Waiting for the Dead
Once the fortune-teller shut the black curtain
wound the ticking clock and set the alarm,
assuring no revelation
spilled past the allotted hour.
He held my right wrist and traced
two broadly divergent lines on the edges of my palm.
“You have the ability to transgress boundaries
and enter the world of the dead.”
This I already knew.
The paths inscribed in the body
mirror those I walk in the wooded past—
trails marked with faded red ribbons
blurred by rotting and growing.
I pass the serenity of beaver ponds,
the crude warnings nailed to trees,
the collapsed wedding altar.
But where are the dead?
Should I watch for them
or feel them
rise and fall in every step?
I hear that the dead often appear
just beyond the borders.
So I follow the cold stone walls
up and down the leaf-strewn hills.
Once I dreamed that they wait for us
at places of transition—the parting of two roads
or the benches of lonely depots.
I remain alert when traveling alone.
They’re attracted to still, late hours
and fragments of their bright voices can be heard
in moments of our greatest joy.
But most often the dead enter through sorrow
that old forgotten gate, past the whorled trees
in a forest of undeciphered lines,
of startled clearings and ever-widening paths.
(I wrote this poem to explore the idea of having a “gift” whatever that might be, and the inescapable burdens that come with it.)