Séance

by Adam Elgar
The Writer's Block
Third Place, February 2008
Judged by Fleda Brown


               I

Is anyone there?

Yes

In the scent that purrs
along the folds
of these old clothes

and in the sting
of happiness
remembered

Gather round

Interrogate
the tender fossils
heaped in this casket

splinters
from a translucent slipper

feathers
from a drowned lover’s wing

teeth and fingernails
hinted against the skin

a trace of distant birdsong

          missing     missing

an inheritance of knives
and so many kinds of hunger

                         over everything
lies a patina of stifled rage

We are this also

               II

Is anyone there?

Of course

Commemorated
reverently framed
too intimate with God

Look how he shoulders faith
like a loaded rifle
certainty at odds
with memory’s sepia smudge

Here they all line up
these dry and bone-hard joys
fit for hate-darkened lovers

It all begins at dead of night
a whimpering boy
sure only of sleep
and danger

We are that also


I can't say exactly what the narrative of this poem is, except for the séance, but I'm delighted with where the short stanzas take me. As in a trance, I'm listening for what's missing--all the kinds of hunger and of rage that we're made of, that we've stifled, commemorated, even. The poem "purrs/ along the folds/ of these old clothes" to touch on, to barely suggest, what one enters a séance to obtain--some connection with the world just out of reach, the one that is like a loaded rifle, which probably resides within us. The whimpering boy that ends the poem is, the poem tells us, the beginning of what's stifled. --Fleda Brown

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