfast table.
Butter and milk, clatter of copper.
Watering can from which I wish
to be poured. What can I do
but honor the first silver
hair in the winter comb.
My soul wears a crown of milk thistle and woolly-heads
Sometimes she is buried at sea,
wrapped in linen, the waves like mouths
of glass. Sometimes she rises again.
Mollusk-pearled, she strolls the village
dripping kelp. Called Pink Star,
Himalayan, Celtic, Diamond of the Dead
Sea, she does not answer to those names.
No hymn, no pilgrimage, no wafer
on the tongue. She eschews hallelujah.
Refusenik of frankincense and myrrh.
Sometimes she claims she’s just off the boat,
amnesiac. Takes the name Augusta Agnes.
Washes her unmentionables
at the sink. Bleaches her mustache.
Vagrant Sundays spent rolling in hay, tan,
sun-warm, indistinguishable from dry grass.
No bathing costume, swims in her drawers.
Wades in cranberry bogs. Eats tomatoes off the vine.
Sleeps on the beach. Sand makes a dune of her body.
At church bazaars, she filches Chesterfields
and barters for lace mantillas. Disappears for days.
Ignores my pleading letters penned in blackberry ink.
Neighbors say I should keep her on a leash.
She restoreth. She maketh still. She doth thirst.