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.
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