Spying on my Beloved Ghosts – a poem by Susan Peters

Spying on my Beloved Ghosts

The wood of the old farmhouse still crumbles,
the paint powdery and chipped.
I pick at a flake with my fingernail
float from room to room through a fragile past
tumbling along the scent of dust and bone.

My sisters waken in the bedroom to the cry of the osprey.
Insulted by the dawn, she shrieks loudly and dives into her hunt circling, circling
over woods that still hold Indian pipe and lady slippers –
as thrilling to find now as we did then.

I lift a tattered sheet curtain revealing poses of ancient paintings acted out

With mops, brooms and tablecloths

My mother is rouged and lipsticked, frantic and angry.
Before church, she moans about my dirty nails,
dirty face, scabs on my knees, she wants me to atone
for all of the dirt a child could possibly wear,
intoning Sweet Jesus why can’t this child bear to stay clean.

The scent of printers’ ink and cigarettes wafts around my father. 
He’s hiding in the library until church is over, praying to be spared
its infinite blessings. Praying for salvation

from the off-key voice of the pious choir lady

raised in praise of the Glory of God in the Highest.

The air on the porch is heavy and thick with the remains of the night fog –
phantoms idly conversing within a cold dampness.
that never dries, the salt air
clings to my skin.  My old dog looks up,
thumps his tail with a vague sigh of recognition.

I pull away from my Beloved Ghosts,
and gather smooth flat rocks in my pockets.
I skip them two, three, four times across the inlet.
If I frighten the night heron standing alone at the lagoon
I will ask her by what right she deserves peace.

Susan Peters is a New England girl through and through.  Born in Massachusetts, she spent much of her youth in Maine in the country of the pointed firs.  Her passion is horses, particularly Icelandic horses and she frequently travels to Iceland to ride and learn as much as she can about Icelandic sagas.  She began writing poetry after her children were grown and has been trying to catch up ever since.

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