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Victorian Houses, Halloween, a Poplar Tree. - Ralph Monday

The houses live on a district in downtown, perched

on a tall hill, Victorian homes, most built in the late

19 th and early 20 th centuries. I drive their streets every

October to see what ghouls and ghosts adorn the lawns,

festooned skeletons hanging from balconies.

This could be Haddonfield waiting for Michael’s appearance,

and the houses themselves, mostly occupied, some empty,

brooding, blank windows like vacant eyes, I wonder what

lives they held, births, deaths, celebrations—do the shades

of long perished beings wander the halls and rooms,

insubstantial as ash and smoke? Their fleshly deaths no

different than the giant poplar in my neighbour’s yard.

The tree, like the people, unaware of the time we have,

not knowing that twenty years past when the family

moved in, they brought its death with them.

Strange, how that works, living among living, carrying

demise with beds and cabinets, chests of drawers as portentous

messengers. The tree towered over a hundred feet like some

brooding medieval giant. Struck by lightning three years ago,

an artillery blast that rang the windows, a strip of bark singed

as a circle in Dante’s inferno, jagged wound splitting its hide

for thirty feet, yet it lived, began regenerating like a lizard’s

broken tail. Last week, angry chainsaw buzzes shattered the

quiet air. A tree company brought it down, the stump five feet

in diameter, not a mark of rot anywhere in the tree, a being

that must have sprouted after the Civil War, one that grew

before there were many people invading its space. Now, like

a sad service mourning the dead, nothing remains but a mountain of

piled up debris that the neighbours walk about, to and fro, not

knowing what they did.


Bio:

Ralph Monday is Professor of English at RSCC in Harriman, TN. Hundreds of poems published. Books: All American Girl and Other Poems, 2014. Empty Houses and American Renditions, 2015. Narcissus the Sorcerer, 2015. Bergman’s Island & Other Poems, 2021, and a humanities text, 2018. Twitter @RalphMonday Poets&Writers https://www.pw.org/directory/writers/ralph_monday

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