by Andrea Blythe & Laura Madeline Wiseman
Lighting the Ghost Lamps
The luminescent moonlight lilts with hope
as we climb your lamp-lit drive. Please, open your door,
lead us inside the hall, and greet us with dusty kisses.
Our bones are cold. We’re forgetting to bleed. Upstairs
one summer you taught us the ache of want,
the ease of forget in heat. Your porch lamp ghosts,
barely brightens our own whispering ghosts—
our hands tattooed in interstellar swirls, comet tails. We hope
you accept transparency, unveiling space. We want
offerings—guttering candles, creaky chains and doors,
dark shadows, mists—all the artistry of hauntings in upstairs
rooms where curtains skirt the floors to fall like kisses.
Each chilling draft here is more than a draft, a kiss
returned, some years, some centuries late. We ghost,
half-lost, half-wandering in the labyrinth of upstairs
rooms of storage space, beds draped in sheets. We hope
you illuminate the silver key in your heart and find the door.
You are made of bones and air, we of stars. We want
to fall into you, meteor bright and burning. We want
flesh, the electric pulse of hushed, corporeal kisses,
your body pressing us against the frame of the door.
Table-turning in the stage of your room, will our ghosts
flicker like lamps, waiver with the memory of past hope?
Or will you hold us in that glowing space upstairs,
where we once circled you like moons, upstairs
where a telescope waits to see the planets—Venus’ want,
Mars’ fury, Mercury’s need to wander? We never hoped
for eclipse, for the shadowy erasure of your kiss,
for the full moon haunt of lonely hours. We want
to swell into existence, to give up being ghostly,
be what we couldn’t on that blue night. Open your door,
pass through this long hallway of more doors,
and find us gazing upon the moonlight dust among stairs
that lead to galaxy swirls, nebula ghosting
through noctilucent skies. Find our wantings
among your bone-cold embrace, your deathly kiss.
Such travelers as us are encumbered by hopes.
Every door closes upon unclaimed wants,
while upstairs we feign presence, fake kisses,
ghost touch, discover the celestial weight of hope.
The Path of Coding Eternal
Long after their last breath, the faces of the dead still smile from carefully filtered selfies, the duck faces, days at the beach, nights out with vibrantly colored martinis. Their unself still laughs to a joke long forgotten. Their exes still clutch the necks of bottles, their slim waists, the car keys they should never have held. You think it’s weird, the wall-pages of the dead, the tags, pokes, and likes. You think you knew her, even though I didn’t know you then. You were still a dishwasher, while I still kneaded dough for the ovens. I swear I met her at some party, you insist, scrolling through your tags as if you could place yourself there on the night the jungle juice was spiked with more than what could be found in the liquor cabinets. My sister was dead before we started dating, I say as you shake your head. After the party, she whore-walked through the morning, mind twisting with what couldn’t have happened, but did. When she got home, she shut the cats in the bedroom, then arranged the stack of handwritten notes. She blew out the pilot light, then knelt before the oven’s open maw, unsure how else to explain what she carried inside. The timer was set to twenty minutes on the day the woman who came around each week to clean was scheduled to arrive. Did she know that this would be the day the woman would get a flat tire? Before the party, she had tried to erase herself, burning her yearbooks, her photos, her files of taxes and accounting, her memory itself. She couldn’t have known how she would linger, still caught in the friends-of- friends feeds, her history filtering through. Bits and bites of coding call up birthday announcements, anniversary wishes, or party invites—programming still sending love to the lost. Her myspace, the vestibule of a much younger persona, long since forgotten, twitches with life. Her old yahoo email ghosts the group pages. But it’s the video of that night, the way it appears, then disappears from sites, that offers fragmented proof of what she must’ve endured—the twists of flesh, the blood, the sound of them. Why was it never enough? Her last inhale fell to rest, but we read her words that continue clattering through forums and message boards. Here’s another post, you say. I copy it, as if everything can be saved—the parts of herself she hated or the post-party slurs. I watch for whispers of her each night long after you’ve gone to sleep. I would have listened, I say. I would have been the one to hold you. Afraid they’ll vanish like her last breath, I copy and paste what I find together.
The Women of Straw and Branches
Tied to a tree, the jug of mead is beyond the reach of my bound hands.
My maidens lie in wait for a man’s unknotting, to sip from my bloody hands.
How he rippled pride as his savage sword cut the rope in rescue,
unknowingly accepting my draught-laced death from a maiden’s hands.
Some standing as farmers with broken sandals, ploughing land,
eating from iron tables, were kings in disguise, asking for hands.
The plough churned black earth and a princess churned fate,
shaping passion into prophecy for a poor man’s hand.
Bitter Marzanna who plunged the world into a darkness of frost
at a husband’s betrayal. She cupped a season in her withered hand.
Girls enact death and life, drowning the straw figure of Marzanna
in the icy swirl of river, calling for spring with their innocent hands.
Skirts swirl in a sea of red and white in the Beseda dance,
while watchers eat the kolaches in their sticky hands.
We dance and dance, they say of Czech Days, girls
who stand as three, holding leashed beasts in hand.
As small girls dervish old memories in the opera house of hands,
wise men play blythely in a big brass band by breath and hands.
Andrea Blythe and Laura Madeline Wiseman’s collaborative poetry has appeared in Quail Bell Magazine, Faerie Magazine, Yellow Chair Review, Strange Horizons, Rose Red Review, and the anthologies The World Retold (The Writers’ Guild of Iowa State University, 2016) and Red Sky: poetry on the global epidemic of violence against women (Sable Books, 2016).